Baseball innovations: Benefits for Players & Fans      

baseball innovation
Photo by Jose Francisco Morales on Unsplash

Innovation is a big buzzword, but I am particularly interested in the advantages it brings. Regular readers of my blog know I enjoy learning about innovative approaches across industries almost as much as I love Major League Baseball (MLB). This article combines the two in a discussion of baseball innovations and their impact on the game. 

On a recent trip to California for my lithium clients, I had the opportunity to attend baseball games in San Diego, Padres versus Royals, and Los Angeles, Dodgers versus Twins. To my  surprise the games were much shorter, by over 30 minutes, than I remembered. I wanted to know why, so, as usual, I did some investigative work.

Changing the game of baseball

Baseball historian David W. Smith has done a lot of research into the time it takes to play games, today and historically. In one study he showed games now run over 190 minutes in keeping with an overall increase in playing time over the past 120 years (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Average minutes for all games, 1908-2017

His several reasons include:

  • Time between pitches (attributable to both batter and pitcher)
  • Time between innings
  • Replay reviews
  • Visits to the mound
  • Relief pitchers, especially mid-inning changes

Some may agree the games are too long. In 2014, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was worried enough about it to set up a committee investigating the game length issue. Other stalwart fans will simply state that “this is baseball” and enjoy the game and the sun — no matter how long it takes. Still, baseball innovation wins out. 

Why tweak baseball timing?

Statistics show that, discounting the pandemic-influenced seasons of 2020 and 2021, attendance has fallen steadily since 1992. Last year's average was the lowest since 1996.  The sixth game of the last World Series, between Philadelphia and Houston, attracted 12.5 million viewers, making it “the lowest rated and least-watched Game 6 of the Fall Classic on record.”

For this year, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred innovated to implement three new rule changes:

  • Pitch clock
  • Limit pickoff throws
  • Ban the infield shift 

For the pitch clock, pitchers have 15 seconds to start their delivery with the bases empty, and 20 seconds with a runner on base.  Batters must be looking at the pitcher with eight seconds left on the clock.  If the batter does not do this, it is an automatic strike.

Before, pitchers had unlimited opportunities to try and pick runners off from the base.  Now, they can disengage from the rubber only twice per plate appearance. A third pickoff try, if unsuccessful, results in a balk (which puts any runners on base on the next base).

Finally, with no infield shifts, the batter has a much better chance of getting a base hit. That’s because the players now must cover more ground on defense, which the league hopes will add a hit or two a night. 

Yes, that’s a lot of technical terms.  For the casual baseball fan, you might get more clarity in this USA Today explanation of the three new rules

What baseball innovations bring

These three innovations have indeed shortened the game. Three weeks into the season, the MLB claims more action has been packed into fewer minutes with games in 2021 at 3 hours, 10 minutes, in 2022 running 3 hours and 4 minutes, and now in 2023, lasting just 2 hours, 37 minutes. 

Scoring is up too. “After averaging 8.5 runs per game last season, teams have combined to score 9.1 runs per game in 2023,” according to the MLB.

Plus, viewership is up with an average 26,753 fans per game, up 5% compared to last year.

Of course, I’ve always been happy to watch a game with some hot dogs and beer. I’d love to take in some innings while talking about innovation.  Contact me with your ideas for innovative strategies for process and business solutions. In the meantime, as Ernie Banks once said It's a beautiful day for a ballgame... Let's play two!”  

Reflections from NAATBatt's Battery Industry Workshop

conference audience
Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Over the past 15 years, NAATBatt has grown from a suggestion by then-Senator Barack Obama to support the battery industry. Today, NAATBatt is an international organization promoting "the development and commercialization of electrochemical energy storage technology and the revitalization of advanced battery manufacturing in North America."

This August, I attended the sixth annual NAATBatt Workshop in Indianapolis bringing battery industry and supply chain professionals together to share current market intelligence about the advanced battery industry.  This is North America’s largest and most important program on battery recycling. I was able to meet industry leaders and hear about the latest developments in lithium-based battery recycling. Learning about new and ground-breaking business and technology in this field helps me to help the lithium and battery clients of Perlmutter & Idea Development (P&ID).

The business of black mass

I enjoyed the workshop discussion about black mass handling. Black mass is the valuable material gained after the mechanical shredding of a lithium-ion battery (LIB). Black mass, which you can read more about in my Chemical Processing column, “Barry on Batteries,” is defined as:

  • cathode active material (lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese)
  • anode active material (graphite, silicon and lithium)
  • residual metals (copper and aluminum)

The presentations addressed safety issues for dust, process solvents, acids and heavy metals. As I’ve written before, safety is a critical consideration throughout process engineering.

