September 24, 2016

Hybrid material opens the door to new possibilities in graphene applications

Many scientists consider graphene to be a wonder material. Now, a team of researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has succeeded in linking graphene with another important chemical group, the porphyrins. Porphyrins are well-known because of their striking functional properties which for example play a central role in chlorophyll during photosynthesis. These new hybrid structures could also be used in the field of molecular electronics, catalysis or even as sensors.

Hardly any material is currently receiving as much attention in research as graphene. It is flexible, extremely thin and transparent, while at the same time it has very high tensile strength and conducts electricity, ideal prerequisites for a wide variety of application areas. However, using graphene to capture solar energy or as a gas sensor requires other specific properties as well. These properties can be achieved by fusing functional molecules with the carbon layer.

In previous research, scientists were primarily concerned with wet-chemical methods for attaching the molecules to the surface of the material. Together with his colleagues, Molecular Engineering at Functional Interfaces Professor Wilhelm Auwärter decided to take a different approach: They were able to link porphyrin molecules to graphene in a controlled manner in an ultra-high vacuum using the catalytic properties of a silver surface on which the graphene layer rested. When heated, the porphyrin molecules lose hydrogen atoms at their periphery and can thus form new bonds with the graphene edges.

Nature Chemistry - Fusing tetrapyrroles to graphene edges by surface-assisted covalent coupling

Journey to center of icy moons

Masahiro Ono, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Journey to the Center of Icy Moons; Robert Mueller, NASA Kennedy Space Center

NASA NIAC update starts at about 26 minutes in the video.

Electrostatic glider update

The environment near the surface of airless bodies (asteroids, comets, Moon) is electrically charged due to Sun's photoelectric bombardment. Charged dust is ever present, even at high altitudes (dust fountains), following the Sun's illumination. We envisage the global scale exploration of airless bodies by a gliding vehicle that experiences its own electrostatic lift and drag by its interaction with the naturally charged particle environment near the surface. This Electrostatic Glider (E-Glider) lifts off by extending thin, charged, appendages, which are also articulated to direct the levitation force in the most convenient direction for propulsion and maneuvering. It thus carries out its science mission by circumnavigating the small body, and it lands, wherever it is most convenient, by retracting the appendages or by thruster/anchor.

September 23, 2016

F35A caught fire prior to takeoff and others have crumbling insulation but what do you expect at $150 million each ?

An F-35A Joint Strike Fighter preparing for a training mission at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, caught fire just before takeoff, according to the Air Force.

The Air Force F-35A Lightning II, assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing, experienced what the service said was a “ground emergency” at about 12:20 p.m. eastern Friday at the base, according to a statement.

Seven of the stealthy fifth-generation fighters have been at Mountain Home since Sept. 10 to use the base’s range for surface-to-air training, the statement said.

The Air Force said the cause of fire is under investigation.

Last week, the Air Force ordered a temporary stand-down of 13 out of 104 F-35s in the fleet “due to the discovery of peeling and crumbling insulation in avionics cooling lines inside the fuel tanks,” according to a statement at the time.

Two additional aircraft, belonging to Norway and currently stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, have also been affected.

These are on top of all of the software and other problems which would require F35s to run away from combat and have other planes come to its rescue, since it “will need support to locate and avoid modern threats, acquire targets, and engage formations of enemy fighter aircraft due to outstanding performance deficiencies and limited weapons carriage available (i.e., two bombs and two air-to-air missiles).”

The Block 3i aircraft lacks the ability to employ its cannon because the software needed for it is a Block 3F development and has yet to be completed.

Autonomous drones swarms of 10-40 drones will support marines and will only be required to ask humans - May I airstrike them now ?

US Marines could soon get a squadron of small autonomous drones constantly overhead, providing full surveillance and instant airstrikes on demand.

The squad on the ground will not need a dedicated drone operator; the whole aim of autonomy is not to add to their workload. Control will be via tablet or smartphone, or an earbud with an audio link “similar to the Apple Siri app.”

Under this arrangement, all the data processing is done onboard the drones. Rather than sending a constant stream of video footage requiring a full-time operator to review and interpret, the drones pick out items of interest and provide “immediate alerts and battlefield intelligence (to threatened squads).” The drones will also carry out Blue Force tracking so they can tell which individuals on the ground are friendly and which may be hostiles.

Autonomy means the drones do not need to be in constant communication with the operator or each other, and can work where communications are jammed or intermittent. In fact, the report says that communications “are required only when lethal force is a factor.” In other words, the drones only need a human in the loop to give the order to fire weapons. Apart from that they do everything themselves.

