March 29, 2017

A copper oxide solar cells on top of regular silicon solar cells cold boost energy conversion up to 40% from 25% today

Researchers are currently developing the environment-friendly solar cells of the future, which will capture twice as much energy as the cells of today. The trick is to combine two different types of solar cells in order to utilize a much greater portion of the sunlight.

“These are going to be the world’s most efficient and environment-friendly solar cells. There are currently solar cells that are certainly just as efficient, but they are both expensive and toxic. Furthermore, the materials in our solar cells are readily available in large quantities on Earth. That is an important point,” says Professor Bengt Svensson of the Department of Physics at the University of Oslo (UiO) and Centre for Materials Science and Nanotechnology (SMN).

Ninety-nine per cent of today’s solar cells are made from silicon, which is one of the most common elements on Earth. Unfortunately, silicon solar cells only utilize 20 per cent of the sunlight. The world record is 25 per cent, but these solar cells are laced with rare materials that are also toxic. The theoretical limit is 30 per cent. The explanation for this limit is that silicon cells primarily capture the light waves from the red spectrum of sunlight. That means that most of the light waves remain unutilized.


The new solar cells will be composed of two energy-capturing layers. The first layer will still be composed of silicon cells.

“The red wavelengths of sunlight generate electricity in the silicon cells in a highly efficient manner. We’ve done a great deal of work with silicon, so there is only a little more to gain.”

The new trick is to add another layer on top of the silicon cells. This layer is composed of copper oxide and is supposed to capture the light waves from the blue spectrum of sunlight.

“We have managed to produce a copper oxide layer that captures three per cent of the energy from the sunlight. The world record is nine per cent. We are currently working intensely to increase that percentage to twenty per cent. The combination of silicon cells in the one layer and copper oxide cells in the other means that we’ll be able to absorb far more light and thereby reduce the energy loss. With this combination, we can utilize 35 to 40 per cent of the sunlight,” emphasizes Bengt Svensson.

There will also be other layers in the solar cell panel. On the back surface, a protective glass layer will be deposited, along with a metal layer that conducts the electricity out of the solar cell. The front side will have an antireflective coating, so that the light rays are captured rather than reflected away.

Many researchers and technology firms are working now on the new type of solar cells with silicon in the bottom layer and a layer of “more exotic materials” on top.

The Romanian solar cell company, Wattrom, intends to show that it is possible to manufacture the new solar cells.

“The technology is inexpensive, it can easily be scaled up to large volumes, and it’s not more expensive to produce solar cells out of copper oxide than out of silicon,” says Bengt Svensson.


Pilot Commercial plants for Spray on Solar cells will start in 2018

A future when solar cells can be sprayed or printed onto the windows of skyscrapers or atop sports utility vehicles -- and at prices potentially far cheaper than today’s silicon-based panels could begin in 2018.

Solar researchers and company executives think there’s a good chance the economics of the $42 billion industry will soon be disrupted by something called perovskites, a range of materials that can be used to harvest light when turned into a crystalline structure.

The hope is that perovskites, which can be mixed into liquid solutions and deposited on a range of surfaces, could play a crucial role in the expansion of solar energy applications with cells as efficient as those currently made with silicon. One British company aims to have a thin-film perovskite solar cell commercially available by the end of 2018.

“This is the front-runner of low-cost solar cell technologies,” said Hiroshi Segawa, a professor at the University of Tokyo who’s leading a five-year project funded by the Japanese government that groups together universities and companies such as Panasonic Corp. and Fujifilm Corp. to develop perovskite technology.


Quantum computer startup Rigetti Computing Raised $64 Million

Rigetti Computing, a leading quantum computing start-up, announced it has raised $64 million in Series A and B funding.

Rigetti Computing is building a cloud quantum computing platform for artificial intelligence and computational chemistry. Rigetti recently opened up private beta testing of Forest, its API for quantum computing in the cloud. Forest emphasizes a quantum-classical hybrid computing model, integrating directly with existing cloud infrastructure and treating the quantum computer as an accelerator.





