July 07, 2007

Aquaculture, meat factories and vertical farming

Futurepundit had an article which referred to a study that humanity is already using 25% of the biomass of the earth I don't believe that is accurate, but even if it is I think that changes can and are being made.

Improving on existing established trends in food production with more technical refinements. More domestication and more efficiency will reduce the footprint and up the productivity.

Scientific american discusses the blue revolution of aquaculture

A cow requires around seven kilograms of feed grain for each kilo of meat, while a carp requires around three kilos or less. Fish farming economizes on feed grain, and of course on the land area needed to produce it

I have an article with more aquaculture stats

In 2004, capture fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 106 million tonnes of food fish, providing the highest apparent per capita supply on record. Of this total, aquaculture accounted for 43 percent.

Aquaculture continues to grow more rapidly than all other animal food-producing sectors, with a global average annual growth rate of 8.8 percent per year since 1970

Adjustments can be made to prevent waste build up problems while still maintaining a smaller ecological footprint. Bioengineering can be performed to make the processes more energy and resource efficient and productive.

In about a decade, meat factories using stem cells will reduce the resource usage needed for cows and other farm animals. The resources used are described at openthefuture with the cheeseburger footprint

also, high rises converted to urban aeroponics, Skyfarming, vertical farming
Roughly 150 such thirty story buildings, Despommier estimates, could feed the entire city of New York for a year.

The promoters of vertical farming were noting that there were enough abandoned buildings which could be converted to the purpose of food supply.

Also, a cooperative city government could zone certain air rights (permission to build X stories high) to encourage the activity of providing the vertical farming. Another way for a city to arrange vertical farming is to require it as part of a larger development.

Just like now the cities require a certain amount of parking and traffic and utility improvements from developers. They could require builders of 100 story building which have a certain profitability to also supply a 30 story vertical farm to go along with the parking and other amenities.

Some of the economic encouragement for this is that supplying food locally would reduce the need for transporting the goods in.

Initially it would make sense to produce more high value product. Supply high end restaurants with fresher food. Provide food for the Whole foods and higher end groceries.

It would also make more sense where the city needed to replace, upgrade or add to sewer treatment. The vertical farms also processed waste water.

Designer Nanocomposite combines best features of metal and plastic

Nanowerk reports on a new designer nanocomposite material/ It uses carbon nanotubes to unite the virtues of plastics and metals in a new ultra-lightweight, conductive material that may revolutionize electromagnetic shielding and more.

This is an example of designing materials that achieve superior benefits without compromises. A material that is far lighter and more flexible than the metal it replaces.

Sensitive electronic devices like cell phones and computers require shielding from electromagnetic interference (EMI). Such shielding - which must be electrically conductive - has traditionally been made of metal, which poses a weight problem in the push to miniaturize and lighten electronics. In response, Gupta led a team that has developed an ultra-lightweight nanocomposite that outperforms conventional shielding

This new nanocomposite material is a mixture of plastic, carbon nanotubes and a foaming agent, making it extremely lightweight, corrosion-proof and cheaper to produce than metal. The carbon nanotubes play a key role in creating these unique properties, explained Gupta. Most notably, experiments revealed that only 1 percent to 2 percent of the material's composition needed to be comprised of nanotubes to increase the electrical conductivity by 10 orders of magnitude. The addition of carbon nanotubes also increased the material's thermal conductivity, improving its capacity to dissipate heat.

July 06, 2007

Carbon Nanotubes production in 2007 and projected

A 2007 survey of the current state of carbon nanotubes and expansion plans

Most of the commercial activity involves the use of hollow multi-wall carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs), which are a single tube with five to 15 layers; and the closely related carbon nanofibers (CNFs). Less advanced commercially are single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), which are hollow tubes with one layer.

Although high cost is a hurdle to commercialization of all these carbon nano-particles, SWCNTs have a much higher barrier to leap, as their prices are 50 to 100 times above MWCNTs or CNFs.

Who are the producers of carbon nanotubes
The field of entrants into carbon nanotubes has expanded rapidly since the expiration of patents held by the 25-year-old pioneer of carbon nanotubes, Hyperion Catalysis International. In the last three years, Hyperion has reportedly scaled-up to full-scale manufacturing capacity of its “Fibril” MWCNTs, although the firm will not disclose its capacity. Hyperion is the only carbon nanotube supplier that sells its product in resin masterbatches.

Last year Bayer MaterialScience unveiled a new process for making electrically conductive MWCNTs on an industrial scale with consistent purity and considerably lower cost. Bayer sees potential for its Baytubes in electrostatically paintable automotive parts, antistatic films for packaging electronic components, and EMI shielding of computers and cell-phone housings.

