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Inventor of the graphite anode – key Li-ion battery tech – says he can now charge an electric car in 10 minutes • The Register

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Feature Morocco-born Dr Rachid Yazami has lived all over the world, thanks to an invention he made in his first year as a PhD student – the graphite anode – which is one of the key components that make lithium-ion batteries perform so well.

With electric vehicles on the rise, he believes the invention will soon take you everywhere, too.

Yazami’s story starts in the mid-1970s when scientists knew that graphite could help to form molten or powdered lithium into a usable energy storage material but struggled to turn it into a product. In 1983 Yazami and co-author Ph. Touzain cracked the problem by using a solid polymer electrolyte.

Their technique helped to make mass-manufactured Li-ion batteries affordable, reliable, long-lived and possessing the power cycling stability that has made them ubiquitous.

The anode has since propelled Yazami to a globe-spanning career in France, California, Japan and now Singapore, where The Register caught up with him in the offices of his company, KVI near the National Technological University.

Professor Yazami said the anode “made me popular, but not rich.” It also gave him some bragging rights:

Pre-pandemic, the anode was estimated by Lux Research analysts to be worth 10 to 15 per cent of the total cost of a lithium-ion battery and the global anode material market was predicted to grow to $10bn by 2025.

These days, Yazami is chasing another breakthrough: fast-charging batteries. And he says his company is already breaking records:

Yazami said his company’s rapid charging tech works by using a new approach to getting current into a car.

“Traditionally, batteries have been charged by applying constant current, much in the way that one would fill up a gas tank, you put the nozzle in and start pumping,” he explained.

Yazami’s method instead uses “nonlinear voltammetry” that controls voltage instead of controlling the current.

As explained to The Register this involves thinking of voltage like steps on a ladder. Voltage must stay constant, essentially on one rung of the ladder, until parameters are met and it can move up to the next step, eventually reaching the top of the ladder when fully charged. Yazami said this method gives batteries a rest during the charging process, changing how they respond.

“The speed a battery will charge depends on its resilience to take a charge,” said Yazami. “You have to make the battery happy.”

While a fast charge is convenient for a consumer, it is also important for the life of the battery, and at the top of the list of things Yazami would like to improve for the future of lithium-ion batteries.

“The technology that enables fast charging also extends the life of the battery by avoiding stress. Instead of keeping your battery for five years, you can keep it for ten years, because the way we are charging the battery does not put it under high temperature or high current stress,” he said. His dream battery situation would be ten minutes of charge for a range of 800km.

The two other problems he sees with batteries are energy density — which can help a driver stay on the road longer — and safety.

”Energy density has been increasing since the inception of lithium-ion batteries in 1991, until 2015 or 2016 when it plateaued,” he said. “The increase before it plateaued was about 80 per cent a year.”

”To give you an idea, when Sony first launched a [Li-Ion] battery, it was about 90 watt hours per kilogram. We are now close to 270, which is three times that. Some of the lithium-ion batteries can provide 290 watt hour per kilogram. I have tested them in the lab — they are commercial batteries, they are already there.”

”The target is to go to 300. To my knowledge there is no 300 watt hour per kilogram on the market — not yet. There are some prototypes, but when you increase the energy density there are some problems with life and safety of battery.”

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Safety is also on Yazami’s mind, because Li-ion batteries can behave badly if they are punctured or stressed. Preliminary reports regarding a fatal crash of a 2019 Tesla Model S in Texas last month revealed that a fire started in the battery, which was damaged in the crash.

”We can’t prevent fire in extreme situations, but at least we can have signs before it happens,” the professor told The Register.

“We need a technology that is proactive many weeks or even one month in advance. A weak battery with a risk, you’ll know it as the end user. You can then choose to service the battery pack, or replace it, or not use it at all. That will increase the safety by three or four times.”

He went on to describe what this could like: a sensor on the battery that measures its size as the material expands with heat, and a display system that in turn alerts the driver.

“It’s like a seat belt – it is not a total prevention strategy,” said Yazami.

The scientist reckons EV battery technology will continue to extend beyond cars and scooters, and we will see the rise of electric airplanes – likely predominantly for individual use – in the next 20 to 30 years.

He also predicted Europe will grow from providing 3 per cent of battery manufacturing to 20 per cent, as the EU continues to increase the number of billion-dollar gigafactories.

