Economics-Watching: How Green Innovation Can Stimulate Economies and Curb Emissions

[from IMF Blog, by Zeina Hasna, Florence Jaumotte & Samuel Pienknagura]

Coordinated climate policies can spur innovation in low-carbon technologies and help them spread to emerging markets and developing economies

Making low-carbon technologies cheaper and more widely available is crucial to reducing harmful emissions.

We have seen decades of progress in green innovation for mitigation and adaptation: from electric cars and clean hydrogen to renewable energy and battery storage.

More recently though, momentum in green innovation has slowed. And promising technologies aren’t spreading fast enough to lower-income countries, where they can be especially helpful to curbing emissions. Green innovation peaked at 10 percent of total patent filings in 2010 and has experienced a mild decline since. The slowdown reflects various factors, including hydraulic fracking that has lowered the price of oil and technological maturity in some initial technologies such as renewables, which slows the pace of innovation.

The slower momentum is concerning because, as we show in a new staff discussion note, green innovation is not only good for containing climate change, but for stimulating economic growth too. As the world confronts one of the weakest five-year growth outlooks in more than three decades, those dual benefits are particularly appealing. They ease concerns about the costs of pursuing more ambitious climate plans. And when countries act jointly on climate, we can speed up low-carbon innovation and its transfer to emerging markets and developing economies.

IMF research [archived PDF] shows that doubling green patent filings can boost gross domestic product by 1.7 percent after five years compared with a baseline scenario. And that’s under our most conservative estimate—other estimates show up to four times the effect.

The economic benefits of green innovation mostly flow through increased investment in the first few years. Over time, further growth benefits come from cheaper energy and production processes that are more energy efficient. Most importantly, they come from less global warming and less frequent (and less costly) climate disasters.

Green innovation is associated with more innovation overall, not just a substitution of green technologies for other kinds. This may be because green technologies often require complementary innovation. More innovation usually means more economic growth.

A key question is how countries can better foster green innovation and its deployment. We highlight how domestic and global climate policies spur green innovation. For example, a big increase in the number of climate policies tends to boost green patent filings, our preferred proxy for green innovation, by 10 percent within five years.

Some of the most effective policies to stimulate green innovation include emissions-trading schemes that cap emissions, feed-in-tariffs, which guarantee a minimum price for renewable energy producers, and government spending, such as subsidies for research and development. What’s more, global climate policies result in much larger increases in green innovation than domestic initiatives alone. International pacts like the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement amplify the impact of domestic policies on green innovation.

One reason policy synchronization has a prominent impact on domestic green innovation is what is called the market size effect. There’s more incentive to develop low-carbon technologies if innovators can expect to sell into a much larger potential market, that is, in countries which adopted similar climate policies.

Another is that climate policies in other countries generate green innovations and knowledge that can be used in the domestic economy. This is known as technology diffusion. Finally, synchronized policy action and international climate commitments create more certainty around domestic climate policies, as they boost people’s confidence in governments’ commitment to addressing climate change.

Climate policies even help spread the use of low-carbon technologies in countries that are not sources of innovation, through trade and foreign-direct investment. Countries that introduce climate policies see more imports of low-carbon technologies and higher green FDI inflows, especially in emerging markets and developing economies.

Risks of protectionism

Lowering tariffs on low-carbon technologies can further enhance trade and FDI in green technologies. This is especially important for middle- and low-income countries where such tariffs remain high. On the flipside, more protectionist measures would impede the broader spread of low-carbon technologies.

In addition, and given evidence of economies of scale, protectionism—with ultimately smaller potential markets—could stifle incentives for green innovation and lead to duplication of efforts across countries.

The risks of protectionism are exacerbated when climate policies, such as subsidies, do not abide by international rules. For example, local content requirements, whereby only locally produced green goods benefit from subsidies, undermine trust in multilateral trade rules and could result in retaliatory measures.

