HAMNET Report 31st March 2024

When this report was being written, Tropical Cyclone GAMANE was crossing northern Madagascar and weakening, and on 28 March at 0.00 (UTC), its centre was located inland over the Andapa District area, Sava Region with maximum sustained winds of 45 km/h as a tropical depression.

According to media reports, heavy rainfall and floods had affected the regions of Sava, Diana Sofia, Analanjirofo, Alaotra Mangoro and Atsinanana and resulted in six fatalities, one person still missing and more than 2,600 people affected negatively. 

GAMANE was forecast to move southeast still inland and to go towards the sea, south of Masoala Peninsula on 28th March in the evening. 

For the following 24 hours, moderate to very heavy rainfall and strong winds were still forecast over northern, north-eastern and central-eastern Madagascar.

Last weekend’s level 4 geomagnetic storm as a result of two simultaneous solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME) off the sun both aimed directly at us, must surely rank as one of the most severe we have experienced in the last 10-15 years. Your author cannot recall seeing a Planetary K index of 8, as it was last Sunday at 18h00 UTC, in the last 30 years, and it was definitely an evening to turn off the HF radio, because the bands were completely dead, and to go back to my knitting!

Luckily, the K index had settled down again within 24 hours, and the bands were open again by Tuesday. The two large offending sunspot regions are rotating off our side of the sun, but this kind of disruption is to be expected again as we close in on the peak of solar cycle 25.

In fact on Sunday 28th March, an M7.1 solar flare, followed later in the day by an X1.1 flare and a CME, were released from that sunspot group 3615, the origin of one of last Saturday’s 2 CME’s, but 3615 was far enough rotated to the west of the Sun’s face not to have any effect on our ionosphere.

I’m sure those people living at high latitudes, and who like looking at Auroras had nothing to complain about last Sunday and Monday nights. The geomagnetic storm must have put on a display worth watching.

NASA has added a dimension to the study of the ionosphere during next Monday’s eclipse of the sun, with a plan to launch three instrument-laden sounding rockets on April 8, with the goal of studying how the temporary blocking of sunlight affects part of the upper atmosphere.

The sounding rockets will each blast off from the space agency’s Wallops Flight Facility, one 45 minutes before, one during, and the last 45 minutes after the local peak eclipse.

The trio will soar into the ionosphere, a region 55 to 310 miles above the Earth’s surface where, in the day, particles are electrically charged, or “ionized,” by radiation from the sun.

“It’s an electrified region that reflects and refracts radio signals, and also impacts satellite communications as the signals pass through,” explained mission leader and engineering physicist professor Aroh Barjatya, of Florida’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, in a statement.

At night, the ionosphere thins out as electrons and ions relax and recombine back into neutral atoms, only to separate again the next day.

A solar eclipse creates, in effect, a temporary, localized night—causing the local temperature and ionospheric density to drop and then rise again.

In this way, the passage of the moon’s shadow across the Earth triggers both large-scale atmospheric waves and smaller-scale disturbances that have the potential to interfere with radio communications passing through the ionosphere.

At the same time, the ionosphere can be disrupted by both regular weather and its space-based counterpart.

“Understanding the ionosphere and developing models to help us predict disturbances is crucial to making sure our increasingly communication-dependent world operates smoothly,” Barjatya added.

He told Newsweek: “Sounding rockets will help us study if, when, where, and why small-scale perturbations happen due to sudden reduction in solar radiation and/or due to meteorological changes brought on by the eclipse shadow.

Thank you to newsweek.com for this report.

Here is some interesting research. Writing in Phys.org, David Appell asks whether it could be that human existence depends on gravitational waves. Some key elements in our biological makeup may come from astrophysical events that occur because gravitational waves exist, a research team headed by John R. Ellis of Kings College London suggests.

In particular, Iodine and Bromine are found on Earth thanks to a particular nuclear process that happens when neutron stars collide. In turn, orbiting neutron star pairs spiral in and collide due to their emissions of energy in the form of gravitational waves. There may thus be a direct path from the existence of gravitational waves to the existence of mammals.

Humans are mostly made up of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, with many additional trace elements. (There are in fact 20 elements essential to human life.) Those elements with an atomic number less than 35 are produced in supernovae, implosions of stars that have exhausted their nuclear fuel and collapsed inward. The implosion/collapse results in a [surface] explosion that spews their atoms all over the universe.