The Series A round of $24 million was led by Andreessen Horowitz. Vijay Pande, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, has been appointed to Rigetti's Board of Directors, joining Rigetti CEO Chad Rigetti and angel investor Charlie Songhurst.

The Series B round of $40 million was led by Vy Capital, followed by Andreessen Horowitz.



Major investors in both rounds include Y Combinator's Continuity Fund, Data Collective, FF Science, AME Cloud Ventures, Morado Ventures, and WTI. Institutional investors in Series A include Sutter Hill Ventures, Susa Ventures, Streamlined Ventures, Lux Capital, and Bloomberg Beta.

The latest round brings the total amount of venture funding raised by Rigetti to $69.2 million.

"Quantum computing will enable people to tackle a whole new set of problems that were previously unsolvable," said Chad Rigetti, founder and chief executive officer of Rigetti Computing. "This is the next generation of advanced computing technology. The potential to make a positive impact on humanity is enormous."

"We will use the funding to expand our business and engineering teams and continue to invest in infrastructure to manufacture and deploy our quantum integrated circuits," Rigetti added.

Quantum computers store and process information using individual photons, enabling dramatically greater computational power and energy efficiency. Rigetti Computing has taken a highly interdisciplinary approach to developing the technology, with a team from diverse backgrounds in computer science, engineering, physics, and chemistry.

"Quantum computing has promised breakthroughs in computing for decades but has so far remained elusive," said Vijay Pande, Andreessen Horowitz general partner and Rigetti Board member. "Rigetti has assembled an impressive team of scientists and engineers building the combination of hardware and software that has the potential to finally unlock quantum computing for computational chemistry, machine learning and much more."

Blue Origin nears testing of the BE-4 rocket

Blue Origin has its first BE-4 rocket engine fully assembled and ready for testing -- and they pushed two more out the door recently.

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space start-up aims to have a new rocket engine ready for installation aboard United Launch Alliance's new Vulcan rocket by 2019.


Blue Origin has signed its first customer for a commercial satellite launch. European satcom Eutelsat aims to become Blue Origin's inaugural customer five years from now, utilizing a Blue Origin New Glenn large rocket to launch one of its comm-sats into high geostationary orbit. Then, just a day later, Blue Origin announced its second customer, OneWeb -- soon to be merged into Intelsat.

The New Glenn will use seven BE-4 engines.

Each BE-4 will have 550,000 pounds of thrust.

Elon Musk points out that the NASA funding bill changes nothing and adds no funding for Mars

Elon Musk has hit back at claims that President Donald Trump's new NASA bill will be good for his space exploration business, saying it does nothing to get SpaceX's mission to Mars off the ground.

Elon Musk says the NASA funding bill changes almost nothing about what NASA is doing. Existing programs stay in place and there is no added funding for Mars.

NASA tries to justify Space Launch system

NASA is leading the next steps into deep space near the moon, where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems needed for challenging missions to deep space destinations including Mars. The area of space near the moon offers a true deep space environment to gain experience for human missions that push farther into the solar system, access the lunar surface for robotic missions but with the ability to return to Earth if needed in days rather than weeks or months.

The period of exploration in the vicinity of the moon will begin with the first integrated mission of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft, and will continue as we explore further. NASA aims to begin a cadence of one flight per year after the second mission, and the agency has established an initial set of integrated human exploration objectives combining the efforts aboard the International Space Station, SLS and Orion, and other capabilities needed to support human missions to explore deep space.

Nextbigfuture thinks NASA needs to ditch the Space Launch System and work with Spacex and Blue Origin.


Deep Space Gateway

This first phase of exploration near the moon will use current technologies and allow us to gain experience with extended operations farther from Earth than previously completed. These missions enable NASA to develop new techniques and apply innovative approaches to solving problems in preparation for longer-duration missions far from Earth.