The drone swarm — the military prefer the term “squadron” — will initially comprise between 10 and 40 aircraft. These will be of several different types: Some will carry sensors (visual, thermal, or even acoustic are suggested), some will have jamming or communications payloads, others will carry weapons.

The current RQ-11 Raven tactical drone has an endurance of about 90 minutes; the new drones will stay in the air for 12 hours at a time.

Additional drones could be launched to join the squadron as the original members run low on juice, so it would be possible to maintain a continuous presence 24-7 if need be. According to the report, a three-person ground crew should be enough to launch, recover, refuel and re-arm the drones.

Drones will have a payload, between two and 12 kilos which means about a ten foot wingspan for 12 hour endurance.

AeroVironment Switchblade (aka kamikaze drone) has a warhead of less than half a kilo and has proven highly effective.

The Navy is known to be working on a range of prevision micro-munitions with laser or GPS guidance. Raytheon has already demonstrated its laser-guided Pike missile weighing less than a kilo which can hit precision targets from a mile away.

Quantum Computing AI-driven robotics so that one human worker can do the work of four

Kindred is using Quantum Computing AI-driven robotics so that one human worker can do the work of four.

Kindred has many of the top quantum computing and deep learning artificial intelligence experts in Canada on its team.

CEO is Geordie Rose who is CTO of Dwave Systems.
CTO is Suzanne Gildert, a former D-Wave researcher.
Graham Taylor is on the Kindred patent. Graham leads the Machine Learning Research Group at the University of Guelph. He studied at the University of Toronto under Geoff Hinton. Hinton works for Google and co-invented Boltzmann machines in 1985.

In the Kindred system an operator wears a head-mounted display and an exo-suit of sensors and actuators carries out everyday tasks. This is somewhat like motion capture for animation but instead it is biometric action data captured for AI analysis and learning.

Data from the suit and from other external sensors is then analyzed by computers in the cloud and used to control distant robots. The data could also be used to train machine learning algorithms that would allow the robots to imitate the operator’s actions autonomously.

Arm, hand, leg and body data is captured.
The suit has chemical and biometric sensors, and EEGs and MRI devices to capture brainwaves.

The robot is envisioned as a 1.2-meter tall humanoid, possibly covered with synthetic skin, with two (or more) arms ending in hands or grippers, and wheeled treads for locomotion. Cameras on its head would stream high-definition video to its simian operator, while other sensors might include infrared and ultraviolet imaging, GPS, touch, proximity and strain sensors, and even a radiation detector.

The system can also used for teleoperation. The system looks to go beyond prior simple feedback teleoperation to something more like Avatar and enhanced with AI automation.

Kindred will analyze the information using “deep hierarchical learning algorithms” such as a conditional deep belief network (CDBN) or a conditional restricted Boltzmann machine (CRBM), a type of powerful recurrent neural network.

Dwave Systems says that the operation of its system is “analogous to a … restricted Boltzmann machine,” and that its research team is “working to exploit the parallels between these architectures to substantially accelerate learning in deep, hierarchical neural networks.” In 2010, Geordie Rose co-authored a paper that claimed a quantum computer could perform some types of machine learning applications more efficiently than software on a traditional computer.

Kindred patent - A method of deriving autonomous control information involves receiving one or more sets of associated environment sensor information and device control instructions. Each set of associated environment sensor information and device control instructions includes environment sensor information representing an environment associated with an operator controllable device and associated device control instructions configured to cause the operator controllable device to simulate at least one action taken by at least one operator experiencing a representation of the environment generated from the environment sensor information. The method also involves deriving autonomous control information from the one or more sets of associated environment sensor information and device control instructions, the autonomous control information configured to facilitate generating autonomous device control signals from autonomous environment sensor information representing an environment associated with an autonomous device, the autonomous device control signals configured to cause the autonomous device to take at least one autonomous action.

105 page Kindred quantum AI robotics patent

Swedish researchers edit healthy human embryos

Scientists in Sweden have become the first to edit the genetic material in healthy human embryos.

Fredrik Lanner is attempting to edit genes in human embryos to learn more about how the genes regulate early embryonic development. He hopes the work could lead to new ways to treat infertility and prevent miscarriages. He also hopes to help scientists learn more about embryonic stem cells so they can someday use them to treat many diseases.

The fear is that Lanner's work could open the door to others attempting to use genetically modified embryos to make babies.