But two elements are provided by other means—Iodine, needed in key hormones produced by the thyroid, and Bromine, used to create collagen scaffolds in tissue development and architecture.

Thorium and uranium have been indirectly important for human life, as their radioactive decays in Earth’s interior heat the lithosphere and allow tectonic activity. The movement of tectonic plates removes and submerges carbon from the crust of the planet, which is itself removed from the atmosphere via water reacting with carbon dioxide and silicates, avoiding the possibility of a runaway greenhouse effect like has happened on Venus.

About half the heavy elemental atoms on Earth (heavier than iron) are produced by what’s known as the “r-process”—the rapid neutron-capture process [too technical to go into here]. The paper concludes that the iodine essential for human life was “probably produced by the r-process in the collisions of neutron stars that were induced by the emissions of gravitational waves, as well as other essential heavy elements.”

“Neutron star collisions occur because binary systems lose energy by emitting gravitational waves,” said Ellis, “so these fundamental physics phenomena may have made human life possible.”

Their paper, “Do we owe our existence to gravitational waves?” is available on the arXiv preprint server.

It appears that the deeper we research, and the more we learn, the more we realise we don’t know.

I’d like to end by wishing a very Happy Easter to all for whom this time is meaningful.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 24th March 2024

The amateur radio world has lost a huge font of knowledge of the measurement of RF signals as they are transmitted or received by radios in the amateur bands, with the passing last week of Adam Farson AB4OJ/VA7OJ, at the age of 84.

For many years, Adam has maintained a website of deeply insightful technical reports on all new ICOM products as they have been released, and has also co-administered a collection of groups.io on every ICOM radio as it came out. His reviews are extremely technical, but at the same time, not biased towards ICOM only, because he has compared them to Yaesu, Elecraft and Kenwood competitors along the way.

He immigrated to South Africa as a youngster with his parents in the 1960’s, and originally worked for Racal here, before moving to the UK, America, and finally Canada, which is where he died, of age-related causes.

Adam was an officer and a gentleman, with a great sense of humour, friendly and willing to share his knowledge and offer advice on any radio-related subject, no matter how simple the question asked of him. He will be greatly missed. The groups.io will continue, and his website will make all his reviews permanently available, so consider viewing his material on www.ab4oj.com/

A formal obituary to Adam has not been released yet, but he is deserving of the highest tributes.

Rob Sherwood, NC0B, of Sherwood Engineering is in the same category of super-giants, but he has specialized in the review of receivers, comparing all major brands with each other for sensitivity and selectivity, together with a host of other very technical parameters. His reviews are also available on the web.

I note that HAMNET Gauteng has had a change of leadership, with Regional and Deputy Regional Directors moving sideways, to take on a training role in improving member’s communications skills. Leon ZS6LMG and Johan ZS6DMX are to be thanked for their long years of service as directors, and I hope they rise to the challenge of the new duties. Until such time as a proper appointment of new regional and deputy directors is made, Brian ZS6YZ and Hannes ZS6EMS will hold the reigns, and we wish them well, as they fill in for Leon and Johan. Best wishes, fellows!

David Ingram, writing for NBC news says that several online retailers and drone technology companies are marketing the sale of radio frequency jammers as drone deterrence or privacy tools, sidestepping federal laws that prohibit such devices from being offered for sale in the U.S. 

Radio frequency jammers are devices that interfere with communications systems, usually by sending out competing radio signals to confuse nearby electronics. It is a decades-old technology that federal regulators have tried to crack down on, but interest in jammers persists because people can use them to keep away unwelcome drones, disable security cameras or block Wi-Fi networks. 

The Federal Communications Commission has warned that jammers can interfere with emergency communications, disrupt normal phone use and have other unintended consequences such as confusing airport navigation systems. According to the FCC, jammers are illegal to sell and may not be operated, marketed or imported into the United States. In general, even local police aren’t legally allowed to use them. 

“These jamming devices pose significant risks to public safety and potentially compromise other radio communications services,” the FCC says on its website. 

But those warnings haven’t stopped some companies from marketing the devices online. These companies take many forms: from Amazon third-party sellers to separate online stores based in China to small domestic companies that specialize in drone-related equipment.

After NBC News published this report, an FCC spokesperson said on Wednesday that the commission had several ongoing investigations into jammers. Those investigations have not been previously disclosed.

Thanks to nbcnews.com for this news.