Breaking down battery handling

Battery handling, prior to the shredding step, is another important focus area.  I learned that there is a difference between a dismantler and a processor of batteries.  A dismantler keeps the electric vehicle (EV) parts for resale while the processor produces the materials for reuse.  Both of these types of operations require that the batteries have zero charge. The charge can be reduced by saltwater brine soaking or via electrical techniques.

Workshop participants also discussed the differences between lithium ion batteries and lithium iron phosphate batteries (LiFePO4) or LFP batteries (lithium ferrophosphate). Cobalt-free LFP batteries offer lower cost, high safety, low toxicity, long cycle life and other benefits. With these advantages, LFP batteries have continued to expand their market share. According to the Visual Capitalist, LFPs grew from 6% of the EV market in 2020 to 30% in 2022.

Another innovation among the many types of battery designs and approaches to recycling? The battery passport. Already in use in Europe, a battery passport securely captures information on battery usage. This enables real-time alerts and intelligent reported of the battery’s detailed history. North America is also investigating this link in the battery value chain.

Economics critical in LIB recycling

Finally, we discussed how to increase LIB recycling revenue stream via higher quality and categorizing of the black mass and improving downstream chemical processing efficiency. 

I was able to discuss how P&ID contributes to the market by providing (1) preliminary engineering packages for LIBs discharging, dry (inerted) shredding/crushing/granulating, black mass vacuum drying with gas treatment / electrolyte recovery, dedusting, and classifying and sorting the different fractions. I also introduced people to our complete skid-mounted equipment packages. Based upon the engineering in phase 1,  Packages range from 50 kg/hour up to 4 m-tons/hour for single process lines.

P&ID's message to battery industry attendees was simple:  ACT like a recycler but THINK like a chemical plant.  P&ID is in a position to assist at all stages of the process.  Contact me to discuss these ideas via in-person or virtual meetings. Let’s optimize and improve together.  

Sustainable energy

Brooklyn Making a Difference in Sustainable Energy

Sustainable energy
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I’m proud to say my hometown of Brooklyn is listed as a major tourist destination by leading travel publications. Why not? You can visit the only aquarium in New York City and have lunch at Nathan’s Famous. In fact, Brooklyn, if it were not a borough in New York City, would be the 3rd largest city in America, after Los Angeles and Chicago. That city would also be at the cutting edge of sustainable energy.

Now, I can also be proud to write this article combining my love for Brooklyn with two of my favorite topics: innovation and sustainability. A recent article on Canary Media, describes how Brooklyn aims to become a hub for storing and assembling offshore wind turbines. Equinor, the Norwegian energy giant, and its partner BP, plan to build a staging ground for the sprawling wind projects they're developing in the Atlantic Ocean. Beacon Wind, is planned for an area of 128,000 acres in federal waters approximately 60 miles east of Montauk Point and 20 miles south of Nantucket. When complete, Beacon Wind will provide 1,230 MW of reliable, renewable offshore wind power for households in the Northeast United States. This offshore wind farm will be among the first to appear in U.S. waters.

This sustainable energy project creates a need to store, assemble, and repair the enormous blades and towers of offshore wind turbines — some of which stand nearly 900 feet tall — before hauling them out to sea. Specialized vessels carrying turbine parts and crew members also will need to load, unload, and refuel. That’s going to be happening at Brooklyn’s Sunset Park facility, which will be among the first of its kind on U.S. shores.

South Brooklyn Marine and Sustainable Energy

Of course, there’s innovation at play in getting sustainable power from the wind, but I’ll also note the innovative collaboration of political and governmental organizations to bring the revitalizing business to Brooklyn’s waterfront. Many New York City (NYC) agencies had to work together to bring this project to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal. It surely helped that the effort brings 1,200 jobs in construction and operations.

Yet, Brooklyn’s Sunset Park has further history of green energy. The first cooperatively owned community solar project producing 685-kilowatts of sustainable energy was started in 2019 on the rooftop of the Brooklyn Army Terminal. The project serves approximately 200 households and businesses and was projected to result in more than $1 million in net electricity bill savings for New Yorkers over 25 years.

It makes me happy to see my old stomping grounds leading in innovation and sustainability. Let me know what your hometowns are up to. I’m sure you have some interesting stories to share as globally we work together to prioritize sustainable energy.

geothermal baths for lithium extraction

P&ID Out Front for Lithium Extraction from Geothermal Waters

geothermal baths for lithium extraction
Photo by Joey Clover on Unsplash

P&ID is proudly out front for lithium production and sustainable processes.  In a recent column in Chemical Processing, Barry on Batteries, I discussed how the chemical industry can prepare for a new market segment, lithium extraction from geothermal waters.