Lanner is initially planning only to study the modified embryos for the first seven days of their growth and would never let them develop past 14 days. The potential benefits could be enormous, he argues.

Fredrik Lanner (right) of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and his student Alvaro Plaza Reyes examine a magnified image of an human embryo that they used to attempt to create genetically modified healthy human embryos.
Rob Stein/NPR

2020 predictions Internet of things devices is around 20 to 30 billion

Gartner forecasted that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, 5.5 million new things will get connected every day.

Gartner estimates that the Internet of Things (IoT) will support total services spending of $235 billion in 2016, up 22 percent from 2015.

The predicted number of devices in 2020 not including smartphones, tablets and computers are down to the 20-30 billion range from earlier predictions of 50 billion to 1 trillion.

Flexible optical non-volatile memory

A precisely matched combination of a semiconducting polymer and photoactive molecules allowed the production of a highly efficient optical memory element. It is configured to save and delete information using light and not an electrical circuit as usual. One cell composed of such memory elements can store up to 256 times more information than existing memory elements.

These cells use the advantages offered by organic electronics. They are relatively simple to manufacture, flexible and useful, for example, in the manufacture of wearable electronics, electronic paper and other advanced electronic devices based on the organic semiconducting materials.

Organic nanomaterials are attracting a great deal of interest for use in flexible electronic applications such as logic circuits, displays and solar cells. These technologies have already demonstrated good performances, but flexible organic memories are yet to deliver on all their promise in terms of volatility, operational voltage, write/erase speed, as well as the number of distinct attainable levels.

They report a multilevel non-volatile flexible optical memory thin-film transistor based on a blend of a reference polymer semiconductor, namely poly(3-hexylthiophene), and a photochromic diarylethene, switched with ultraviolet and green light irradiation. A three-terminal device featuring over 256 (8 bit storage) distinct current levels was fabricated, the memory states of which could be switched with 3 ns laser pulses. We also report robustness over 70 write–erase cycles and non-volatility exceeding 500 days. The device was implemented on a flexible polyethylene terephthalate substrate, validating the concept for integration into wearable electronics and smart nanodevices.

The molecules’ fast response to a 3-nanosecond laser pulse matches modern electronics. Another benefit of the DAE molecules is that the number of molecules that are switched in reaction to the light can be precisely controlled—a key requirement for improved data density in multi-level storage.

The devices they have fabricated so far are laboratory prototypes, and thus are relatively large at 1 square millimeter. The researchers are already looking at shrinking and encapsulating the memory. They are also looking at roll-to-roll manufacturing and ink-jet printing.

Nature Nanotechnology - Flexible non-volatile optical memory thin-film transistor device with over 256 distinct levels based on an organic bicomponent blend

Paris Climate Change Agreement on track to come into effect by the end of this year

1. The Paris Climate Change Agreement crossed the first of two thresholds required for it to enter into force after 31 governments yesterday formally submitted their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

It is expected to cross the second threshold - ratification by countries representing a total of 55% of global emissions - later this year.
Sixty countries representing 47.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions have now joined the agreement

A further 14 countries, representing 12.58% of emissions, have committed to joining the agreement in 2016, "virtually assuring" that it will enter into force this year

Entry into force will transform the climate action plans, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), submitted by nations in the run up to the Paris conference into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Governments will also be obligated to take action to achieve the two temperature limits enshrined in the agreement.

Nuclear power will play a part in many countries' decarbonisation plans. World Nuclear Association director general Agneta Rising said last week the nuclear industry can achieve the momentum required to create an additional 1000 GWe of new capacity by 2050 needed to meet increasing global energy demand whilst ensuring climate goals can also be achieved.

The contribution that each individual country should make in order to achieve the worldwide goal are determined by all countries individually and called "nationally determined contributions" (NDCs). Article 3 requires them to be "ambitious", "represent a progression over time" and set "with the view to achieving the purpose of this Agreement". The contributions should be reported every five years and are to be registered by the UNFCCC Secretariat. Each further ambition should be more ambitious than the previous one, known as the principle of 'progression'. Countries can cooperate and pool their nationally determined contributions. The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions pledged during the 2015 Climate Change Conference serve—unless provided otherwise—as the initial Nationally determined contribution.

The level of NDCs set by each country will set that country's targets. However the 'contributions' themselves are not binding as a matter of international law, as they lack the specificity, normative character, or obligatory language necessary to create binding norms. Furthermore, there will be no mechanism to force a country to set a target in their NDC by a specific date and no enforcement if a set target in an NDC is not met.

