February 21, 2017

Recipe for room temperature superconductors from California Institute of Technology

Researchers demonstrate that superconductor critical temperature can be raised above room-temperature to ≈ 400K in cuprates by precise control of the spatial separation of dopants. Hence, there still remains substantial “latent” Tc in cuprates. Their proposed doping strategy and superconducting mechanism is not restricted to cuprates and may be exploited in other materials.

Their room-temperature Tc result is based upon four observations:
• Cuprates are intrinsically inhomogeneous on the atomic-scale and are comprised of insulating and metallic regions. The metallic region is formed by doping the material.
• A diverse set of normal state properties are explained solely from the topological properties of these two regions and their doping evolution.
• Superconductivity results from phonons at or adjacent to the interface between the metallic and insulating regions. Transition temperatures Tc ∼ 100 K are possible because the electron-phonon coupling is of longer-range than metals (nearest neighbor).
• These interface phonons explain the observed superconducting properties and lead to their prediction of room-temperature superconductivity.

Generally, it is most favorable to fabricate the narrowest wires that are spaced closely together because both critical temperature and critical current will be large. In addition, interfacial phonon modes will couple to both the closest wire and the next-nearest neighboring wire, leading to further increase in critical temperature.

Results lead to the following approaches for achieving higher Tc and Jc. Unless explicitly stated, the bullet points below apply to any type of material (cuprate or noncuprate).
• The material should be inhomogeneous with a metallic region and an insulating region. The insulating region does not have to be magnetic. However, we believe the antiferromagnetic insulating region helps maintain the sharp metal-insulator boundary seen in cuprates. An ordinary insulator or a semiconductor with a small number of mobile carriers is sufficient to obtain a longer ranged electron-phonon coupling at the interface because there is less electron screening in the semiconducting (or insulating) region compared to the metallic region.
• The ratio of the number of metallic unit cells on the interface (adjacent to at least one insulating unit cell) to the total number of metallic unit cells must be larger than 20%. We use the terms interface and surface interchangeably below.
The number of metallic unit cells on the interface (or surface) must be a large fraction of the total number of metallic unit cells in order for the enhanced electron-phonon pairing at the interface to have an appreciable affect on Tc. From our calculations in 50% of optimal Tc is obtained when the ratio is ≈ 50%, and 25% of optimal Tc occurs when the ratio is ≈ 35%. Below a surface metal unit cells to total metal unit cells ratio of 20%, Tc falls off exponentially, and therefore Tc is too low to be useful.

Metallic clusters that are smaller than approximately the coherence length do not contribute to Tc due to thermal fluctuations. The surface metal unit cells to total metal unit cells ratio above should only include surface metal unit cells in extended metallic clusters.

• Add dopants to an insulating parent compound that leads to metallic regions. Doping a metallic parent compound to create insulating regions will work also. In cuprates, the parent compound is insulating and doping creates metallic regions.
• Avoid small disconnected metallic clusters. If they are smaller than the coherence length, they do not contribute to Tc due to thermal fluctuations. In cuprates, high Tc can be obtained at very low doping if all the dopants leading to isolated plaquettes and small plaquette clusters are arranged such that a single contiguous metallic cluster is formed. While the Tc may be high, Jc will be low if the size of the metallic region is a small fraction of the total volume of the crystal.
• Superconducting wires lead to a small increase of Tc and a large increase of Jc. Metallic wires lead to a tiny increase in Tc, as discussed in the second bullet above. However, metallic wires increase Jc dramatically (up to a factor of ∼ 100) by eliminating the tortured conduction pathways. For cuprates, optimal Tc doping at x = 0.16 is barely above the 2D percolation threshold of x ≈ 0.15 doping.

“Crowded” crossed wires that have high Tc and Jc. The crossed metallic wires are one plaquette in width. Yellow metallic overlay. The schematic shows the fluctuating dumbbells as crosses and the metallic region in yellow.

Hence, the conducting pathways in a single CuO2 plane are tenuous at optimal doping. Current materials fabrication methods for cuprates have optimized the Tc at the expense of Jc. We find this point to be evidence that despite all the proposals in over 200,000 refereed publications, there has been little guidance to the materials synthesis community on what is relevant at the atomic level for optimizing Tc and Jc

