August 02, 2007

Completely new nuclear plants applying for licenses in Maryland and Idaho

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has received its first application since the 1970s to build a new nuclear power plant, a spokesman for the NRC said on Wednesday, August 1, 2007. The proposed plant in Maryland won't come online until at least mid-2014 and is among a new wave of about 19 reactors that will be considered by the NRC in the next year or so, said Scott Burnell, NRC spokesman.

The proposed 1,600-megawatt reactor will take its owner, Unistar Nuclear, an estimated $4 billion to $5 billion to construct, but that price tag may increase depending largely on construction material cost, the company has said. The new reactor would almost double the size of Calvert Cliffs' power output, which is now about 1,735 megawatts. A megawatt can serve about 750 to 800 homes, so if the third unit is built, Calvert Cliffs would be able to serve about 2.6 million homes. NRC staff is expected to take about two-and-a-half years for a technical review of the full license, with an expected additional year if the new the plant is contested. No NRC decision on the full license -- which would allow construction -- is expected until at least mid-2011, said Burnell.

Owyhee County has received an application to build a nuclear plant from Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. If approvals go as expected then the plant would come online in 2015.

Rendering of the complex

The company is proposing to build a $3.5 billion, 1,600-megawatt nuclear/biofuels facility in the Bruneau/Grand View area.

Last Monday, the Owyhee County Commission unanimously voted, at the request of AEHI, to waive the requirement that the application be processed in 125 days, in order to give time to consider the complex proposal.

"The Idaho Energy Complex (IEC) will provide a reliable source of revenue for Owyhee County and the state of Idaho," said Don Gillispie, President and CEO of AEHI. "I can assure you we're never going to outsource this to China. Idaho can and should bolster its economy with energy generation."

The county's deferral of the 125-day time limit will allow the local and federal processes for the power plant to run concurrently.

They funding in place

* A proposal for a Generation 3 advanced reactor, which will use just 100,000 gallons of water a day for cooling, compared to the 30 million gallons a day typically associated with second-generation reactor types.

There will be no effect on surface or groundwater supplies and a complete hydrology report will be prepared as required by the NRC.

* The IEC complies with the Owyhee County Comprehensive Plan, which states the county will aid in the recruitment of non-polluting light industries to the county and pursue economic development.

* The IEC complies with the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan, which found Idaho is vulnerable to the economic effects of federal regulation of carbon dioxide and mercury emissions from coal fired energy facilities. The plan calls for "diversifying the state's energy production and reducing reliance on imported power."

Past articles on nuclear energy

Carnival of space week 14 is at Universe Today

August 01, 2007

Automated 3 dimensional nanoscale manufacturing

Engineers from Duke University have applied CAD-CAM to atomic force microscope

The sample structures made are about 100 nanometer in feature size using silicon oxide


More structures that they have fabricated. Height about 4 nanometers. Features are precise down to +- 30 nanometers nanometer range. The circle has a measured diameter in the x direction of 457 ± 28.4 nm and in the y direction of 483 ± 45.4 nm, which demonstrates good replication of the desired size, exhibiting 8.6% distance inaccuracy in the x control. Height is accurate to + or - 0.1 nanometers. The triangle is + or - 17 nanometers.

NOTE: they are going to open source this and make the software freely available. combine this with the fab a lot of your own AFM parts and the Nvidia personal supercomputer. and a lot of people will be able to make very precise things. Admittedly mostly university and commercial labs right now, but pretty much any decent university or commercial lab could be working on nanoscale construction.

Here is the link to the paper. Need to register for free access

Thanks for Roland Piquepaille for the links and additional writeup

This looks like it should be big step (top down) towards molecular manufacturing.

"These tools allow you to go from basic, one-off scientific demonstrations of what can be done at the nanoscale to repetitively engineering surface features at the nanoscale," said Rob Clark, Thomas Lord Professor and chair of the mechanical engineering and materials science department at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering.

The feat was accomplished by using the traditional computing language of macroscale milling machines to guide an atomic force microscope (AFM). The system reliably produced 3-D, nanometer-scale silicon oxide nanostructures through a process called anodization nanolithography, in which oxides are built on semiconducting and metallic surfaces by applying an electric field in the presence of tiny amounts of water.

"That's the key to moving from basic science to industrial automation," Clark said. "When you manufacture, it doesn't matter if you can do it once, the question is: Can you do it 100 million times and what's the variability over those 100 million times? Is it consistent enough that you can actually put it into a process?"

Clark and Matthew Johannes, who recently received his doctoral degree at Duke, will report their findings in the August 29 issue of the journal Nanotechnology (now available online) and expect to make their software and designs freely available online. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation.