Deep Space Transport

The second phase of missions will confirm that the agency’s capabilities built for humans can perform long duration missions beyond the moon. For those destinations farther into the solar system, including Mars, NASA envisions a deep space transport spacecraft. This spacecraft would be a reusable vehicle that uses electric and chemical propulsion and would be specifically designed for crewed missions to destinations such as Mars. The transport would take crew out to their destination, return them back to the gateway, where it can be serviced and sent out again. The transport would take full advantage of the large volumes and mass that can be launched by the SLS rocket, as well as advanced exploration technologies being developed now and demonstrated on the ground and aboard the International Space Station.

This second phase will culminate at the end of the 2020s with a one year mission in the lunar vicinity to validate the readiness of the system to travel beyond the Earth-moon system to Mars and other destinations, and build confidence that long-duration, distant human missions can be safely conducted with independence from Earth. Through the efforts to build this deep space infrastructure, this phase will enable explorers to identify and pioneer innovative solutions to technical and human challenges discovered or engineered in deep space.

Robomate exoskeleton will make it ten times easier for workers to lift things

The Robo-Mate exoskeleton can reduce the effort to lift a load by ten times. It is able to reduce the effort needed to lift a load and protects the spine from heavy lifting and sudden movements.

You don’t have to become a cyborg to stay safe when it comes to manual handling. However, over 25 percent of Europeans experience back injuries at work – a statistic that has inspired Robo-Mate, a project that aims to give workers a tool to decrease physical stress and risks associated with heavy lifting.

Twelve partners from seven European countries have joined this EU-funded project, geared mainly towards industrial applications.

In Augsburg, Germany, the technical teams are at the final stages in the development of the Robo-Mate technology.

It is not just industrial workers who need help with heavy lifting. New developments will focus on expanding the range of end users.

“For example in the logistics sector, at airports, baggage handling, there is a great need,” said Heiligensetzer. “Or in the medical sector, taking care of elderly people, nurses who have to lift heavy patients would be happy with a Robo-Mate system.”

The Italian Institute of Technology (ITT) has been involved in the final Robo-Mate trunk prototype in the areas of comfort, weight and motion control.

Having stronger arms is not much use if the worker struggles to handle the load. The device needs to feel comfortable after hours of work.

“One of the most complicated areas of the system is to making it easy and conformable to wear, not too heavy. In this way the user will be satisfied and he will feel that it [the exoskleleton] is helpful,” said Jesús Ortiz, Research Technologist, IIT.

To get a lighter exoskeleton, developers have worked to find solutions for every component. In the end they found inspiration in the traditional backpack.


To make it adjustable to different industries and to different tasks, Robo-Mate's exoskeleton consists of three modules:

  • A trunk module to reduce loads to the lower back.
  • Passive parallelogram arms module based on springs to provide gravity compensation and reduce static muscle loads.
  • Active Parallelogram arms module equipped with state of the art wire pull functions offering assistive support for pick and place tasks.




March 28, 2017

Brilliant video explanations of the fantastic Skylon spaceplane and Spacex reusable rocket engineering

The partially reusable Falcon 9 and fully reusable Skylon are explored in this episode of Stan Draws Spaceships.

Brilliant explanations of the fantastic Skylon spaceplane and Spacex reusable rocket engineering.







Made in China 2025 plan is similar to Germany's Industry 4.0 plan

"Made in China 2025" is an initiative to comprehensively upgrade Chinese industry. The initiative draws direct inspiration from Germany's "Industry 4.0" plan, which was first discussed in 2011 and later adopted in 2013. The heart of the "Industry 4.0" idea is intelligent manufacturing, i.e., applying the tools of information technology to production. In the German context, this primarily means using the Internet of Things to connect small and medium-sized companies more efficiently in global production and innovation networks so that they could not only more efficiently engage in mass production but just as easily and efficiently customize products.