“Currently the EV market is in the EU, and the manufacturing is in China,” said Yazami. “That’s a problem.” ®

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Kira Puru: the 10 funniest things I have ever seen (on the internet) | Culture

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Never in my life have I felt more unfunny than I did while compiling this list. There is nothing that’ll give you the ick faster than someone whipping out their phone to show you something “funny” they’ve seen on the internet, thrusting you into the longest three minutes of your life. Oh and that keen, wide-eyed look they give you after, practically begging for validation? Gross. And somehow, despite knowing this, here I am, desperately hoping that you’ll laugh and think I’m cool.

Look, I’m not in the business of being funny. I make music. And that’s the excuse I’ll be sticking to if nothing on this list appeals to you. But if you’re feelin’ frisky, let me whip out my proverbial phone and show you a thing or two …

1. @rhyleep95 on TikTok

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I think creating this list has made me realise that a lot of what I think is “funny” is actually just earnest expressions of joy and people at play. Rhylee is a natural comedian who is genuinely talented across multiple disciplines, but her account is perfect comfort-watch territory because it’s just truly nice to watch someone have fun.

2. Nina Oyama on Twitter (@ninaoyama)

I’m doing cry july

— nina oyama (@ninaoyama) July 9, 2021

I’m a depressed queer with a penchant for dry, grubby humour, so naturally I’m a Nina Oyama stan. If you’re on Twitter and not following Nina, you’re misusing the platform.

3. @mignonettetakespictures on Instagram

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More amusing than literally funny, but @mignonettetakespictures serves up bittersweet tearjerkers, unhinged absurdity, belly laughs and everything in between.

4. @gnomeboys on TikTok

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I could have just submitted 10 Gnome Boys clips for this list tbh. A supremely balanced mix of comedy, talent, and wholesome celebration of friendship in equal measure. Slay.

5. Ziwe interviews Chet Hanks

I don’t know what this says about me, but Ziwe making people uncomfortable is something I find thoroughly enjoyable.

6. @grandma_droniak on TikTok

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Grandma Droniak is a modern feminist icon. And if you don’t like it, leave.

7. @aureliastclair on TikTok

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If there’s one thing I’m into, it’s deeply specific memes about Melbourne’s inner north, and Aurelia handles this masterfully. I’ve chosen this particular clip cuz I live in Brunswick and I’m very attached to my putrid bucket of rotting food scraps that literally goes into the general waste bin every week.

8. Dirty Bird #2: Dads

Uh. I’m not sure what to say about this. Please enjoy some vintage Sam Campbell, where he and his friend Henry run into their dads while on a “chicken eating tour of the suburbs”.

9. @janemckennan0 on TikTok

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Jane’s body of work is very dynamic and thrilling. A cutting edge artist in the peak of her prime, in my humble opinion.

10. @lostmymarblesagain on TikTok

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Look, we’re this deep into the list and I don’t know what’s funny any more. But if Brittany Broski has one million fans, I’m one of them. If she has one fan, it’s me. If she has zero fans, I’m dead.

  • Kira Puru is part of Southside Live, a free, family-friendly event presented by City of Port Phillip in Victoria, 24 June – 3 July



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Adopt Modern Auth now for Exchange Online • The Register

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The US government is pushing federal agencies and private corporations to adopt the Modern Authentication method in Exchange Online before Microsoft starts shutting down Basic Authentication from the first day of October.

In an advisory [PDF] this week, Uncle Sam’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) noted that while federal executive civilian branch (FCEB) agencies – which includes such organizations as the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, and such departments as Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury, and State – are required to make the change, all organizations should make the switch from Basic Authentication.

“Federal agencies should determine their use of Basic Auth and migrate users and applications to Modern Auth,” CISA wrote. “After completing the migration to Modern Auth, agencies should block Basic Auth.”

The agency adds that Basic Auth is often used by legacy applications or custom-built business software, and that many user-facing applications, such as Outlook Desktop and Outlook Mobile App, already have been moved to Modern Auth via Microsoft security updates.

“This is a big deal,” John Gunn, CEO of authentication outfit Token, told The Register. “Security-conscious organizations have already made the switch, but many have not, and they are needlessly exposing themselves and others to attack. Hopefully this message will accelerate the process and motivate the stragglers.”

Basic Auth is a legacy authentication method that doesn’t naturally support multifactor authentication (MFA) and requires a user’s password be sent with each authentication request. There are numerous protocols that can use Basic Auth, including the Post Office Protocol/Internet Message Access Protocol (POP/IMAP), Exchange Web Services, ActiveSync, and Remote Procedure Call over HTTP (RPC over HTTP), the agency said.