Arxiv - Latent Room-Temperature Tc in Cuprate Superconductors

The ancient phrase, “All roads lead to Rome” applies to Chemistry and Physics. Both are highly evolved sciences, with their own history, traditions, language, and approaches to problems. Despite all these differences, these two roads generally lead to the same place. For high temperature cuprate superconductors however, the Chemistry and Physics roads do not meet or even come close to each other. In this paper, we analyze the physics and chemistry approaches to the doped electronic structure of cuprates and find the chemistry doped hole (out-of-the-CuO2-planes) leads to explanations of a vast array of normal state cuprate phenomenology using simple counting arguments. The chemistry picture suggests that phonons are responsible for superconductivity in cuprates. We identify the important phonon modes, and show that the observed Tc ∼ 100 K, the Tc-dome as a function of hole doping, the change in Tc as a function of the number of CuO2 layers per unit cell, the lack of an isotope effect at optimal Tc doping, and the D-wave symmetry of the superconducting Cooper pair wavefunction are all explained by the chemistry picture. Finally, we show that “crowding” the dopants in cuprates leads to a pair wavefunction with S-wave symmetry and Tc ≈ 280 − 390 K. Hence, we believe there is enormous “latent” Tc remaining in the cuprate class of superconductor

Graphene oxide supercapacitor commercial prototype targeted within 2 years

Australia has supercapacitors made from graphene oxide. They can can store as much energy per kilogram as a lithium battery, but charges in minutes, or even seconds, and uses carbon instead of expensive lithium.

Large-scale production of the graphene that would be needed to produce these high-performance supercapacitors was once unachievable.

By using low-cost solution-based film synthesis techniques and a laser 3D printer, the researchers are able to produce graphene on a large scale at low cost.

In addition, the supercapacitors are very strong and flexible, and can therefore also be used to develop extremely flexible and thin batteries that could be built into wearable clothing and other personal accessories.

Swinburne University of Technology overcomes the energy density limitations with supercapacitors, achieving the following potential advantages;
• 10x better energy density than competing devices
• 10,000x faster charge/discharge rates
• 10,000 charge/discharge cycles
• ultra thin and ultra light in weight
• highly flexible and integratable
• environmentally friendly due to the absence of chemicals
• Efficiencies offered through the use of laser printing technology and graphene oxide to create an ultra-efficient energy storage medium in a greatly simplified process.
• Innovative inter-digital design provides for a much shorter ionic path to maximise energy and power density.
• First Graphite Limited is to underwrite the spending of $2 million over a two year period to earn a 60% interest in the company that holds the international license

The current proof-of-concept device has performed slightly higher than current batteries but with all of the advantages that come with physical storage of energy as opposed to chemical storage. The University believes that with additional product development and up-scaling the BEST (Bolt Energy Storage Technology) Battery can be taken from a laboratory success to a commercial prototype within the period of the Agreement.

February 20, 2017

Nanostructured electrode could boost lithium battery storage by 50%

The Nanode™ is a three-dimensional, nano-structured, porous electrode that will overcome the limitations of today’s batteries by storing as much as 50% more energy than existing technologies. This allows the batteries to last longer between charges while also charging faster. These achievements are due to both the material structure and the use of tin as the active material. Tin is known to have much higher energy density than the current graphite technology, but until now its commercial success has been limited due to its tendency to swell during charging, causing stress in the electrode material and leading to a rapid loss in energy. Current commercial lithium ion batteries employ a foil/particle system as the electrode structure. The capability of such electrodes to deal with volume expansion of high energy materials is limited, because as the particles swell, the electrode expands.

The Tin Nanode’s™ integrated electrode structure contributes to the relaxation of stress associated with electrode materials undergoing high volume expansion. This is possible because thin films of active material are spread over a 3D and porous network of fibres, rather than stacking particles on a flat copper foil. This enables the electrode structure to deal with the volume expansion of the tin while retaining dimensional stability at the electrode level.

The major advantage of the Tin Nanode™ is its capacity to store the same amount of energy in a smaller volume, compared to commercial lithium ion batteries. This translates into a reduction in volume and cost of the overall battery.

Molten Silicon thermal energy storage system has higher energy density and ten times lower cost than lithium ion batteries for utility storage

1414 Degrees had its origins in patented (Australian) CSIRO research and has built a prototype molten silicon storage device which it is testing at its Tonsley Innovation Precinct site south of Adelaide.

Chairman Kevin Moriarty says 1414 Degrees' process can store 500 kilowatt hours of energy in a 70-centimeter cube of molten silicon – about 36 times as much energy as Tesla's 14KWh Powerwall 2 lithium ion home storage battery in about the same space.

Put another way, he says the company can build a 10MWh storage device for about $700,000. The 714 Tesla Powerwall 2s that would be needed to store the same amount of energy would cost $7 million before volume discounts.

1414 Degrees has raised $500,000 of a $2 million seed capital issue that it hopes to complete by the end of next month. It is in talks with a hydroponic herb farm and wind farm suppliers about pilot commercial scale trials of its technology, and is planning a $10 million public share issue to fund construction of the first two 200 megawatt hour units.