Beyond embracing a rules-based approach to climate policies, the advanced economies, where most green innovation occurs, have an important responsibility: sharing the technology so that emerging and developing economies can get there faster. Such direct technology transfers hold the promise of a double dividend for emerging markets and developing economies—reducing emissions and yielding economic benefits.

—This blog reflects research by Zeina Hasna, Florence Jaumotte, Jaden Kim, Samuel Pienknagura and Gregor Schwerhoff.

Science-Watching: Why Do Batteries Sometimes Catch Fire and Explode?

[from Berkeley Lab News, by Theresa Duque]

Key Takeaways
  • Scientists have gained new insight into why thermal runaway, while rare, could cause a resting battery to overheat and catch fire.
  • In order to better understand how a resting battery might undergo thermal runaway after fast charging, scientists are using a technique called “operando X-ray microtomography” to measure changes in the state of charge at the particle level inside a lithium-ion battery after it’s been charged.
  • Their work shows for the first time that it is possible to directly measure current inside a resting battery even when the external current measurement is zero.
  • Much more work is needed before the findings can be used to develop improved safety protocols.

How likely would an electric vehicle battery self-combust and explode? The chances of that happening are actually pretty slim: Some analysts say that gasoline vehicles are nearly 30 times more likely to catch fire than electric vehicles. But recent news of EVs catching fire while parked have left many consumers – and researchers – scratching their heads over how these rare events could possibly happen.

Researchers have long known that high electric currents can lead to “thermal runaway” – a chain reaction that can cause a battery to overheat, catch fire, and explode. But without a reliable method to measure currents inside a resting battery, it has not been clear why some batteries go into thermal runaway, even when an EV is parked.

Now, by using an imaging technique called “operando X-ray microtomography,” scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley have shown that the presence of large local currents inside batteries at rest after fast charging could be one of the causes behind thermal runaway. Their findings were reported in the journal ACS Nano.

“We are the first to capture real-time 3D images that measure changes in the state of charge at the particle level inside a lithium-ion battery after it’s been charged,” said Nitash P. Balsara, the senior author on the study. Balsara is a faculty senior scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and a UC Berkeley professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

“What’s exciting about this work is that Nitash Balsara’s group isn’t just looking at images – They’re using the images to determine how batteries work and change in a time-dependent way. This study is a culmination of many years of work,” said co-author Dilworth Y. Parkinson, staff scientist and deputy for photon science operations at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS).

The team is also the first to measure ionic currents at the particle level inside the battery electrode.

3D microtomography experiments at the Advanced Light Source enabled researchers to pinpoint which particles generated current densities as high as 25 milliamps per centimeter squared inside a resting battery after fast charging. In comparison, the current density required to charge the test battery in 10 minutes was 18 milliamps per centimeter squared. (Credit: Nitash Balsara and Alec S. Ho/Berkeley Lab. Courtesy of ACS Nano)
Measuring a battery’s internal currents

In a lithium-ion battery, the anode component of the electrode is mostly made of graphite. When a healthy battery is charged slowly, lithium ions weave themselves between the layers of graphite sheets in the electrode. In contrast, when the battery is charged rapidly, the lithium ions have a tendency to deposit on the surface of the graphite particles in the form of lithium metal.

“What happens after fast charging when the battery is at rest is a little mysterious,” Balsara said. But the method used for the new study revealed important clues.

Experiments led by first author Alec S. Ho at the ALS show that when graphite is “fully lithiated” or fully charged, it expands a tiny bit, about a 10% change in volume – and that current in the battery at the particle level could be determined by tracking the local lithiation in the electrode. (Ho recently completed his Ph.D. in the Balsara group at UC Berkeley.)

A conventional voltmeter would tell you that when a battery is turned off, and disconnected from both the charging station and the electric motor, the overall current in the battery is zero.