The Chinese effort is far broader, as the efficiency and quality of Chinese producers are highly uneven, and multiple challenges need to be overcome in a short amount of time if China is to avoid being squeezed by both newly emerging low-cost producers and more effectively cooperate and compete with advanced industrialized economies.

If Germany’s goal is to have its SMEs hitch on to a high-tech revolution, China aims to comprehensively upgrade its industry in all dimensions (human capital, management, optimization, quality control, etc.). In other words, Made in China 2025 represents a holistic approach to manufacturing whereas Industrie 4.0 focuses primarily on internet integration.

It appears that Made in China 2025 took at least one page out of America’s book. The Chinese plan foresees the creation of 15 manufacturing innovation centers by 2020 and 40 by 2025. A few years ago, the U.S. government co-founded a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) made up of several Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation, a concept similar to Chinese innovation centers. Although distinct from the Industrial Internet and the IIC, the NNMI bears a distinctive hallmark of industrial policy. In this sense, Made in China 2025, Industrie 4.0, and America’s NNMI all trace their origins to government activism.




China starting to acquire some technology companies

China's outbound Merger and Acquisition activity surged in 2015 and 2016 with a broad universe of acquirers executing transactions with an increase in pace and deal size.

This surge has been driven by a range of macro factors, including the pursuit of long-term and sustainable growth, consumption by the rising middle class, and a favorable regulatory and financing environment. Chinese buyers are becoming more active and experienced in M and A and are comfortable executing public takeovers and arranging acquisition financing in overseas markets.

Global mergers and acquisitions set a record in 2015 with transaction volume reaching nearly $5 trillion, driven by the globalization of the M&A market and the emergence of Asia Pacific as a key player in it. Asia Pacific companies’ appetite for M and A has increased due to a range of macro factors, with overall Asia Pacific M and A volume approximately doubling from $748 billion in 2013 to $1.5 trillion in 2015.

Chinese buyers are playing an increasing role in Asia Pacific M and A activity, with their volume nearly tripling from $259 billion in 2013 to $735 billion in 2015. In addition, seven of the 10 largest cross-regional acquisitions out of Asia Pacific in the first four months of 2016 were announced by Chinese buyers.

China is transforming its economy from export-driven manufacturing to one driven by technology, industrial know-how and consumption. The strategic priorities of Chinese buyers have evolved to reflect this shift. Chinese companies are acquiring North American and European companies to enhance technological capabilities and move the nation’s industrial sector upstream, to obtain high-value brands that can be offered to the maturing consumer in China, and to build scale and distribution in strategically important markets and geographies. Chinese companies are looking beyond market share in China to global markets, with their sights set on becoming market leaders globally.

China invested $9.9 billion into new Silicon Valley firms in 2015 and made an additional $3.5 billion in tech investments in the first nine months of last year.

- Boston-based artificial intelligence start-up Neurala
- China bought US tech companies make rocket engines for spacecraft, sensors for autonomous navy ships, and printers that make flexible screens that could be used in fighter-plane cockpit
- In May 2015, Haiyin Capital invested an undisclosed in XCOR Aerospace, a Mojave, Calif., commercial space-travel company that makes spacecraft and engines and has worked with NASA
- In 2016, Tianjin Tianhai bought Ingram Micro for $6.07 Billion
- In 2015,WeEn Semiconductor acquired NXP Power Semiconductors for $1.8 billion. ISSI was acquired by a Chinese consortium for $765 million; and Hua Capital Management Co. Ltd. Acquired OmniVision Technologies for $1.9 billion.
- In 2016, a Silicon Valley start-up called Kateeva that makes machines that print flexible screens raised $88 million from a group of Chinese investors.





the drug everolimus boosts flu vaccine response by 25% in people over 65 and rejuvenates the immune system

Novartis found that giving low doses of a drug called everolimus to people over 65 increased their response to flu vaccines. It did, by about 20 percent. Yet behind the test was a bigger question about whether any drug can slow or reverse the symptoms of old age. Novartis’s study on everolimus, which looked at whether the immune system of elderly people could be made to act younger, has been called the “first human aging trial.”