Not part of the Paris Agreement (and not legally binding) is a plan to provide US$100 billion a year in aid to developing countries for implementing new procedures to minimize climate change with additional amounts to be provided in subsequent years.

In early March 2016, the Obama administration gave a $500 million grant to the "Green Climate Fund" as "the first chunk of a $3 billion commitment made at the Paris climate talks

2. The restart of Japan's nuclear power reactors is "critical" to the success of the country's energy policy, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Japan's idling of its entire fleet of nuclear power plants after the accident left a gap of some 30% in electricity supply. This gap has been filled with expensive, imported fossil fuels. By the end of 2013, import dependence had risen to 94% from 80% in 2010. Meanwhile, annual emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from power generation had increased by 110 million tonnes. Electricity prices increased by 16% for households and 25% for industry. By the end of 2015, just two reactors had been restarted and accounted for 0.9% of Japan's electricity generation that year, compared with nuclear's share of 25.3% in 2010.

To date, five Japanese reactors have been given final approval to restart, although two of these have remained offline due to a legal challenge. Another 20 reactors are moving through the restart process, which has been prioritized to bring on the most-needed reactors first, in the localities and prefectures more supportive of restart.

In April 2014, the government adopted the fourth Strategic Energy Plan (SEP) and, based on that plan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry prepared the 2015 Long-Term Energy Supply and Demand Outlook to 2030, which was adopted in July 2015. This outlook assumes Japan's nuclear generating capacity will partially be restored, reaching 20%-22% of electricity supply by 2030. The country also announced plans in late 2015 to reduce CO2 emissions by 26% from 2013 to 2030.

Advanced Candu reactors for China will be able to use recycled uranium from light water reactors

Canada and China have agreed to form a new joint venture to develop to market and construct the Advanced Fuel Candu Reactor (AFCR) in China. The deal was signed by Canada's SNC-Lavalin, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and Shanghai Electric. The reactor reuses used fuel from light water reactors.

The joint venture company is expected to be registered in mid-2017. This would be followed by the formation of two design centres - one in Canada and the other in China - to complete the AFCR technology. SNC-Lavalin said this could lead to the construction of the world's first two ACFR units in China and "possible subsequent builds in China and around the world".

The AFCR is described as "a 700 MW Class Generation III reactor based on the highly successful Candu 6 and Enhanced Candu 6 (EC6) reactors with a number of adaptations to meet the latest Canadian and international standards." The reactor features a heavy-water moderator and heavy-water coolant in a pressure tube design and can use both recycled uranium and thorium as fuel. Candu reactors can be refueled online.
Units 1 and 2 of the Qinshan Phase III nuclear power plant in China use the Candu 6 pressurized heavy water reactor technology, with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) being the main contractor of the project on a turnkey basis.

The Candu 6 reactors should be modified to become full AFCRs.

The AFCR efficiently uses RU (recycled Uranium) from the spent fuel of LWR (light water reactors)

Current CANDU reactors, as a result of favorable reactor core physics characteristics and on-power fuelling, use approximately 30% less natural uranium per each kilowatt-hour of electricity as compared to PWR designs.

The AFCR uses advanced fuels specifically direct use of recycled uranium (DRU) fuel or low enriched uranium/thorium (LEU/Th) fuel. DRU fuel represents a gradual transition from NU-based fuels that are used in current CANDU 6 reactors. DRU fuel is similar to the already proven natural uranium equivalent (NUE) fuel in that it is composed of RU, from reprocessed pressurized water reactor (PWR) spent fuel but has a slightly higher fissile content (contains about 0.95%wt. 235U) than the NUE fuel.

The AFCR, although specifically designed for DRU and LEU/Th fuels, retains the ability to easily adapt to various fuel cycle options, such as NU, NUE and Pu/Th.

The DRU fuel is recycled uranium (RU) based fuel, arranged in a 43-element CANFLEX fuel bundle. The nominal enrichment of the RU is 0.95 wt% 235U to achieve a target burnup of 10,000 MWd/tHE.

The low-enriched uranium (LEU) and thorium (Th) fuel is a heterogeneous combination of the constituent fuels arranged in a 43-element CANFLEX fuel bundle. The fuel is designed to achieve a target burnup of 20,000 MWd/tHE.

Adopting alternative fuel cycles such as NUE, DRU, and LEU/Th significantly improves the uranium utilization rates while meeting nuclear power generation requirements. In fact, an AFCR twin-unit plant using DRU fuel would save approximately 10,000 tonnes of natural uranium over its 60-year design life.