But in the new study, the research team found that after charging the battery in 10 minutes, the local currents in a battery at rest (or currents inside the battery at the particle level) were surprisingly large. Parkinson’s 3D microtomography instrument at the ALS enabled the researchers to pinpoint which particles inside the battery were the “outliers” generating alarming current densities as high as 25 milliamps per centimeter squared. In comparison, the current density required to charge the battery in 10 minutes was 18 milliamps per centimeter squared.

The researchers also learned that the measured internal currents decreased substantially in about 20 minutes. Much more work is needed before their approach can be used to develop improved safety protocols.

Researchers from Argonne National Laboratory also contributed to the work.

The Advanced Light Source is a DOE Office of Science user facility at Berkeley Lab.

The work was supported by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Additional funding was provided by the National Science Foundation.

Movies and Chemistry: Keeping the Enchantment of Education

Several movies give you an “enchanting” back door or window into chemistry so that you can “beat” the tediousness of regular education and come into the field and its topics via these movies:


The Man in the White Suit is a 1951 British comedy classic with Alec Guinness as a genius research chemist. He fiddles with his flasks and polymer and textile chemistry experiments until he invents a fabric that shows no wear and tear “forever.” This would seem like a great boon to humanity in its clothing needs but the chemist (“Sidney Stratton”) finds that both labor and management reject his discovery violently as it threatens jobs and profits. Textile or fabric polymer chemistry is at the heart of the plot.

Cry Terror! is a taut 1958 crime thriller movie with James Mason and Rod Steiger. The plot involves the terrorist threat of exploding a domestic airliner with a hidden RDX cache (a TNT successor) unless the demanded payment is made.

RDX was used by both sides in World War II. The U.S. produced about 15,000 long tons per month during WWII and Germany about 7,000 long tons per month. RDX had the major advantages of possessing greater explosive force than TNT, used in World War I and requiring no additional raw materials for its manufacture.

Semtex is a general-purpose plastic explosive containing RDX and PETN. It is used in commercial blasting, demolition, and in certain military applications.

A Semtex bomb was used in the Pan Am Flight 103 (known also as the Lockerbie) bombing in 1988. A belt laden with 700 g (1.5 lb) of RDX explosives tucked under the dress of the assassin was used in the assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

The 1993 Bombay bombings used RDX placed into several vehicles as bombs. RDX was the main component used for the 2006 Mumbai train bombings and the Jaipur bombings in 2008. It also is believed to be the explosive used in the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings.

Traces of RDX were found on pieces of wreckage from 1999 Russian apartment bombings and 2004 Russian aircraft bombings. Further reports on the bombs used in the 1999 apartment bombings indicated that while RDX was not a part of the main charge, each bomb contained plastic explosive used as a booster charge.

Ahmed Ressam, the al-Qaeda Millennium Bomber, used a small quantity of RDX as one of the components in the bomb that he prepared to detonate in Los Angeles International Airport on New Year’s Eve 1999-2000; the bomb could have produced a blast forty times greater than that of a devastating car bomb.

In July 2012, the Kenyan government arrested two Iranian nationals and charged them with illegal possession of 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of RDX. According to the Kenyan Police, the Iranians planned to use the RDX for “attacks on Israeli, U.S., UK and Saudi Arabian targets.”

RDX was used in the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri on February 14, 2005.

In the 2019 Pulwama attack in India, 250 kg of high-grade RDX was used by Jaish-e-Mohammed. The attack resulted in the deaths of 44 Central Reserve Police Force personnel as well as the attacker.

Semtex was developed and manufactured in Czechoslovakia, originally under the name B 1 and then under the “Semtex” designation since 1964, labeled as SEMTEX 1A, since 1967 as SEMTEX H, and since 1987 as SEMTEX 10. Originally developed for Czechoslovak military use and export, Semtex eventually became popular with paramilitary groups and rebels or terrorists because prior to 2000 it was extremely difficult to detect, as in the case of Pan Am Flight 103.