They say that they can perform 3D work.

Googling "anodization nanolithography"

The papers and patents seem to talk about 15 nanometer feature sizes. AFMs can get down to smaller sizes 1 nanometer but less consistently.

Being able to repeat 100 million times the milling of features at 15-1000 nanometers in 3D using silicon oxide seems like a powerful step up from MEMS. They can always use chemical vapor deposition or dip ink pen lithography or other means to work in other materials.

Arrays of AFMs (which go up to 1 million probes) that could perform repetitive milling work as they describe would be a big step.

So how fast and easy will it be to get mastery of the work that they propose? (the industrial scaling of 100 million repetitions).

Seems then a short step to adapting the arrays of AFMs.

I think it could be use to produce high grade Claytronics.

current claytronics node, currently 3 centimeters or bit bigger than one inch.

The millimeter sized catom that this could enable

Millimeter sized - poor man's utility fog.

100 nanometer utility foglet
I am guessing 4-6 years if things go right and if they are delivering what seems to be implied by the press release.

Business 2.0 article about Claytronics

I think if this gets rolled out in a big and affordable way it will be significant validation of the vision of nanotechnology manufacturing.

If we work in some minimal bottom up and we would close the gap from molecules to macroscale. Using self assembly and other means to get molecules up to the size that this system can handle we could kluge together a molecular manufacturing process.

Success and scale form this plus success from Robert Freitas and Ralph Merkle and we would be pretty much all the way into useful molecular manufacturing.

We need the to see the paper on exact error rates and details of this work and to get a clear path and timing of industrialization and scaling.

Make your own plastic-AFM heads and save tens of thousands of dollars

From nanowerk, the successful rapid prototyping of an atomic force microscope hear (AFM), something which normally costs hundreds of thousands of dollars

Go to this site for a tutorial on how to build a plastic-AFM head

The heads perform as well as traditional heads but are not as durable.

The computational chemistry simulation software and hardware is getting supercheap with Nvidia tesla boards and computers (multiple teraflops for a workstation). Now you can build AFMs for cheap.

Instead of $10 million to setup for serious nanotech work the price is dropping to about $250,000-500,000.

The most versatile implementation of the scanned probe principle is the atomic force microscope (AFM). It has become one of the foremost tools for imaging, measuring and manipulating matter at the nanoscale. The essential part of an AFM is a microscale cantilever with a sharp tip (probe) at its end that is used to scan the specimen surface. The cantilever is typically silicon or silicon nitride with a tip radius of curvature on the order of nanometers. When the tip is brought into proximity of a sample surface, forces between the tip and the sample lead to a deflection of the cantilever according to Hooke's law. A multi-segment photodiode measures the deflection via a laser beam, which is reflected on the cantilever surface. Because there are so many promising areas in nanotechnology and biophysics which can be examined by AFM (force spectroscopy on DNA, muscle protein titin, polymers or more complex structures like bacteria flagella, 3-D imaging, etc. ) the availability of instruments is crucial, especially for new groups and young scientists with limited funds. The price tag of AFMs runs in the hundreds of thousand s of dollars, though.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS - a registered trademark of 3D Systems, Inc.) is an additive rapid manufacturing technique that uses a high powered laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, or ceramic powders into a mass representing a desired 3-dimensional object. The laser selectively fuses powdered material by scanning cross-sections generated from a 3-D digital description of the part (e.g. from a CAD file or scan data) on the surface of a powder bed. After each cross-section is scanned, the powder bed is lowered by one layer thickness, a new layer of material is applied on top, and the process is repeated until the part is completed.
"To evaluate the performance of a rapid prototyped AFM, we reprinted one of our aluminum AFM heads with the SLS method in plastic" Robert Lugmaier, a co-author of the paper, explains. "To compare the noise and drift values of these AFM heads under equal conditions, the same optical and electrical components were used. The laser diode, the piezoactuator, and the photodetector were identical for the plastic printed as well as the aluminum milled AFM."

July 31, 2007

Perfect lens could reverse Casimir force

From a paper at physics world, a nanoscale perfect lens could reverse the Casimir force note: perfect lens have not been created yet, so it will take some years to make this happen.

Metamaterials could lead to frictionless micro and nanoscale machines.
Metamaterials (which exist) lead to perfect lens (research is progressing towards this goal). Perfect lens can be used to reverse the casimir force (computational result) and the perfect lens can be used to enable frictionless machines (if computations hold and engineering is successful).