* thermal energy storage system (TESS) storing energy as latent heat in molten silicon
* sizing of systems from 10 to 100’s of megawatt hours for grid, off-grid and co-generation sites
* energy is stored as latent heat at 1414° C providing maximum efficiency of energy output
* low maintenance, low cost and low impact compared to lithium-ion batteries
* wide range of uses in district heating, industrial complexes and shopping centres as well as grids
* Prototype TESS commissioned
* Better than expected ERD efficiency of 31% electricity and 80% CHP
* AusIndustry signs off and concludes its 50% funding of the Prototype
* Testing and design underway for commercial 10MWh and 200MWh module

Mr Moriarty is counting on 40 per cent to 50 per cent of the cost of these initial devices being funded by government subsidies because of the unique technology. The device stores electrical energy by using it to heat a block of pure silicon to melting point – 1414 degrees Celsius. It discharges through a heat-exchange device such as a Stirling engine or a turbine, which converts heat back to electrical energy, and recycles waste heat to lift efficiency.

Pure silicon is a shimmering, blue-grey "metalloid" – a substance that exhibits characteristics of metals and non-metals. A byproduct of smelting metal quartz ores, it is abundant and cheap. It is attractive as a storage medium because it is stable at the 1414 degree melting point, and can hold the heat for a week or two with adequate insulation although 1414 Degree's devices are designed to charge and discharge daily.

If the claims stand up at commercial scale the molten silicon storage device could be one of the technological breakthroughs that make it cheaper to store energy from wind and solar farms. This could smooth out their intermittent generation and also help prevent or isolate blackouts from transmission failures during storms such as the one that hit South Australia in September.

Still, 1414 Degrees is only one of a growing number of companies seeking to push the frontiers of storage technology in Australia and win a role in the the energy grid of the future, which is evolving from one dependent on "baseload".

Rather than just sell its storage devices, 1414 Degrees wants to enter into joint ventures with customers – or partners – and share in the benefits. For example, Mr Moriarty said its devices could increase the revenue of a wind farm by 25 per cent, through increased output and exploiting higher wholesale prices when the wind isn't blowing. For a hydroponic farm, it can provide heat as well as electricity.

Flourescent biotechnology for high lighting solid cancer for more complete surgical removal

With five U.S. patents issued and dozens more filed and pending around the world, On Target Laboratories LLC is working to advance its revolutionary fluorescent imaging technology that could help surgeons pinpoint and remove more cancerous tissues than has ever been possible while preserving more healthy tissue for patients.

Headquartered at Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette, the company is developing a series of molecules, which, when administered intravenously, show promise in targeting many types of cancer cells, said Dr. Sumith Kularatne, On Target’s vice president of research and development.

“In addition to our current U.S. patents, we have 11 more either filed or pending in the U.S.,” Kularatne said. “We have another 33 patents pending worldwide. These patents are very important in helping us move our discoveries to the public where they can help people.”

These molecules carry a fluorescent dye and target diseased cells, including cancer, enabling surgeons to better diagnose and remove the disease while avoiding collateral damage to healthy tissue such as nerves.

Currently, surgery is a primary treatment modality for a large number of solid cancers, and published literature shows that for many of these the initial cytoreduction (tumor debulking) has a significant impact on patient outcomes. Surgeons must rely primarily on their visual and tactile senses, aided at times by static pre-operative images, to excise the cancer.

OTL38 is a novel compound consisting of a folic acid-targeting molecule, or ligand, linked to a near-infrared dye. Following current clinical trial protocols, OTL38 is injected two hours before surgery and is intended to bind to diseased tissue, including several cancers, involving lung, ovarian, and renal. The goal of this technology is to allow the surgeon to see hard-to-detect, small cancer lesions or diseased lymph nodes that might otherwise be missed through the use of a NIR (near-infrared) camera. OTL ligands are designed to enhance the view in real time, and if proven successful, we believe may be an important addition to image-guided surgery.

Paleoanthropologist seems quite sure that hybrid elephant embryo with wooly mammoth characteristics will not be created within two years

John Hawkes has that he does not believe that a wooly mammoth embyro will be created within two years.

George Church indicated that

45 mammoth-like edits of DNA have been spliced into the Asian elephant genome. “We’re working on ways to evaluate the impact of all these edits,” says Church. “The list of edits affects things that contribute to the success of elephants in cold environments. We already know about ones to do with small ears, subcutaneous fat, hair and blood.”

Church says the next step would be to produce a hybrid embryo, although in reality this would really be more like an elephant embryo carrying a handful of mammoth genetic traits. “We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.”