Baytubes are said to comprise up to 15 graphene layers (more than most other MWCNTs, which typically have six to seven layers). Bayer has scaled up its production pilot plant from 30 to 60 tons/yr. The next step reportedly will be to boost capacity to 200 tons/yr in the next two years, with an industrial-scale 3000-ton (6.6-million lb) plant envisioned for 2011-12.

Another key player is France’s Arkema, with its Graphistrength MWCNTs. Chris Roger, director of corporate and external research in Philadelphia, says the company has been operating a pilot unit since early 2006 in the south of France that is producing 10 mt/yr (22,000 lb/yr) and is now running five days a week, 24 hr a day. “This is our first scale-up, with the next one scheduled for 2010/2011 and planned to produce a few hundred tons per year.”

Another new entrant is Belgium’s Nanocyl, which had been operating a 5-ton/yr pilot plant, but is due to start up 35-ton/yr commercial capacity next month. North American marketing manager Andy Rich says a significant part of the capacity from the new plant has been pre-sold. As a result, another scale-up is being planned.

Pyrograf Products has been working on both larger capacity and quality control over the last five years, according to Max Lake, president. “We now have 25 mt/yr and by 2009 we expect to be sold out,” he says. Pyrograf aims to expand to 100 mt/yr by 2009 and potentially by as much as 1 million lb/yr by 2012.

Three other players appear to be scaling up. One is San-Diego-based Ahwahnee Inc., which has reportedly developed a process to allow for the highest volume production of economical MWCNTs, and is seeking partners to develop applications such as reinforced and conductive composites.

Two South Korean companies are also said to be actively seeking partners in the U.S. One is Carbon Nano-Material Technology, which produces CNFs, and claims to have a mass-production technology at a cost only 20% to 30% as high as existing technology.

The other is Iljin Nanotech, which can currently supply both SWCNTs and MWCNTs and claims to offer them at a low price.

Pyrograf’s Lake says Japan’s Showa Denka has plans to increase nanotube capacity from 40 mt/yr to 100 mt/yr by 2008, and to introduce new grades for sale in North America, including one similar to Pyrograf’s CNF, as well as a MWCNT.

Prices are dropping:
Nanocyl’s Andy Rich says within the last year MWCNT prices have dropped by as much as 40%—below $200/kg down from $275/kg, for multi-ton purchases. Arkema’s Rogers says, with recent scale-ups, prices are lower by a factor of 2 or 3 than 6 years ago.

Cientifica predicts that prices could fall another 5-50 times over the next 3-4 years. China and South Korea could become the main suppliers.


Past article on the carbon nanotube business

Following completion of expansions at plants in Decatur, Ala.; Abidos, France; and Ehime, Japan, Toray will have annual carbon-fiber capacity of 17,900 tons. Additional expansion plans will bring the firm's capacity to 24,000 tons in 2010, Toray says, at which time it predicts it will capture 40% of the global carbon-fiber market, up from the 34% share it claims today.

Therefore, carbon fiber market in 2010 would be 60,000 tons per year. 27,000 tons in 2007.

July 05, 2007

Artificial Intelligence and Singularity publicity milestone

Kurzweil AI points out a New York play about Eliezer Yudowski. It is called "Yudkowski Returns: The Rise And Fall And Rise Again of Dr. Eliezer Yudkowski,". The play is reviewed positively here

Eliezer Yudkowsky is a leading artificial intelligence researcher who is trying to develop Friendly AI.

Climate control alternative: Sequestering Methane

One of the most widely publicized ideas for offsetting climate change is to sequester carbon dioxide. The US Department of energy estimates the following costs:

Using present technology, estimates of sequestration costs are in the range of $100 to $300/ton of carbon emissions avoided. The goal of the program is to reduce the cost of carbon sequestration to $10 or less per net ton of carbon emissions avoided by 2015.

Assuming $10-100/ton: Sequestering 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide would cost $10 to 100 billion per year.

Methane represents 18% of the total annual greenhouse gas effects Methane has 25 times the global warming effect as an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide

Sequestering 40 million tons of Methane would be the equivalent of sequesterint 1 billion tons fo carbon dioxide.

The sources of methane and the natural sinks for methane are described at this link.


From wikipedia sources and sinks for methane emissions

We are adding +20 million tons per year of methane.

Slightly over half of the total emission is due to human activity.

Living plants (e.g. forests) have recently been identified as a potentially important source of methane. A 2006 paper calculated emissions of 62–236 Tg a-1, and "this newly identified source may have important implications". However the authors stress "our findings are preliminary with regard to the methane emission strength". These findings have been called into question in a 2007 paper which found "there is no evidence for substantial aerobic methane emission by terrestrial plants, maximally 0.3% of the previously published values".

