Saturday, August 9, 2008

Andrew Burke on Claims for EEStor Technology

Andrew Burke is a research engineer at the University of California at Davis, Institute of Transportation Studies. "He directs the EV Power Systems Laboratory and performs research and teaches graduate courses on advanced electric driveline technologies, specializing in batteries, ultracapacitors, fuel cells and hybrid vehicle design." Burke recently had an interview with the brand new EEStory blog. Burke is an EEStor skeptic, and he has scientific grounds for his skepticism. For Burke the problem is one of insulation, or "dielectric materials". Burke states: "The whole question has to do with whether it's possible to generate high dielectric materials that maintain high dielectric constants like 20 or 30K up to high field strengths. . . . The question is whether you can....whether it's physically possible to have a material that will maintain it's very high dielectric constant at very high fields. And the consensus of all the experts that I've talked to in the field, say that it's not possible."

Translated into simple English this means that the experts say, at high voltage the insulating qualities of materials used in capacitors breaks down, contrary to what EEStor's Richard Weir claims. But doesn't Weir have proof for his claims? According to Burke, "Richard Weir has chosen to not make available any test data which contradicts what the experts say."

Burke reported that he had attended a meeting at EEStor headquarters with a group of would be investors, but that Weir "absolutely refused to show us any test data."

The problem for EEStor technology is simple. In order to put more electricity into a light weight capacitor, the electricity must be stored at high voltage. But the insulating materials are believed by the experts to break down under conditions of high voltage. In such a breakdown, a lot of electricity would discharge rapidly. The discharge "spark" would have enough energy to produce a very considerable explosion.

Burke points out the importance of a "proof of concept" prototype: "All you have to do to convince anybody is put together a small device. And test it at various voltages. And you see what happens to the capacitance."

I have noted elsewhere that Weir's statements are inconcistent with EEStor ever naving built a "proof of concept" prototype. And without having a proof of concept prototype, Weir has no evidence that the experts are wrong. If the experts say that it is impossible to grow cotton in Alaska, you have to plant some cotton seeds and see if you can harvest some cotton, if you want to prove the experts are wrong.

Richard Weir, in his various conversations with bloggers seems oblivious to what seems obvious, that is the product development cycle. One would expect in the Normal course of things that EEStor would produce a "Proof of concept prototype", If that prototype worked at all the next step would be to identify developmental issues with it, after those issues were identified and worked through, the next step would be a developmental prototype, which would be used to examine the problems related to a working commercial model. Since we are talking electrical storage, a developmental prototype could be the size of a small battery. If the developmental prototype evolved into a product stage, say a commercial line of household battery size storage units, then the next step would be to scale up, to auto size EESUs. Instead Weir plans to start producing full size EESU's for Zenn Motors in 2009.

I have one word for Weir's developmental plan: Grandiose. Richard Weir appears to believe that he can simply bypass the major developmental problems of a wholly new technology, with impunity. Weir's feet do not seem firmly bound to the earth. He seems to believe that he can jump tall buildings with a single bound. Look out! If the EESU were software, it would be called vaporware.

Update: from EEStoy today:"The chemistry was the big milestone, we should see commercialization without hurdles as the mechanics is old technology with a few details, which Weir says is done., All that is left is just time (patents, electronics, raw material, and logistics)." - satya51

Comment: We have a killer concept, and we know that programing works, all we have to do sis to spend a few months actually writing the code.

1 comment:

donb said...

Burke points out the importance of a "proof of concept" prototype: "All you have to do to convince anybody is put together a small device. And test it at various voltages. And you see what happens to the capacitance."

Bingo! There may be multiple problems with the EEStor concept. But the absolutely basic one is whether the dielectric can maintain it high dielectric constant at high voltage (high fields). This can be demonstrated in a very small, even microscopic device. Making such a device available for independent testing would prove (or disprove!) the fundamental basis of EEStor.

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