Church's objective is to create a more mammoth-like, hardier breed of Asian elephants, which are significantly more endangered than their African cousins. Such elephants could have a wider variety of ecosystems to choose from, and wouldn't be trapped in a rapidly shrinking range of habitats.

Note - creating a modified Asian elephant could be done by modifying the DNA and creating the embyro and then having a regular Asian elephant carry it to term.

If the gene-editing technique works, Church said it could be applied to other threats facing a wide variety of species: Frogs and salamanders could be genetically modified to make them impervious to the pathogens that are killing them off. Mosquitoes have already been modified in the lab to keep them from transmitting malaria, to cut down on breeding, or to keep the female bugs from flying.

Church acknowledged that species engineering has been criticized as costing too much and posing too many risks, especially when other environmental remedies are available. "I don't think it's an either-or thing," he said. "It's like saying we should invest in iron lungs rather than a polio vaccine, or in kidney dialysis rather than kidney transplants."

George Church's team has used “oligo synthesizers” like this to produce sequences that haven’t existed inside living organisms for some 4,000 years, reconstructing lines of code extracted from the preserved bones, blood and flesh of Elephas primigenius. The woolly mammoth.

By sequencing those found fragments of DNA, scientists have been piecing together a full genome for the lost megafauna, which runs to nearly five billion base pairs — dwarfing that of humans.

Researchers can’t yet print out or stitch together a genome anywhere near that long, but Church and others exploring de-extinction are pursuing a different route, which draws on those improving editing tools.

They’re comparing the mammoth genomes to those of its closest living relative, the Asian elephant. The hope is they can print out the strands that differ, paste them into the right spots, insert that into an embryonic cell and implant it into the uterus of an elephant.

Genome editing is delicate work. The longer the strands and the more insertion points, the greater the chance that something will go wrong along the way.

Church has homed in on the woolly mammoth because he thinks it presents the best opportunity for success. There are relatively few differences, fewer in fact than between the Asian elephant and its present-day African cousin.

Church noted that the return of the passenger pigeon, which used to compete vigorously for food with tick-carrying rodents, could tamp down the surge of Lyme disease in this nation.

It is also believed that the woolly mammoth stomped down snow and ate away dark vegetation that absorbed heat in the Arctic tundra. He said that returning the creature in sufficient numbers may help protect the thawing permafrost, which sequesters more carbon dioxide than all of the rain forests combined.

John Hawkes was apparently worked up that over 60 articles got written and most of those ignored the details of what Church stated.

* elephants have gestation periods of 660 days. So no baby from the hybrid-embyro
* not a full mammoth because that would take 4000+ edits
* also no artificial womb to carry an elephant embryo to term

Partial Artificial mouse womb

They are already capable of growing a mouse embryo in an artificial womb for 10 days — halfway through a mouses 20 day gestation period.

John Hawkes notes

Previous experiments from other labs have successfully brought embryos more than 10 days into development by implanting them on a three-dimensional scaffold of endometrial cells and nutrients in culture. That work isn’t from the 1980s, it was going on ten years ago and may still be underway in various labs, reviewed by Bulletti and colleagues (2011). In those experiments, after a certain stage of development, the ex vivo mice failed to grow normally and ultimately they died well before their 20-day gestation was complete. Maybe research will find some way around those problems, but for the moment this kind of approach will only yield early-stage embryos.

Elephants have a 22-month gestation length. At birth, elephants weigh 200 pounds. An elephant-sized artificial uterus would require either an enormous surface area of engineered tissue for placental attachment, or some kind of placenta replacement. Placenta replacement may not be impossible: In one experiment, a goat fetus was kept alive for more than a week by perfusing blood through the umbilicus supplemented with oxygen and nutrients. But that’s far from a full-term gestation. Doctors have a lot of experience with extreme measures for nutrition and oxygen supplementation in cases of premature human infants.

If an effective artificial uterus were invented, it would be a massively more important story than Church’s mammoth gene transfer project. The technical challenges are much greater, and the human benefits of such technology would be enormous.

CRISPR gene editing is undergoing rapid development and improvement

Applications of the genome editing system CRISPR are appearing at a furious pace, and gathering momentum toward therapeutic use in human cells. Indeed, Chinese scientists recently began a human clinical trial using CRISPR-edited cells to fight lung cancer, and U.S. clinical trials are slated to begin in 2017. But leading up to this exciting milestone, researchers performed some editing on the CRISPR system itself.

Strategies used to modulate Cas9 activity. (Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal - Programmable Genome Editing Tools and their Regulation for Efficient Genome Engineering)
(a) Group II intron (GII)-based switch,
(b) separating Cas9 into two peptides, termed split-Cas9,
(c) Tetracycline-inducible and reversible expression system, and
(d) ligand-dependent dimerization of split-Cas9.
(e) Light-dependent dimerization of split-Cas9, termed photoactivatable Cas9 (paCas9),
(f) intein-Cas9, which are activated by splicing of a ligand-dependent intein,
(g) and unstable destabilizing domain-Cas9 (DD-Cas9) fusions, which are degraded unless provided with the ligand, Shield.