Geothermal water is the product of water-rock interactions over a long time at a high temperature and depth. The water contains lithium as well as other minerals, such as bromine. In direct lithium extraction (DLE) from geothermal waters, brine flows through a lithium-bonding material using several processes to recover the lithium. The lithium-free brine is then re-injected back into the ground.

Still, what’s the sustainability angle? DLE processes produce zero waste and are water neutral. Plus, they have fewer land and environmental impacts compared with traditional lithium ore mining.

Lithium extraction from geothermal waters in the news

Now, how is P&ID out front?  Following my column, maybe serendipitously, Robert Mintak of Standard Lithium Ltd. (SLL) posted on LinkedIn about SLL’s recent success with a DLE process in the Smackover Formation in southern Arkansas. The Wall Street Journal also published an article, The Surprising New Source of Lithium for Batteries, explaining DLE and its benefits for an environmentally and sustainable lithium production.

Also, on May 7th, 60-Minutes aired “Companies Develop Lithium Extraction for Batteries in California as the US Auto Industry Goes Electric.” In the segment, Bill Whitaker interviews Eric Spomer, CEO of EnergySource Minerals. The company is going ahead with plans to recover lithium using an existing electric plant powered by the vast, underground geothermal field by the Salton Sea in California's Imperial Valley, the state's largest inland body of water.

That’s not all! The Chemical Engineer in June wrote about UK geothermal water. Amanda Jasi interviewed Stewart Dickson, CEO of Weardale Lithium, and Seb Leaper, CEO of Watercycle Technologies about developing a lithium supply chain in North East England. Watercycle Technologies’ proprietary direct lithium extraction and crystallization (DLEC) process selectively removes lithium ions from complex brines using mixed matrix hollow fiber adsorption membranes before the lithium is concentrated, polished, and crystallized.

An innovative mindset at P&ID

It's exciting to see P&ID and my lithium market work for Chemical Processing in the company of The Wall Street Journal, 60-Minutes and The Chemical Engineer. I plan to remain at the forefront in lithium innovation by listening to clients and heeding the market. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me with your ideas for columns, blogs, and white papers.


Creative Thriller Explores Octopus Innovations and Human Communication


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Octopuses are intriguing creatures. I have written two previous blog posts about their creativity and innovations. In November 2019, I wrote about Creativity and Lessons Learned from Octopuses. That blog talked about how octopuses are creative, intelligent creatures who can problem solve and are masterful mimics. In 2021, I discussed the winner of the Oscar’s best documentary award, My Octopus Teacher, and the power of critical thinking demonstrated by octopuses.

I like to think that in writing about the octopus before the film’s success, P&ID was ahead of its time. I’ll happily also say P&ID is always ahead of its time in the process arena as well as in business strategies and execution.

Learning from octopuses’ creativity

Learning about octopuses has been an interesting journey. I recently finished reading a new book, The Mountain in the Sea, by Ray Nayler. Nayler is an international adviser to the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and has also worked at the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City as an environmental, science, technology, and health officer.

book cover

His novel has many moving parts and depicts humankind (e.g., scientific researchers and profit-driven corporations), octopuses, android-robots and artificial intelligence (AI) in the not-so-far-off future. Parts of the book are speculative, but there are many scientific facts woven into the story. For example, the octopuses’ real, uncanny intelligence is seen in how they exist within sunken boats. Then Ray goes a little bit into the science-fiction future by having them develop their own language, culture, and civilization (including developing working tools).

In his novel’s future, humankind views the hyperintelligent octopus as an alternative species worthy of study. A transnational tech corporation that wants to monetize the octopuses’ unprecedented breakthroughs develops AI android-robots to investigate. The stakes are high as vast fortunes can be made by taking advantage of the octopuses’ advancements. At the same time, human researchers struggle to communicate with this octopus species using graphical symbols and the reader views how these symbols are developed.

Communication and innovation’s reach

The philosophical side of the novel explores the interactions among the humans, of the humans with the android-robots (who not only think like humans but have conscious, robot-operated slave ships and bee-size drones), and of the humans with alternative forms of life. While the focus is on how the octopus civilization mimics the development of humankind, of course, no one asks the octopuses what they want.

This work of fiction covers human consciousness, innovation, communication and its legacy. It’s fascinating and sometimes a bit scary. I hope you have a chance to read this novel. I’d love to know what you think. Or contact me to let me know some other books to read and discuss. It doesn’t have to include an octopus to catch my attention; though it helps.