In general, the average citizen is aware of RF jammers being used to block their attempts to lock their cars remotely as they walk away from them. I don’t know about you, but I unconsciously press my car’s remote button about 6 times as I leave my car, in case the first attempt was blocked. This is a simple form of the same jamming which the FCC is attempting to declare completely illegal.

A team of aroma chemists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, working with psychologist colleagues from the Technical University of Dresden, has uncovered the reasons for the dissimilar smells between babies and teenagers. The study is published in the journal Communications Chemistry.

Prior research and anecdotal evidence have shown that babies have a pleasant smell, often described as sweet. Teenagers, on the other hand, especially males, have often been described as smelling less pleasant. In this new effort, the research team sought to find out what causes the difference.

The researchers recruited the parents of 18 children aged up to 3 years old to wash the youngsters with a fragrance-free gel and to take swab samples of the armpits of their pyjamas prior to sleep. They did the same with 18 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18. All the cotton pads were then collected and analysed in a lab setting.

The research team used mass spectrometry to identify the chemical compounds in the pads, and used gas chromatography along with a human sniffer to assess the odourousness of the smells associated with each chemical compound.

The researchers found that most of the chemicals responsible for body odour were similar between the two groups of volunteers. But there were a few that made the difference. Teenage sweat, for example, had high levels of many kinds of carboxylic acids, which the assessors described as “earthy, musty or cheesy.”

They also found two steroids in the teen sweat not present in the baby sweat, one of which resulted in “musk or urine-like” emanations—the other, the assessors suggested, smelled more like “musk and sandalwood.” Without such chemicals, the sweat of babies smelled much sweeter.

The researchers suggest that study of the chemical compounds in teen sweat could prove fruitful for makers of odour-control products. They also suggest that more work could be done better to understand the impact of such odours on parents.

Silly me! All along I thought the difference in smell was because one group washed, and the other group didn’t!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 17th March 2024

A happy St Patrick’s Day to all my listeners! And if you’re not Irish, that’s not a reason not to think of green things. I hope you have a great Sunday.

By Monday of this past week, GDACS was starting to make mention of Tropical Storm FILIPO, which had arisen in the Mozambique channel, was heading for the coast of Mozambique, and also threatening, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and South Africa. Wind-speeds of 127 km/h were forecast, but at that stage, no large populations of locals were threatened. Wind-speed forecasts were cranked up as the week progressed to about 140 km/h, but no big threat to populations expected.

FILIPO made landfall in Mozambique over the Inhassoro City area, northern Ihambane Province in the very early morning  of 12 March, with maximum sustained winds up to 116 km/h. 

Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Management and Reduction (INGD) reported 2,780 people affected and seven injured in Vilankulo and Morrumbene Districts, Inhambane Province, 12 houses destroyed, another 510 houses, 14 health centres, and 6 schools affected. Preliminary reports indicated minor damages in Gaza province with ongoing assessment. Three accommodation centres were open and hosting 43 people.

FILIPO was expected to continue over the southern Indian Ocean, well off the coast of southern Mozambique and northern South Africa on 13-15th March, strengthening, with maximum sustained winds of 135 km/h (as a tropical cyclone).

Over the following 48 hours, heavy rainfall, strong winds and storm surge were forecast over Gaza and Maputo provinces in Mozambique, the whole of Eswatini and north-eastern South Africa.

By Friday, storm warnings were showing the wind speeds to be up to 158 km/h. but the Post-Tropical Depression as it was then called, was veering away from the Eastern coastline of South Africa, and heading into the south-eastern Indian Ocean.

We are aware of large amounts of rain along our eastern coastline, but not of any really major losses.

May I remind you that it is exactly 5 years to the week, since Cyclone IDAI devastated Mozambique, claiming 500 victims, displacing 120000, completely destroying 36000 houses, flooding hundreds of thousands of hectares of arable land, and placing 1.85 million people in need of humanitarian aid? The country has still not fully recovered from that catastrophe.

The Stellenbosch Flying Club is hosting an airshow this coming weekend, the 22nd and 23rd of March. Their Chairman is Stuart Burgess, ZR1SB, and he has invited radio amateurs in general, and HAMNET in particular, to assist with on-site communications during the show. A fairly large attendance is expected on Friday, and an even bigger attendance on Saturday, and Stuart’s club is hoping to deploy a number of monitors – that is, hams with handheld radios – among the crowds to report on security or medical issues to their central JOC.

HAMNET has taken up this challenge and has almost got its expected quota of volunteers – 8 on Friday and 10 on Saturday – to do the job. Michael ZS1MJT got the ball rolling, and the volunteer list is almost full.