CAG = cytomegalovirus early enhancer/chicken β-actin promoter;
Cas9 = clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-associated protein 9;
Cas9′ = partial Cas9;
dCas9 = dead Cas9;
FKBP = FK506 binding protein;
FRB = FKBP-rapamycin binding;
IPTG = isopropyl β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside;
KRAB = Krüppel-associated box; MN = meganuclease;
mRNA = messenger RNA;
rtTA = reverse tetracycline-controlled transcriptional activator;
sgRNA = single-guide RNA; TRE = tetracycline response element;
T7 = T7 RNA polymerase promoter;
4-HT = 4-hydroxytamoxifen;
DD = destabilizing domain;
nMag = negative Magnet;
pMag = positive Magnet;
sgRNA = single-guide ribonucleic acid.

Scientists quickly began tweaking CRISPR in the right places, and now innovative molecular features are making it work even better and for more cell types. The rapid emergence of CRISPR applications means that clinical trials related to HIV, cancer, sickle cell disease, and other diseases are on the horizon.

Today CRISPR is a cutting-edge tool for many more researchers, and more suitable for future therapeutic use than other gene-modulating methods. “Back when RNA interference [RNAi] hit, it went into hyperdrive,” says Mark Behlke, senior vice president and chief scientific officer at Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT), which supplies RNAi and CRISPR reagents. “But now CRISPR makes that look like a child’s game—it’s just mind-blowing.”

CRISPR reagents get a makeover

Genome editing reagents are being developed and employed at a rapid rate. In order to increase specificity and avoid or reduce toxicity issues due to off-target activities strategies are now being developed to provide temporal control over the DNA-cutting activities of genome editing tools. There are a variety of novel approaches that have been employed so far but there is tremendous potential that is offered by nucleic acid-based regulatory switches that could be incorporated into the expression vectors of genome editing reagents. The development of programmable genome editing tools along with the ability of controlling the temporal and spatial expression of such editing reagents promises to be a very active and challenging research area.

Faster, cheaper, and easier to use than gene editing methods such as TALENs (transcription activator-like effector nucleases) or zinc-finger nucleases, CRISPR was quickly seized upon by researchers in many fields. For example, cancer researchers transformed cell lines with plasmids containing DNA that encoded CRISPR guide RNA (gRNA) and Cas9 (CRISPR-associated protein 9) to create different cancer cell lines for study.

But Matt Porteus, a physician and associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, had a different initial experience with CRISPR. “Everyone was saying that CRISPR would solve all the problems of the world, but when we tried to use CRISPR DNA plasmids in cells that we thought were important for therapeutic applications, like hematopoietic cell lines or other primary human cell types, the system didn’t work at all,” he says. So the Porteus lab developed a different delivery method for CRISPR/Cas9 editing in human primary cells, one that doesn’t require DNA plasmids.

Variations of this method exist that introduce CRISPR/Cas9 reagents into cells in the form of ribonucleoproteins (RNPs).

“The researcher combines these reagents [gRNA and Cas9 protein] and allows them to form a complex for five to ten minutes” to create RNPs, says Jon Chesnut, senior director of synthetic biology R and D at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “The CRISPR RNPs can then be delivered to the cell by lipid nanoparticles or electroporation.”

One of the keys to improving CRISPR in primary cells, as well as other cell types, is the recent enhancement of reagents. IDT developed chemically modified gRNAs that are resistant to nuclease degradation inside cells. The company also manufactures gRNAs in the form of two shorter RNAs (as in the original bacterial system) that form a complex, instead of a single, longer gRNA. MilliporeSigma also plans to offer two-part synthetic gRNAs as “SygRNAs.”

US military technology superiority is challenged as reaching near parity in some capability areas

The Military Balance 2017 is the annual assessment of global military capabilities and defence economics from the IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies, London)

There has been no reduction in the range and number of security challenges demanding the attention of policymakers. Conflict and insecurity continue in Africa, the Middle East and, in the case of Ukraine, in Europe too. North Korea still develops and tests its missile capabilities. More attacks in 2016 highlighted the challenge from transnational terrorists. More states are willing to take military action in pursuit of their national security objectives. Meanwhile, the balance of global military spending continues to shift towards Asia.