RAD001 (everolimus) also appeared to broaden the serologic response, causing enhanced seroconversion to heterologous influenza strains not in the chosen influenza vaccine. This finding is also suggestive of enhanced protection against influenza illness. Unlike the study with rapamycin administration in aging mice, no increase in naïve lymphocytes (no cancer concerns) was detected in humans.

Other clinically approved drugs have been linked to lifespan extension and protection against age-related diseases in animal models, including metformin and NSAIDs that have been prescribed millions of people. A recent retrospective examining patients with type 2 diabetes compared the effects on mortality rate of patients taking metformin or sulfonylurea monotherapy. Not only did patients taking metformin have a lower mortality rate than those taking sulfonylurea, they had a lower mortality rate than other patients seeing the same doctor who did not have a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome. While there are caveats with any study of this nature, the findings suggest that metformin may be affecting basic aging processes that underlie multiple chronic disease and not just type II diabetes. One wonders whether many of the drugs used to treat early stage chronic disease may be effective at least in part because they target the biggest risk factor for these diseases: aging itself.



Last week a Boston company, PureTech Health, said it was licensing two drug molecules, and the right to use them against aging-related disease, from Novartis and making the research the basis of a startup company, resTORbio. The company says it will further test whether such drugs can rejuvenate aged immune cells.

The immune-enhancing potential of mTORC1 inhibitors has been explored in a Phase 2 program at Novartis that included two successful Phase 2a studies in hundreds of elderly patients. Results will be detailed in an upcoming peer-reviewed publication. The results of these studies form the foundation for further clinical development in immunosenescence and other aging-related diseases by targeting the mTOR pathway.

The drug Novartis tested is a derivative of rapamycin, a compound first discovered oozing from a bacterium native to Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, and named after it. Thanks to its broad effects on the immune system, rapamycin has already been used in transplant medicine as an immune suppressant and a version is sold by Novartis as the anticancer prescription Afinitor.

China has almost double the CO2 emissions of the USA

China has almost double the CO2 emissions of the United States for the latest figures from 2015.

China 10.357 Billion tons of CO2
USA    5.414 Billion tons of CO2
EU28   3.509 Billion tons of CO2
India  2.274 Billion tons of CO2

China has 4.4 times the population of the USA and 1.9 times emissions. Per capita Chinese citizens are 43% of US per capita energy usage.
This does not factor in that China is building stuff for Europe and USA.
So USA and Europe export 10% or so of emissions over to China to have China build things for usage by Americans and Europeans.
Per capita China is at an net export adjusted 33% of US per capita. About 20-30% swing. China would be down 20% for building stuff for the rest of the world and US would be up 10%.




China is slowing the addition of coal plants but is still building more coal and had increased usage of fossil fuels last year.


The National Geographic feels that China slowing its growth in CO2 emissions would place China in the "lead" on clean power.

China will be building more hydro power, solar power and wind power and nuclear power. But China by 2030 will have about double the power generation of the USA and perhaps triple the emissions.


India and Russia failing to agree on terms for joint fifth generation stealth fighter program

India and Russia have failed to make progress on one of their most prestigious defense deals—the co-development and production of the Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), known in India as the Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF).

The most recent stumbling block to a successful continuation of the project has been Russia’s unwillingness to share sensitive aircraft technology with India. New Delhi is demanding a full-scale transfer of technology in order to boost India’s domestic fighter-manufacturing capabilities.

Russia and India have a 650 page detailed plan that specifies exactly what all will be shared. India has not signed it.

The Russian version of the new fifth generation fighter jet appears to be doing better. According to Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov, the Russian Air Force could start receiving the first serial-produced T-50 (PAK FA) multi-role fighter jet already in 2018. However, Russian defense officials admit that Russia has so far failed to develop a new engine, called Product 30, for the aircraft, which could potentially push back the induction date.



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