The plan is to deploy our newly completed HAMNET comms trailer, kitted with all frequency monitoring and APRS and Internet facilities, next to the airshow JOC, so the foot-mobile operators can report to our trailer, who will in turn report to the JOC.

I hope to be able to squeeze a short report in to next week’s bulletin.

In an encouraging article posted in the Idaho clearwatertribune.com website, mention is made of the absence of communications for days after the devastating 2023 Hawaiian fire. Except for amateur radio, of course.

Clearwatertribune.com continues: “During the 2015 fires in North Central Idaho [they] lost 72 homes [and] 212 outbuildings. Throughout the fire if you tried to use your cell phone you learned that the cell towers were easily overwhelmed by the large traffic load. We find this to be true during most disasters. During the fire amateur radio operators worked with the local Emergency Operations Centre to provide backup communications and they were able to talk to their families and friends, and help keep each other informed of the fire activities without interruption.

“Amateur radio operators have been providing emergency communications in disasters such as floods, hurricanes, fires and earthquakes since 1910. Hams typically are first to get information out of the area when public service communications are down or overloaded.

“Amateur radio is far more than just voice. With an amateur license you can send emails without the internet. You can text someone without a cell-phone. You can send pictures or video.

“You can build a wi-fi mesh network that doesn’t require the internet and you can boost the wi-fi power up with your Amateur license. You can use amateur radio satellites to talk some very long distances with just a handheld radio.

“If you use GMRS, FRS, or MURS radios and you have antennas on your vehicle it’s time to move up to amateur radio. Remember Ham radio is great for family trips, camping, four wheeling and hunting.

“The Amateur Radio Service is the only group that can provide many types of personal and emergency communications with reliability. Nationally/ Worldwide and at any time.”

Thanks to clearwatertribune.com for the report.

Now all of this is old hat to you, if you are already an amateur radio operator, or HAMNET member, but, if you’re not, this might be a stimulus to you to log on to the SARL website at www.sarl.org.za, and zero in on ways of acquiring your operator’s licence, so that you can become involved in volunteer emergency communications.

And don’t forget to register for the SARL Convention to be held in Cape Town over the weekend of 19th to 21st April 2024. The event details are on the landing page of the SARL website. We look forward to seeing a large contingent of HAMNET members there, and thank the CTARC for hosting the event.

This is Dave Reece, ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 10th March 2024

I’d like to use this platform to remark on the passing of an amateur who was huge in the field of audio reproduction and microphone technology. The SARL has not made mention of the death of Bob Heil K9EID.

The man who defined the sound of live rock ‘n’ roll music and brought audio engineering principals into mainstream amateur radio use, Dr. Bob Heil, K9EID, has passed away at the age of 83. A Facebook post from Heil Ham Radio paid tribute to their founder: “Bob fought a valiant, year-long battle with cancer, and passed away peacefully surrounded by his family.”

Heil founded Heil Sound in 1966, through which he created the template for modern concert sound systems for musicians like the Grateful Dead, The Who, Joe Walsh, and Peter Frampton. The talk box used on iconic live record Frampton Comes Alive! was of Heil’s design. His audio engineering products have been featured in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and he was honoured in 2007 with the Parnelli Audio Innovator Award for his impact on the live sound industry. “My life has been about achieving great sound, whether on the concert stage or in the amateur radio world,” Bob Heil recounted in 2022. “I’ve watched Heil Sound go from a regional sound company to a world-class microphone manufacturer. This company has been my passion,” he said.

Parallel to his commercial and artistic success in live music, was his passion for amateur radio. He was active in ham radio from a young age and merged his expertise in audio engineering with his love for radio. Heil Ham Radio was founded to produce microphones, headsets, and other gear for radio amateurs with an emphasis on high-quality audio.

Heil was known for his passion for AM operations. He served for many years as an on-camera host of the Ham Nation podcast. Tributes to Heil have been flooding social media, including from his co-hosts.

ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, said Heil’s passing is a significant loss. “Bob Heil’s technical achievements that brought high-quality audio to amateur radio pale in comparison to his generosity and willingness to help his fellow ham. He’s long been known as someone eager to help mentor and teach. His legacy [to] our hobby will be long-lasting. 

Thanks to the ARRL newsletter for these excerpts from their tribute. Our condolences go to his wife and family.