From 2012 to 2016, real-terms defence spending across Asia grew by 5–6% each year. However, total global military spending in 2016 fell by 0.4% in real terms when compared to 2015, largely driven by reductions in the Middle East. The fall would have been larger were it not offset by increases in Asia. After overtaking Europe as the second largest defence spending region in 2012, Asia in 2016 spent 1.3 times more than Europe on defense when measured in constant 2010 US$.

It is expected that China's military budget will be about $233 billion in 2020. China's actual military budget is generally considered to be larger than its official budget.

2013 IISS estimate of future military budgets for China and the USA. Generally not until 2030-2040 will China pass the US in military budgets

Western military technological superiority, once taken for granted, is increasingly challenged. We now judge that in some capability areas, particularly in the air domain, China appears to be reaching near-parity with the West. Also, Beijing is now beginning to offer for export some of its modern military systems. Across the globe advanced military capabilities are spreading. There is a growing proliferation of lethality, and the increasing sophistication of these systems risks complicating Western states’ military options.

The USA still spends the most, and retains the world’s most powerful military forces. Nonetheless, Western military systems are increasingly complex and costly, and there are also fewer of them. Taken together with a security environment that is progressively more uncertain, this would indicate that Western states, no matter how large, will in future be able to do less, less effectively, by acting on their own.


For years China was engaged primarily in the imitative manufacture of former Soviet-era or Russian systems. This is still the case but now in key areas China is shifting to the domestic research, development and manufacture of military systems, supported by sustained budget increases. Beijing’s official budget is 1.8 times higher than those of South Korea and Japan combined and accounted for more than a third of Asia’s total spend in 2016.

China’s navy has developed and deployed more advanced capabilities. Work has started on building three Type-055 cruisers. At least 13 Type-052D multi-mission destroyers are in service or under construction and a growing number of China’s modern surface combatants are being fitted with phased-array radars. Commissioning in 2016 of an additional three large replenishment ships indicates that China’s navy is resolutely pursuing its blue water plans – as does China’s nascent naval facility in Djibouti. China’s Coast Guard is also receiving larger vessels and is now larger than some regional navies by overall fleet size.

In the air domain, China is now seen as the ‘pacing threat’ for the US. China’s progress in research and development, and its improved military capabilities, mean that it is now the single most important driver for US defence developments. This year’s Military Balance assesses that China’s air force has just introduced into service a highly capable short-range missile in a class only a handful of leading aerospace nations are able to develop. The introduction of this weapon – called the PL-10 – reflects the sustained and continuing investment China is making in air-launched guided weapons. Beijing will almost certainly be able to add increasingly capable airto-air weapons to its inventory in the next few years.

These systems will be close to parity with similar Western weapons, while one of China’s air-to-air missiles has no Western equivalent.

China is developing what could be the world’s longest range air-to-air missile. Seen on exercise last year and estimated at near six meters in length, this developmental missile likely has the task of engaging large high-value and non-manoeuvring targets. With a lofted trajectory, an engagement range around 300km would appear feasible. When it enters service, this new system will hold at risk.

Not only is China producing more advanced systems. It is also starting to sell these abroad. Last year we noted how Chinese military exports to Africa were moving from the sale of Soviet-era designs to the export of systems designed in China.

This trend continues. China is now, however, also beginning to sell more advanced systems. The PL-10 missile, for instance, is being offered for export and would, if it proliferates, complicate the operations of any Western air force. China is also exporting armed UAVs, and Chinese origin systems have been seen in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. With China now selling abroad its armed UAVs, it is possible that states unable to procure Western systems may now be able to secure similar capability from non-Western sources.

Stanford researchers improve extraction of uranium from seawater

In the recent work, Stanford researchers improved on all three variables related to extracting uranium from seawater: capacity, rate and reuse. Their key advance was to create a conductive hybrid fiber incorporating carbon and amidoxime. By sending pulses of electricity down the fiber, they altered the properties of the hybrid fiber so that more uranyl ions could be collected.

There is about ten million tons of uranium reserves on land. There is much more uranium on land than those reserves but it would be less economical to go for inferior deposits. It had already been shown that uranium could be obtained from seawater at about four times the current cost of the good land based uranium resources. There is about 3 to 4 billion tons of uranium in the worlds oceans. A fiber based extraction process would involve making the equivalent of fishing nets of uranium extracting fiber and putting them into very strong ocean currents that would move a lot of water through the fiber. The uranium in the water (about one grain per liter) would then be pulled from the ocean. The nets of uranium would fill and then get reeled into the boat or platform for processing.

Scientists have long known that uranium dissolved in seawater combines chemically with oxygen to form uranyl ions with a positive charge. Extracting these uranyl ions involves dipping plastic fibers containing a compound called amidoxime into seawater. The uranyl ions essentially stick to the amidoxime. When the strands become saturated, the plastic is chemically treated to free the uranyl, which then has to be refined for use in reactors just like ore from a mine.