Long term atmospheric measurements of methane by NOAA show that the build up of methane has slowed dramatically over the last decade, after nearly tripling since pre-industrial times. It is thought that this reduction is due to reduced industrial emissions and drought in wetland areas.

Recent experiments suggest that forming methane hydrates is fairly easy

Here is more information on methane hydrate

Open the Future discusses that each cow produces 110 kg of methane in manure each year

Oil rigs can pump oil up from under a mile of ocean. If we used a reverse of this method a pipeline and ocean oil can be used to send Methane to the bottom of the ocean. Deep ocean oil platforms cost about $100-500 million Oil platforms can move 50,000 barrels of oil per day and 2 million cubic meters of gas. About ten barrels make up one ton. About 2.3 million tons of methane could be sent down one oil platform each year. Twenty oil platforms would be needed to sequester 40 million tons of methane. This would cost between 2 to 10 billion dollars. This is less than the low cost target for carbon dioxide capture.

Methane can be more easily captured in the form of livestock manure and bird poop. Some of the useful fertilizer can get extracted, but we could take methane and convert it into methane hydrate by pumping it onto the ocean floor. Methane hydrate is stable on the ocean floor now. 40 to 200 million tons of methane could be diverted from the generation sources we have now. We could go into a net negative for methane of 20 to 180 million tons. It would be a simple way to start curbing greenhouse gas effects and offset global warming and climate change.

Towards printing press electronics

One goal for the future of electronics is the ability to print large, flexible circuits using machines similar to printing presses. While great strides have been made in developing bendable and lightweight organic materials to use in this type of circuitry, methods to deposit those materials over large areas have not been as successful. Recently, a research group developed a circuit-printing technique that addresses some of the problems that have plagued other attempts.

One such problem, perhaps the biggest, is the inability of the other methods to produce high-resolution features – those down to the micron, or millionth-of-a-meter, scale.

Another issue is the rather low conductivity of the polymer materials used as electrodes in the circuits, which suggests a need for inorganic (metallic) electric contacts. An additional problem is the slight mixing of ink that occurs when ink is layered, which occurs during most types of printing. In conventional graphic-arts printing the end product isn't affected, but, in the case of “electronic inks,” mixing would compromise the electrical characteristics of the circuit.

“We envision that a new generation of high-resolution printing plates in combination with nano-based inks will provide the platform for manufacturing electronic devices very similarly to what you see in commercial printing houses today,” corresponding author Graciela Blanchet of DuPont told PhysOrg.com.

The researchers inked the plate with a solution of silver nanoparticles, which, after the solvent evaporated, left it coated with a dry film of silver (thereby avoiding any mixing issues). The group next pressed the plate onto a Mylar substrate, transferring the nanoparticles from the raised portions of the plate onto the Mylar without degrading the pattern's high-resolution features. At this point, the printed silver pattern can be sintered (a process in which heat is used to increase the conductivity of the film).

Existence of acoustic surface plasmons proved

New research led by University of New Hampshire physicists has proved the existence of a new type of electron wave on metal surfaces: the acoustic surface plasmon, which will have implications for developments in nano-optics, high-temperature superconductors, and the fundamental understanding of chemical reactions on surfaces.

“The existence of this wave means that the electrons on the surfaces of copper, iron, beryllium and other metals behave like water on a lake’s surface,” says Diaconescu, a postdoctoral research associate in the Condensed Matter Group of the physics department at UNH. “When a stone is thrown into a lake, waves spread radially in all directions. A similar wave can be created by the electrons on a metal surface when they are disturbed, for instance, by light.

Research on metal surfaces is important for the development of new industrial catalysts and for the cleaning the exhaust of factories and cars. As the new plasmons are very likely to play a role in chemical reactions on metal surfaces, theoretical and experimental research will have to take them into account as a new phenomenon in the future. In addition, there are several promising perspectives in nano-microscopy and optical signal processing when the new plasmons are excited directly with light diffracted off very small nano-features.

The researchers estimate that, depending on their energy, the waves spread down to a few nanometers, and die out after a few femtoseconds (one millionth of a billionth of a second) after they have been created, thus witnessing very fast chemical processes on atomic scale.

Another potential application is using the waves to carry optical signals along nanometer-wide channels for up to few micrometers and as such allowing the integration of optical signal propagation and processing devices on nanometer-length scales. And one of the most interesting but still very speculative applications of the plasmons relates to high temperature superconductivity. It is known today that the superconductivity happens in two-dimensional sheets in the material, which give rise to the special electron pairs which can move without resistance through the conductor.