The Russian apartment bombings were a series of explosions that hit four apartment blocks in the Russian cities of Buynaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk in September 1999, killing more than 300, injuring more than 1,000, and spreading fear across the country. The bombings, together with the Invasion of Dagestan, triggered the Second Chechen War. The handling of the crisis by Vladimir Putin, who was prime minister at the time, boosted his popularity greatly and helped him attain the presidency within a few months.

The blasts hit Buynaksk on 4 September and in Moscow on 9 and 13 September. On 13 September, Russian Duma speaker Gennadiy Seleznyov made an announcement in the Duma about receiving a report that another bombing had just happened in the city of Volgodonsk. A bombing did indeed happen in Volgodonsk, but only three days later, on 16 September. Chechen militants were blamed for the bombings, but denied responsibility, along with Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov.

A suspicious device resembling those used in the bombings was found and defused in an apartment block in the Russian city of Ryazan on 22 September. On 23 September, Vladimir Putin praised the vigilance of the inhabitants of Ryazan and ordered the air bombing of Grozny, which marked the beginning of the Second Chechen War. Three FSB agents who had planted the devices at Ryazan were arrested by the local police, with the devices containing a sugar-like substance resembling RDX.


The movie Khartoum (1966) has General Charles Gordon traveling to Sudan in 1884 to quell the “mad mullah” the Mahdi. (Osama bin Laden of his day).
At the train station where General Gordon starts his trip, there’s a railway ad sign that promotes the use of “Wright’s Coal Tar Soap.”

This gives us a sign of the rise of the modern chemical industry.


Think of “Sherlock Holmes” in terms of all the movies and TV series or the original stories and books:

Holmes has to explain to Watson how he survived the assassination attempt on him by Moriarty, “the Napoleon of Crime” who threw him off the Reichenbach Falls. Holmes explains that he faked Moriarty out and clung to a bush or something and was (obviously) not killed.

Holmes tells Watson what he does when he returns to civilization and travels and studies for some three years:

“I then passed through Persia, looking in at Mecca, and paid a short but interesting visit to the Khalifa at Khartoum, the results of which I communicated to the Foreign Office. Returning to France, I spent some months in a research into the coal-tar derivatives, which I conducted in a laboratory at Montpellier, in the south of France.”

The context implies the year 1894.

There is clear evidence that Mr. Holmes was deeply involved in the research of coal-tar derivatives as early as 1889 when the events of the Copper Beeches matter were transpiring.

We are told that on an evening in 1889, Mr. Holmes was seated in 221B Baker Street at the deal table loaded with retorts and test tubes. He was settling down to one of those all-night chemical researches in which he frequently indulged.

The research work was interrupted by a message of distress from Violet Hunter. Watson found that there was a train the next morning, and Holmes tells Watson:

“That will do very nicely. Then perhaps I had better postpone my analysis of the acetones as we may need to be at our best in the morning.”

It is clear that Holmes was engaged in coal-tar research long before his visit to Montpellier in the south of France.

The quotation from the Copper Beeches story refers to acetones, not to coal-tar derivatives.

“In the fractional distillation of coal-tar, the distillate separates into five distinct groups or layers, depending upon the stage of the process and the amount of heat applied. Category-one of the five includes benzene, toluene, xylenes and cumenes.

Acetones [dimethelketone-CH3COCH3] may be derived from the oxidation of cumene. And cumene [isopropylbenzene-C6H5C(CH3)2] is derived by distillation from the coal-tar naphtha fractions.”

Cumenes are derived from coal-tar, and acetones are derived from cumenes. Thus, a study of the acetones is, necessarily, research into coal-tar derivatives.

The rise of chemical engineering and organic chemistry are at the heart of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Thus we can “climb” into chemistry via these books and movies and keep a feeling of enchantment as a kind of educational “shoehorn.”

Technology-Watching: Quantum Microchips Connected in Record-Breaking World First

[from UK Research and Innovation]

Researchers in the UK have successfully transferred data between quantum microchips for the first time.

This helps overcome a key obstacle to building a commercial quantum computer.