How practical this approach is depends on three main variables: how much uranyl sticks to the fibers; how quickly ions can be captured; and how many times the fibers can be reused.

In recent tests by the time the standard amidoxime fiber had become saturated, Stanford’s amidoxime-carbon hybrid fibers had already adsorbed 9 times as much uranyl and were still not saturated. What’s more, the electrified fiber captured three times as much uranyl during an 11-hour test using seawater from Half Moon Bay, about an hour from Stanford, and had three times the useful lifespan of the standard amidoxime.

“We have a lot of work to do still but these are big steps toward practicality,” Cui said.

In the real sea water tests, the voltage used was 5 V. Based on the flow system result. Using a flow rate of 6 mL/min (0.1 cm/s), the extracted mass for 4 L was 1. 62 µg. The daily extracted U mass would be ~3.5 µg. This corresponds to U price of ~$1.9/g. The target price of U extraction from sea water is $0.2-0.3/g. This is not an unreachable price, considering that more optimization work can be done to decrease the cost of HW-ACE method. Further optimization can be done to increase the uptake of U by increasing the electrode surface area, designing better operation system, decreasing the operation voltage and also increase the coulombic efficiency (suppress the unwanted byproducts). If from optimization, the applied voltage can be reduced to less than 2 Volts, then the energy consumption would decrease 5 times and the price will be $0.4/g which is very close to the target price. The material cost from additional activated carbon is equivalent to only 7.6% of the electricity cost which does not play a vital role in the final cost.

The benefit of using HW-ACE method which could reduce the cost is that the extraction capacity is much larger than physicochemical adsorption. Therefore, the need for recycle is reduced which could save some cost from regeneration.

In summary, the HW-ACE showed advantages in extracting U from sea water like high capacity, faster kinetics and so on. Further effort is needed to keep optimizing the system to reduce the power consumption, increase the coulombic efficiency and increase the extraction kinetics in order to make its cost competitive.

Schematics of physicochemical and HW-ACE extraction.

HW-ACE uranium extraction performance in simulated sea water. Uranium extraction from sea water using HW-ACE method comparing to physicochemical method with initial uranium concentration of a, ~100 ppb, b, ~1.0 ppm, c, ~10 ppm, d, ~300 ppm, e, ~600 ppm and f, ~1000 ppm. Simulated sea water was made using deionized water as solvent.

Nature Energy - A half-wave rectified alternating current electrochemical method for uranium extraction from seawater

Stable nuclear energy will be providing about 60% of Ukraine's energy

Nuclear energy's share of Ukraine's electricity mix is "rapidly approaching" 60%, President Petro Poroshenko said at a meeting of the country's National Security and Defence Council yesterday, according to a statement on the presidential website. The president did not give a date by which the increase would be achieved.

Ukraine has 15 nuclear units in commercial operation at four sites - Khmelnitsky, Rovno, South Ukraine and Zaporozhe - which are all operated by state-owned Energoatom. The units comprise 13 VVER-1000s and two VVER-440s with a total capacity of 13,835 MWe. Ukraine receives most of its nuclear services and nuclear fuel from Russia, but is reducing this dependence by buying fuel from Westinghouse, the US-headquartered subsidiary of Japan's Toshiba.

"I am pleased to inform [you] that we have increased the share of nuclear energy in the overall energy balance. From 47% we are rapidly approaching 60%. This is [equivalent to] millions of tons of coal that Ukraine no longer needs," Poroshenko said.

A large share of primary energy supply in Ukraine comes from the country's uranium and substantial coal resources. The remainder is oil and gas, mostly imported from Russia. Total electricity production in 2014 amounted to 183 TWh, with 8 TWh net exports to Europe. In 2014, 88 TWh was from nuclear, 71 TWh from coal, 13 TWh from gas, and 9 TWh from hydro. Electricity consumption was 134 TWh after transmission losses of 20 TWh due to old grid. Peak demand is about 28 GWe.

Electricity consumption in Ukraine in January 2017, taking into account losses in electricity transmission, grew by 1.8% or 263.4 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) year-on-year, to 14.913 billion kWh, the Energy and Coal Industry Ministry has told Interfax-Ukraine.

Electricity consumption, not including losses, over the period rose by 6.7% or 738.2 million kWh, to 11.793 billion kWh.

Annualized the electricity generation over 2017 would be about 180 TWh.

F-35C getting redesigned wing tips that will not break carrying missiles while making tight turns

The outer wings of 32 carrier-based F-35C-models need to be replaced to carry the Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder, the aircraft’s primary dogfighting weapon.