MFA is required of FCEBs per President Joe Biden’s May 2021 Executive Order 14028 to improve the country’s cybersecurity capabilities.

Ray Kelly, a fellow at Synopsys Software Integrity Group, reminded us that Basic Auth simply sends one’s username and password in a plaintext, encoded form; you can use a Base64 decoder to view the original credentials. It needs to be encapsulated in encryption to be used securely over a network.

“Microsoft’s move to disable basic authentication in Exchange Online is a great thing for securing the Microsoft cloud ecosystem, as we have seen legacy protocols relying on basic authentication used to bypass multi-factor authentication controls,” Aaron Turner, CTO at AI cybersecurity vendor Vectra, told The Register.

“By moving to a posture of disabling basic authentication by default, it essentially hardens all email users who rely on Microsoft Exchange Online. This will make it more difficult for attackers to simply scrape a username and password from a vulnerable mobile device or browser session.”

Speaking of passwords, Microsoft has long been a vocal advocate for doing away with these passphrases for authentication, saying they are unreliable and a weak link in the cybersecurity chain. The Windows giant also has promoted MFA as a way of reducing by 99 percent the likelihood that a user will be compromised.

Moving away from legacy authentication

In a document dated 2020, two senior Microsofties said an analysis of Azure Active Directory traffic showed that 99 percent of password spray attacks and more than 97 percent of credential-stuffing attacks leveraged legacy authentication protocols. In addition, Azure AD accounts in organizations that disabled such authentication methods saw 67 percent fewer compromises than those still using legacy authentication.

Microsoft last year announced it will disable Basic Auth in Exchange Online starting October 1, 2022.

Garret Grajek, CEO of identity specialist YouAttest, called the use of two-factor (2FA) or multifactor authentication “table stakes” in the modern IT world.

“There is no excuse for use of single authentication in 2022,” Grajek told The Register. “The major vendors – Amazon, Microsoft, Google – have made it an option in their offerings. 2FA should be turned on for all resources. The attacks via zero-day flaws, source-code injections and supply chain vulnerabilities need to be monitored.”

He added that “to get hacked by simple username/password hacks on identities is unacceptable. The real challenge going forward is implementing a zero-trust architecture and real identity governance across all users and systems.”

CISA recommends several steps for moving to Modern Auth, with the first one being to review Azure AD sign-in logs to find the applications and users that are authenticating with Basic Auth.

Next is developing a plan to move those applications and users to Modern Auth by following Microsoft’s documentation and Exchange Team blog post about the shift. After that’s done, organizations can use authentication policies to block Basic Auth before authentication occurs, setting the policy per-mailbox or across the business.

Taking these steps means a significant improvement in security, Token’s Gunn adds.

“The advantages of Modern Auth include using MFA [and] not letting apps save credentials,” he said. “Auth has a defined lifetime and the scope of permissions can be limited. All of these make a big difference in stopping attacks.” ®

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A look at one of the most influential devices of the 21st century

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To mark the iPhone’s milestone birthday, Dr Ismini Vasileiou and Prof Paul Haskell-Dowland reflect on how the device has developed and what could be coming next.

Click here to visit The Conversation.

A version of this article was originally published by The Conversation (CC BY-ND 4.0)

Today (29 June) marks 15 years since Apple released what’s arguably its flagship device: the iPhone. A decade and a half later, there are few products that have managed to reach a similar level of brand recognition.

Announced to an eager audience in 2007, the iPhone has revolutionised how we communicate and even how we live day to day.

The iPhone was released in the US in June 2007, and in a further six countries in November.

From the launch of Mac computers in the 1970s to the iPod in 2001, Apple already knew how to engage with its audience – and how to encourage extraordinary levels of hype when launching a product.

Early reviews for the iPhone were almost universally glowing, applauding Apple’s attention to detail and style. The only problem flagged was network connectivity – and this was an issue with slow speeds on phone carrier networks, rather than the device itself.

Consumers’ appreciation of the iPhone’s style was no surprise. It was indicative of an emerging trend towards smartphones with large-format screens (but which still reflected the form of a phone). The Nokia N95 was another such example that hit the market the same year.

The original iPhone offered Wi-Fi, supported 2G Edge connectivity and had internet download speeds below 500Kbps (compared to multi-megabit speeds today).

It was also limited to 4GB or 8GB models. This might sound pitiful compared to the 1TB options available today, but it’s enough to hold hundreds of songs or videos and was revolutionary at the time.