At its monthly virtual meeting on 6th march, HAMNET Western Cape enjoyed a presentation by Danie ZS1OSS, comparing and contrasting the variety of digital communication methods available to amateur radio, but more importantly, of significance during emergencies or for disaster communications.

The need for simple technology, an easy way to interface a computer with a radio, and an efficient way to send simple one line messages, as well as occasional files or pictures, were stressed. Amongst the digital contenders are Winlink, APRS, VarAC, JS8Call, and QO-100.

In other divisions of HAMNET, some of these data modes are commonly used, but the Western Cape is still finding its feet. The average HAMNET member is either not computer literate enough to take on the challenge, or does not understand the interfaces necessary, or is put off by the expected expense of the ancillary equipment necessary to get their PC’s to talk to their radios. Your writer regards himself as a Neanderthal in this regard!

After some discussion on Wednesday, it was decided that Winlink has the advantage of allowing point-to-point file, picture and message transmission, and that VarAC will become the most widely used point-to-point message transfer system, and that these two should probably be promoted to the Western Cape members.

This opinion was conveyed to the HAMNET National Council members for discussion or rebuttal. Clearly, all divisions must be uniform in the systems they use and are accustomed to, or else they will not be able to provide countrywide communications if called upon to do so.

Personally, I feel that the way to spread the knowledge and experience of digital comms, is to advocate the simplest possible PC-Radio interface, and to encourage VHF communications first, because most if not all HAMNET members have a PC or laptop, and a radio of some sort on their desk for VHF/UHF work. Digital comms on HF can be restricted to headquarter stations or Operation Centres primarily, with the hope that, once familiarity with digital modes has been acquired, the average amateur may be more willing or able to experiment with HF processes.

Now I know most amateurs pay close attention to grounding their antennas and equipment to guarantee a good signal. But what about what is in the ground? I doubt whether you think about worms very much.

It turns out that worms living near the world’s most well-known nuclear disaster zone appear to have developed a ‘super power’. While it may have taken place many years ago, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster is still very relevant to this day.

In fact, scientists continue to visit and conduct experiments in the area, with a new study providing some intriguing findings. Recently, experts visited Chernobyl to investigate Nematodes, tiny worms with fairly simple genetic makeup. The worms were gathered from soil samples, rotting fruit and other materials.

While conducting that, the scientists also tested local levels of radiation. They took the worms they gathered to New York University to freeze and study them. And as is often the case with radiation levels in that part of the world, they varied from low levels often recorded in large cities, to high levels found in outer space.

Dr Sophia Tintor, lead author of the study, said: “Chernobyl was a tragedy of incomprehensible scale, but we still don’t have a great grasp of the effects of the disaster on local populations.

“Did the sudden environmental shift select for species, or even individuals within a species, that are naturally more resistant to ionizing radiation?”

The 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant subsequently transformed the nearby surrounding land into the most radioactive on Earth.

Of course, human inhabitants had to leave their homes and everything they loved, but plants and animals were able to stay in the area despite the high levels of radiation.

But nearly 40 years after the disaster, animals living in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone are typically genetically different from the same species found elsewhere.

This has therefore raised questions surrounding the impact of chronic radiation on DNA.

What is perhaps the most eye-opening part of this latest study is the fact that, despite the obvious high radiation levels, the genomes of the worms were not damaged… AT ALL.

But before you get your hopes up that Chernobyl could be safe for the first time in the best part of four decades, this doesn’t really apply to us.

It appears that the latest study concludes that worms are resilient animals which can withstand extreme conditions. You can say that again.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 3rd March 2024

HAMNET Western Cape participated in the blackout exercise arranged by the Western Province Disaster Management agency, on this past Friday morning. The scenario was to be a progressive failure of all electrical power to the province’s communications systems with its outlying areas, at the same time tasking departments with keeping contact with their peripheral offices using less and less resources.

So the first stage involved keeping contact with regional agencies in Beaufort West, George, and the Overberg, using only cell-phone systems. The second allowed contact only by landline telephone, as electricity failed, and the third by radio only, as internet, landline and cell towers progressively failed.

For this third stage HAMNET was their only means of communication. We had previously tested the bands (last Sunday morning in fact), and found 40 metres to be the most reliable between about 9 and 10am, provided the sun played along of course and didn’t kill HF communications. Some 14 stations from around the province had called in last Sunday during our tests and proved to have good signals on 40 metres between each other. Although many stations had good signals on 60 metres as well, we at the JOC at Tygerberg Hospital running ZS1DZ found our antenna not to resonate well on 60, and received and gave low RS signal reports on 60.