The milestone achieved by a team from the University of Sussex and Brighton-based quantum computer developer Universal Quantum, allows chips to be linked like a jigsaw.

On track to useful quantum computers

It means that many more qubits, the basic calculating unit, can be joined together than is possible on a single microchip. This will make a more powerful quantum computer possible.

The project, which has been backed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), has also broken the world record for quantum connection speed and accuracy.

The scaling of qubit numbers from the current level of around 100 qubits to nearer 1 million is central to creating a quantum processor that can make useful calculations.

The significant achievement is based on a technical blueprint for creating a large-scale quantum computer, which was first published in 2017 with funding from EPSRC.

Within the blueprint was the ground-breaking concept successfully demonstrated with this research of linking quantum computing modules with electrical fields.

Unlocking UK potential

The UK is a leader in the global race to develop useful quantum computers, which represent a step-change in computing power.

Their development may help solve pressing challenges from drug discovery to energy-efficient fertilizer production. But their impact is expected to sweep across the economy, transforming most sectors and all our lives.

Potential to scale up

Winfried Hensinger, Professor of Quantum Technologies at the University of Sussex and Chief Scientist and co-founder at Universal Quantum said:

As quantum computers grow, we will eventually be constrained by the size of the microchip, which limits the number of quantum bits such a chip can accommodate.

In demonstrating that we can connect 2 quantum computing chips, a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, and, crucially, that it works so well, we unlock the potential to scale up by connecting hundreds or even thousands of quantum computing microchips.

Speed and precision

The researchers were successful in transporting the qubits using electrical fields with a 99.999993% success rate and a connection rate of 2424 transfers per second. Both numbers are world records.

Dr. Kedar Pandya, Director of Cross-Council Programmes at EPSRC, said:

This significant milestone is evidence of how EPSRC funded science is seeding the commercial future for quantum computing in the UK.

The potential for complex technologies, like quantum, to transform our lives and create economic value widely relies on visionary early-stage investment in academic research.

We deliver that crucial building block and are delighted that the University of Sussex and its spin-out company, Universal Quantum, are demonstrating the strength it supports.

Institute of Physics award winner

Universal Quantum has been awarded €67 million from the German Aerospace Center to build 2 quantum computers.

The University of Sussex spin-out was also recently named as one of the 2022 Institute of Physics award winners in the business start-up category.

China Monitor: How Immigration Is Shaping Chinese Society

(from MERICS China Monitor)

To the surprise of many, China has emerged as a destination country for immigration: As China’s population ages and its workforce shrinks, China needs more immigrants.

The background of immigrants to China is becoming more diverse. While the number of high-earning expatriates from developed countries has peaked, China is now also attracting more students than ever from all over the world, including many from lesser developed countries. Low-skilled labor and migration for marriage are also on the rise. The main areas that attract foreigners are the large urban centers along the coast (Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing) and borderland regions in the South, Northeast and Northwest, but smaller numbers are also making their way to smaller cities across China.

In the new MERICS China MonitorHow immigration is shaping Chinese society” [archived PDF], MERICS Director Frank N. Pieke and colleagues from other European universities and institutions discuss the most salient issues confronting the Chinese government and foreign residents themselves.

According to their analysis, for many foreigners China has become considerably less accommodating over the last ten years, particularly with regard to border control, public security, visa categories, and work and residence permits. China’s immigration policy is still driven by narrow concerns of regulation, institutionalization and control. It remains predicated on attracting high-quality professionals, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors. Long-term challenges like the emerging demographic transition, remain to be addressed.

The authors detect a worrying trend towards intolerance to ethnic and racial difference, fed by increasing nationalism and ethnic chauvinism. They argue that the Chinese government, civil society, foreign diplomatic missions, employers of foreigners and international organizations present in China should take a clear stance against racism and discrimination. China’s immigration policy needs to include the integration of foreigners into society and provide clear and predictable paths to acquiring permanent residence.

[Archived PDF]