The U.S. Navy variant experienced an undisclosed amount of oscillation or turbulence during flight trials with the AIM-9X in December 2015, and Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan says aircraft already delivered need to be retrofitted with strengthened wings.

The outer, folding portion of the wing has inadequate structural strength to support the loads induced by pylons with AIM-9X missiles during maneuvers.

Engineers have already produced an enhanced outer wing design, which is now undergoing flight testing. The issue has impacted the timeline for fielding AIM-9X, which is being rolled out for the Navy in Block 3F

Because of a seven-year schedule delay, the fifth-generation F-35 fighter will carry air superiority missiles that are one generation behind missiles on F-18s, which are already carrying the newest AIM-9X Block II and AIM-120D.

The missile must be delivered in time to support initial operational test and evaluation and complete the 17-year F-35 system development and demonstration phase by May 2018. The Navy, in particular, must be cleared to fly and shoot the AIM-9X to declare combat-ready status with its first squadron of F-35C Block 3F aircraft in 2018.

The F-35 team is adding a moving target capability, as reported by Aviation Week on Feb. 15. There are currently no plans to install weapons capable of hitting moving and maneuvering targets, such as an insurgent driving away in a pickup truck. The F-35’s laser designator cannot lead the target, its basic inventory of late-1990s guided bombs will fall short if that target moves briskly.

The military is integrating Raytheon’s GBU-49 Lot 5 Enhanced Paveway II, which automatically corrects for target speed and direction as well as wind conditions. The Marines have expressed a preference for the Raytheon GBU-53B Small Diameter Bomb Increment II, but that is not slated for full integration and flight clearance until Block 4.2, around fiscal 2022 or later.

Russia and Ukraine have a new ceasefire

A new cease-fire began in eastern Ukraine as international diplomacy to resolve the nation’s conflict with Kremlin-backed insurgents gathers pace.

The latest truce is part of a renewed push to advance a stalled peace deal for Ukraine’s easternmost regions, where fighting has been simmering for almost three years and almost 10,000 people have died. The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France met Saturday in Munich to discuss the conflict, which erupted after Russia annexed Crimea. They’re set to meet again in few weeks.

The latest initiative to resolve the conflict comes after the U.S. reaffirmed its commitment to the existing peace accord, signed in the Belarusian capital of Minsk two years ago.

February 19, 2017

China's two child policy credited with 7.9% boost in babies last year with another 10% per year possible by 2020

China's universal second-child policy implemented early 2016 was a major factor in raising the number of births in China to 17.86 million last year, an increase of 7.9 percent and the highest annual number since since 2000, according to the top health authority.
The number of newborns has increased by 1.31 million compared with 2015.

The portion of the births to couples who already had at least one child rose quickly to at least 45 percent last year, Yang Wenzhuang, a division director of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said at a news conference on Sunday. The proportion was around 30 percent before 2013.

"It demonstrates that the universal second-child policy came in time and worked effectively," Yang said.

"Some regions, mostly large cities in eastern areas, began recording second children as comprising more than half of local newborns," he added.

Yang expected that by 2020, the number of new births each year would stand between 17 to 20 million in China, citing expert estimations.

Last week, Ma Xiaowei, deputy director of the commission, said a baby boom triggered largely by the new policy probably would come within the next two years.

For that, the commission plans to add 140,000 more maternity health workers in the coming years, he said.

Like many countries with a low birth rate, China was concerned about how to care for its aging population, as there were a dearth of young worker to help support them, as well as a gross gender imbalance, because so many female babies were abandoned or aborted in the patriarchal society.

Experts warned the “Two Child” policy was “too little, too late” to reverse the trend.

The NHFPC claims, however, that their data proves otherwise.

In their press release, the NHFPC said that “by 2050, the policy is expected to bring about an extra 30 million working-age people and reduce the nation’s aging rate by 2 percent, commission projections show.”

However, the NHFPC said the Communist Party’s leaders need to come up with better policies to support couples willing to have more than one child, “particularly in terms of maternity education and health services.”

The number of workers aged 16 to 59 dropped by a record 4.87 million to 911 million last year, compared to decline of 3.71 million in 2014, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

China has the world’s largest population, with 1.37 billion people, but the country is aging and birth rates are declining. The United Nations projects that the number of Chinese over the age of 65 will jump 85% to 243 million, in 2030, up from 131 million this year. Most couples say it’s too expensive to have more children.

The number of working age people in China is set to fall to 700 million by 2050 – a decline of nearly a quarter, according to a government spokesman. The working-age population has been in decline since 2012, with the number of people aged 16-59 predicted to be 830 million in 2030. Maintaining China's workforce in 2050 would require adding 150 million more than the expected 50 million from the two child policy.

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