The Apple assembly line

The iPhone 3G was rolled out across the globe in July 2008, with significantly improved data speeds and the addition of the Apple App Store. Even though it offered a mere 500 apps at launch, the app store marked a significant improvement in phone functionality.

And just as users started getting used to 3G, it was superseded by the 3GS about a year later.

This cycle of regularly pushing out new products was critical to Apple’s success. By releasing regular updates, either through whole product iterations or more minor functionality improvements, Apple managed to secure an enthusiastic audience, eager for new releases each year.

Also, since older products would often be passed down within families, Apple’s product pipeline helped it establish a multi-generational user base. This pipeline continues to operate today.

New approaches to old ways

The iPhone family has delivered size, speed and storage improvements over its 15-year history. Some of its ‘new’ features weren’t necessarily new to the market, but Apple excelled at delivering them in highly integrated ways that “just worked” (as founder Steve Jobs would say).

In 2013, the iPhone 5s introduced Touch ID, which allowed users to unlock their phones with a fingerprint. While this had first been introduced with the Fujitsu F505i back in 2003, Apple delivered a robust implementation of the feature. Of course, it wasn’t long before enterprising individuals learnt how to bypass the mechanism.

Four iPhones lined up beside each other on a table with their home screens showing.

iPhones through the years: From the iPhone 6 back to the iPhone 3GS. Image: © tashka2000/Stock.adobe.com

The iPhone 8, released in 2017, brought with it the Face ID feature. This still had weaknesses, but was at least immune to being unlocked with a photo.

Beyond security, the iPhone series has also produced year-on-year improvements in camera technology. While the original model sported a paltry two-megapixel camera, later models featured multiple lenses, with resolution boosted to 12 megapixels – rivalling many digital cameras on the market.

Wireless charging was introduced with the iPhone 8 (although preceded by Samsung as early as 2011). And the bezel-less design of the iPhone X, released in 2017, built on features found in the Sharp Aquos S2 from the same year.

Controversy

Nonetheless, the iPhone has not been without problems. The introduction of the iPhone 7 in 2016 saw the removal of the standard 3.5mm headphone socket – and many weren’t happy.

While an adaptor was initially provided for customers to connect their regular headphones, it was only free for about two years. After that it had to be purchased. In 2016, there were indications of a spike in wireless headphone sales. Perhaps somewhat conveniently, Apple launched its AirPods (wireless Bluetooth earbuds) at the same time.

A similar change came in 2020 with the release of the iPhone 12. Arguing consumers had a multitude of spare devices – and perhaps trying to ride on the green reuse agenda – Apple removed chargers from the unboxing experience.

Users still received a charge cable, but it was a USB-C to Lightning cable, whereas previous iPhone chargers would have a USB-A socket (the standard USB port).

The justification that iPhone users would have a box full of old chargers overlooked the fact that none of them would be likely to support the newer and faster USB-C cable.

So you could use your old USB-A to Lightning cable and charger to charge your shiny new phone, but you’d be limited to slower charging speeds.

Future

If the past 15 years are anything to go by, it’s likely the iPhone will continue with annual product releases (as we write this article, many will be anticipating the iPhone 14 due later this year).

These models will probably bring improvements in speed, weight, battery life, camera resolution and storage capacity. However, it’s not likely we’ll be seeing many groundbreaking innovations in the next few years. The latest iPhones are already highly sophisticated mini computers, which means there’s limited scope for fundamental enhancement.

Perhaps the most radical change will be the shift from Apple’s proprietary lightning connection to USB-C charging, thanks to a new European Union directive. And while a common power connector standard is widely considered a positive move, Apple wasn’t convinced. “We believe regulations that impose harmonisation of smartphone chargers would stifle innovation rather than encourage it,” the company said.

As display technologies evolve, Apple may turn to the clam-shell phone design, with a fully foldable display screen. Samsung has already brought this to the market. But Apple, in true fashion, will likely wait until the technology (particularly the glass) has evolved to deliver an experience in line with what iPhone users have come to expect.

While we can’t predict what the iPhone will look like in another 15 years (although some have tried), it’s likely the demand for Apple products will still be there, driven by Apple’s strong brand loyalty.

The Conversation

By Dr Ismini Vasileiou and Prof Paul Haskell-Dowland

Dr Ismini Vasileiou is associate professor in information systems at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK. Prof Paul Haskell-Dowland is professor of cybersecurity practice at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia.

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