Reviewing the current state of space programs

I personally measure the progress in space by progress in launch costs and capability and the progress toward the ultimate goal of large scale development in space. Science research is a good thing but I differentiate between science that is exclusively from unique technology deployed in space and general science research that happens to be included in a budget that has a space title.

I support the development of nuclear propulsion capabilities since they would be significant improvements over what we currently are using.

Stephen Howe,director of the Centre for Space Nuclear Research, has recently proposed a nuclear thermal rocket like the one pictured

I also think that we can do more with current technology to advance space capabilities and infrastructure. Going the more inefficient route of using the nuclear power after clearing the atmosphere seems necessary to gain the initial confidence in the technology before using nuclear for ground launch. Although nuclear space vehicles make sense, I do not see any funding being provided for them. The politics of US space funding are to support jobs on the ground and not progress in space.

The US Government vision for space has received some funding as described here

Congress also has shown its support with money, providing $9 billion for exploration since Bush rolled out the vision.

NASA has not been given the budget increases the White House initially promised, forcing the agency to make unpopular cuts to science and aeronautics to keep its human spaceflight programs adequately funded. And a decision by the new Democratic Congress to fund most federal agencies this year at last year's levels has left NASA's exploration planners struggling with a $500 million shortfall that Griffin recently announced would delay the introduction of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and its Ares I rocket to 2015.

While NASA still hopes to shoot for the Moon by 2020, agency officials readily concede the next four years or so are all about completing the International Space Station, retiring the shuttle, and building and testing Ares and Orion. Work on the heavy-lift rocket, lunar lander and other hardware needed to send astronauts to the Moon is not due to really get started before the shuttle is done flying.

Of the more than $16 billion NASA plans to spend between now and 2010 on exploration systems, roughly 80 percent is designated Orion and Ares, with the rest budgeted for lunar robotics programs, space station-based research, and other advanced technology development efforts.

By 2011, the first year NASA expects to be out from under the $3 billion to $4 billion a year it spends on shuttle, exploration systems is expected to consume nearly half of NASA's total budget, with upwards of 90 percent of exploration funding going toward completing Ares and Orion and getting started on the Ares 5 heavy-lift rocket and other Moon-bound hardware.

I am not confident that return to the moon proposal will be fully funded.
As described at this link at Spacedaily. Even if it the moon program is fully funded I am not confident that a plan to send 4-6 people to the moon on extended camping trips is worthwhile. I think it needs to be part of a long term commitment to space colonization. To me this means building megawatts and then gigawatts of power and efficiently developing mostly robotic mining and materials processing on the moon and other places. I think the "Vision for space" is fundamentally misguided and weak and not a path to a truly revolutionary capability.

I think a good plan for space includes these kind of elements:
- build a lot of power in space (many megawatts and then gigawatts)
- develop space mining, materials processing and construction capability
- develop cheap launch to LEO (ultimately get away from chemical rockets)
- separately develop cheaply operated tugs or tethers from LEO to GSO to elsewhere
- build useful infrastructure to bring down the costs and develop space

However, we are not getting that kind of program.

The current program is warped by political needs. The delays in the program may force more reliance on the private launch industry. This could be a long term bonus if the commercial entities are better able to develop lower cost launch capabilities.
More money for SpaceX

SpaceX Falcon rocket

and the other private launch systems from now until 2015 or 2020 when the new NASA vehicles (which probably will not be nuclear) might be flying would be good. The Newspace launch companies get stronger with more funding and opportunities because of delays and lack of government commitment. So I am in the unusual position of hoping for more delays and screwups from NASA and with government funding. NASA gets some funding but is forced to stretch the money by helping innovative companies.

The military is getting some more money for space in reaction to China's space capability

It will be up to future presidents and administrations to change the course of america's stagnating space program. Perhaps the impetus from other countries (like China) taking the lead in space will provide the motivation for real change and to get a useful vision for space.

Nasa 2008 budget request

Nasa facilities

A pdf from 2006 US space programs, civilian, military and commercial

PDF with the 2008 NASA budget request

The ISS and Space shuttle Apr 2007 report

Launch vehicles report

China's space program plans from 2007-2011

Long March 5 mockup

China is spending about $2.2 billion/year on space

List of national space programs at wikipedia

Russian Duma approving a budget of 305 billion rubles (about 11 billion USD) for the Space Agency from 2006-2015, with overall space expenditures in Russia total about 425 billion rubles for the same time period. Russia is spending about 1.1-1.6 billion per year on space.

Dnepr rocket, cheapest launch costs of $2,222 per kg.

The European space agency is spending about 3-4 billion euroes per year

Space Carnival #10 is up

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