AFCR Generation III enhancements include:
•  Extended plant life of 60 years
•  Increased operating and safety margins
•  Advanced fuel design
•  Robust design against internal and external events
•  Inherent accident resistance
•  Enhanced safety features for extended station blackout
•  Enhanced core damage prevention features and severe accident response
•  Advanced fire protection system

Reactivity control in the AFCR is a triple layer of defence that ensures reactor shutdown at all times (no loss of shutdown event)

Robot will finally automate sewing in the garment industry

A new robot by Sewbo could automate the feeding of fabric into sewing machines. Zornow has created a process by which a robotic arm guides chemically stiffened pieces of fabric through a commercial sewing machine.

Sewbo has used an industrial robot to sew together a T-shirt, achieving the long-sought goal of automation for garment production. Sewbo’s technology will allow manufacturers to create higher-quality clothing at lower costs. It will shorten supply chains and lessen the long lead times that hamper the fashion and apparel industries, helping to reduce the complexity of today’s intricate global supply network.

Despite widespread use in other industries, automation has made little progress in clothing manufacturing due to the difficulties robots face when trying to manipulate limp, flexible fabrics.

Sewbo avoids these hurdles by temporarily stiffening fabrics, allowing off-the-shelf industrial robots to easily build garments from rigid cloth, just as if they were working with sheet metal. The fabric panels can be easily molded and welded before being permanently sewn together.

The water-soluble stiffener is removed at the end of the manufacturing process with a simple rinse in hot water, leaving a soft, fully assembled piece of clothing. The stiffener can then be recovered for reuse.

Machines already play a large part in clothing manufacturing. Fabrics can be woven by machines, and then cut into pieces by computer-controlled cutting machines. There are also a few small items like dress shirt collars and cuffs that can be machine-sewn, according to North Carolina State University textiles and apparel researcher Cynthia Istook. But humans still have to put all of the pieces of fabric together, guide them through a sewing machine, and then pass them onto the next assembly line station.

Robot Sewing Demonstration from Sewbo, Inc. from Jon Zornow on Vimeo.

September 22, 2016

China claims to have successfully developed quantum radar and can easily detect stealth planes

The 14th Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) has successfully developed China's first quantum radar system last month, Xinhua News Agency reported. The system, which is based on the technology of single photon detection, counts as yet another major milestone for China in quantum research.

The quantum radar system was developed by the Intelligent Perception Technology Laboratory of the 14th Institute of CETC. Researchers completed experiments on quantum detection and target scattering characterization. In the target detection experiment, conducted in a real atmospheric environment, the detection ability of the system was proven to be over 100 kilometers.

According to a Sept. 8 report by Mingbao Daily, the theoretical basis of the quantum radar is that an object will change its quantum properties after receiving photonic signals. The quantum radar can easily detect stealth aircraft and is highly resistant to becoming jammed. Military experts have stated that once a stealth aircraft is located by the radar, it stands little chance to escape the strikes of air defense missiles.

The radar can allegedly detect objects at range of up to 62 miles.

There has been scientific analysis around quantum radar

A quantum radar device could detect microwave reflections that would normally be swamped by the noisy background radiation. It would contain two devices capable of interconverting visible light with microwaves, a capability that exists with current technology. First the top converter couples two entangled beams, a microwave one (red wavy line) and a visible one (red straight line); then the microwave reflection is converted to visible light that interferes with the initial visible beam in the detector.

Quantum entanglement scheme previously demonstrated for visible photons into the microwave regime could boost radar performance.

Short range radar can detect stealth aircraft but not with very good accuracy Traditional limitation of VHF and UHF-band radars is that their pulse width is long and they have a low pulse repetition frequency [PRF]—which means such systems are poor at accurately determining range. As Mike Pietrucha, a former Air Force an electronic warfare officer who flew on the McDonnell Douglas F-4G Wild Weasel and Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle once described to me, a pulse width of twenty microseconds yields a pulse that is roughly 19,600 ft long—range resolution is half the length of that pulse. That means that range can’t be determined accurately within 10,000 feet. Furthermore, two targets near one another can’t be distinguished as separate contacts.

Signal processing partially solved the range resolution problem as early as in the 1970s. The key is a process called frequency modulation on pulse, which is used to compress a radar pulse. The advantage of using pulse compression is that with a twenty-microsecond pulse, the range resolution is reduced to about 180 feet or so.

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