Happily, on Friday morning the K index was dropping at the time of the exercise, and was 2 at the time of our tests, so all went well. At about 09h45, all systems failed, in the scheme of the exercise, and ZS1DZ was faced with several anxious departments wanting messages to be conveyed to their outlying agencies. All messages were successfully sent, though those to George needed to be relayed via ZS1L’s home station in Gordon’s Bay, and the organizers of the exercise were impressed at how quickly and effectively HAMNET functioned.

ZS1DCC, the equivalent Ops station of the City of Cape Town was also activated, though not needed to distribute messages, and we had a chance to try out our 5GHz microwave digital link between the two stations, sending keyboard to keyboard messages, pictures, and a unilateral video and audio stream from DCC to DZ, which was very clear. The distance between the two stations, as the crow flies is about 5km, and our microwave link is private and free of QRM.

All in all it was a successful exercise, and Michael ZS1MJT thanks all operators from around the province, who called in, and then acknowledged the messages sent to them, from the organizers of the event.

In a good news story from New Zealand, Amateur Radio Emergency Communications assisted in the search for a 72 year old man, who had gone hiking this last Monday in the Taruarua Ranges. Last seen at 4pm local time on Monday the 26th, he was found alive just before 7pm Wednesday evening by family who were helping the search in the Ohau Gorge. He was airlifted to Palmerston North Hospital.

Inspector Ashley Gurney said: “We are so pleased to be able to share this news.

“Obviously he has been through quite an ordeal after spending close to three days in the Ranges, but the community rallied together determined for him to return home, and he will.”

Police, land search and rescue, search dogs and a team from Amateur Radio Emergency Communications had assisted with the full-time search. Private helicopters, as well as a Royal New Zealand Airforce chopper, supported the operation from the air.

Police have thanked everyone who gave their time and expertise to the rescue mission. The man is receiving medical care and is being supported by his family.

Thanks to newshub.co.nz for that report.

My favourite volcano, named Popacatepetl, located in the States of Puebla, Morelos, and Mexico, central Mexico erupted on 27th February and the ash plume reached up to 2,000 m above the crater. 

According to Mexico’s National Centre for Prevention of Disasters (CENAPRED), a tiny ash fall was reported across several Municipalities in the States of Morelos, Tlaxcala, Mexico City, and Mexico. In addition, media report the cancellation of more than 20 domestic and international flights.

The authorities raised the alert level to 2, and recommended inhabitants to respect the exclusion radius of 12 km around the crater, because it is unsafe to be within this area.

Popacapetl last erupted in December 2018, so has been relatively dormant.

For my last story I was going to tell you of evidence found of phonon chirality from impurity scattering in the antiferromagnetic insulator strontium iridium oxide, but thought that would probably be too low-brow for you all.

Instead I will tell you that Phys.org says that a team of chemists and engineers affiliated with several institutions has found an electrolyte solution that can be used to reduce the recharging time of lithium-ion batteries while allowing battery capacity to remain comparatively high even at low temperatures.

In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes the new electrolyte and how well it worked during testing. Chong Yan and Jia-Qi Huang with the Beijing Institute of Technology have published a News and Views piece in the same journal issue, outlining the work done by the team on this new effort.

As Yan and Huang note, lithium-ion batteries have proven their usefulness in a wide variety of applications, but that does not mean there is no room for improvement. One improvement that users of battery-powered devices would like to see is faster recharging. They would also like to see improvements in battery capacity as temperatures drop during the winter months. In this new study, the research team found an electrolyte solution that they claim reduces charging time while also preventing loss of capacity when exposed to cold temperatures.

In their work, the team working in China found that the use of organic solvents could greatly improve the mobility of ions in a battery electrolyte, allowing for faster charging. They noted that such solvents could also be used to prevent loss of capacity in temperatures as low as -80°C.

In their work, the team used a solvent called fluoroacetonitrile, which has molecules that are much smaller than those typically used to make the electrolyte. The molecules of the solvent tend to surround the lithium ions, forming a shell. As the shells touch, they form a sort of tunnel, allowing the ions to move more quickly through the electrolyte.

Testing showed ionic conductivity approximately four times that of standard batteries. They also found that putting their test batteries in a freezer did not reduce their capacity.

This is actually very good news, because it will improve the efficiency of lithium ion batteries hugely.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.