The normally attractive Casimir force between two surfaces can be made repulsive if a "perfect" lens with a negative index of refraction is sandwiched between the surfaces, according to calculations done by physicists in the UK. Ulf Leonhardt and Thomas Philbin of the University of St Andrews reckon that the repulsive force may even be strong enough to levitate a tiny mirror. The repulsive effect -- which has yet to be observed experimentally -- could also help minimize the friction in micrometre-sized machines caused by the Casimir force (New Journal of Physics to be published).

The negative-index metamaterial is able to modify the zero-point oscillations in the gap between the surfaces, reversing the direction of the Casimir force. Indeed, the researchers believe that this repulsive force is strong enough to levitate an aluminium mirror that is 500nm thick, causing it to hover above a perfect lens placed over a conducting plate.

Since the Casimir force acts on the length scale of nanomachines, manipulating it could be important for future applications of nanotechnology. "In the nano-world, the Casimir force is the ultimate cause of friction," Leonhardt told "Our result means we could now envision frictionless machines or novel micromotors."

Effective Sagacity and effective AGI improvement in science and technology

Michael Anissimov has an interesting article AI and Effective Sagacity, by Mitchell Howe

I believe that a large part of the surprisingly common discord between IQ
scores and societal significance can be explained by my simple theory of
‘Effective Sagacity’

The amount previously invested and currently spent in highest-level
thought combine to form one’s “Effective Sagacity.” In the end, this is the
*only* measurement of mental capacity an AI researcher ought to be
interested in.

I agree that the Effective sagacity measure is what is relevant.

The most important part for me is:
the truly Sagacious AI could also effectively find its way out of this cul-de-sac of human thought. It could do so the same way outstanding scientists do today: by identifying the limits of current understanding and coming up with the right questions to ask in order to expand those limits. The AI could either come up with great experiments to advance human knowledge, or, more efficiently in the software field, create and perform experiments on its
own. Even if the AI is -merely- capable of directing humans in bold new experiments, it has already done something truly significant.

I am concerned with actual productivity gains and amount and timing of technological improvement.

I think a rough drilldown is possible of which areas of science, technology would be most ameniable to improvement without (or limited amounts of construction and experimentation) constructing devices and experiment and how much of an impact would even fastly superior Sagacity have. How much recursive improvement would be possible before architectural limitations or the problems or limitations of the initial imperfect AGI design surface.

I think for really amazing work and improvement, the AGI needs to arrange to get things built. Better tools, better computers etc...

July 30, 2007

Adiabatic quantum computers operate even with strong decoherence

Dwave has published a paper which claims that the effect of strong decoherence on AQC is to (generically) square the time it takes an optimal algorithm to operate. This wipes out quadratic speed-ups (like adiabatic Grover search), but implies that exponential gains remain exponential for AQC even with total loss of phase coherence.

The paper is Decoherence in adiabatic quantum computation M. H. S. Amin1 and Dmitri V. Averin2
1 D-Wave Systems Inc., 100-4401 Still Creek Drive, Burnaby, B.C., V5C 6G9, Canada
2 Department of Physics and Astronomy, Stony Brook University, SUNY, Stony Brook, NY 11794-3800

We have studied the decoherence properties of adiabatic quantum computation in the presence of in general non-Markovian (e.g., low-frequency) noise. We show that the global scheme of adiabatic quantum computation maintains its performance even for strong decoherence. The more efficient local adiabatic computation, however, does not improve scaling of the computation time with the number of qubits n as in the decoherence-free case, although it does provide some \prefactor" improvement. The scaling improvement requires phase coherence throughout the computation, limiting the computation time and the problem size n.

Why is this important?
This is advancing answers to the questions around the Dwave quantum computer (16 qubit demo feb/2007).
Dwave Systems indicates that they will have a 1024 qubit commercial quantum computer in 2008. If this paper is correct then that machine will have vastly superior performance for solving problems where there is exponential improvement for quantum computer algorithms. Also, where they can maintain freedom from decoherence they will have large improvements for several other very useful problems. Among the problems that should see improvement is quantum chemistry simulations which would accelerate the development of molecular nanotechnology. Initial more limited but significant commercial success should provide dwave with the funds to refine their qubits and increase the size of their quantum computers. 2009-2010 should be when their systems start to make significant impact on the development of quantum chemistry and molecular nanotechnology.

From the Comments:
Q: "this implies that exponential gains remain exponential for AQC even with total loss of phase coherence.” from Dave Bacon

Must say I don’t get that statement at all. Why is the error model considered here the one which is relevant to universal AQC?

Answer from one of the authors: Mohammad Amin
To answer Dave’s question, in this work we considered a wide range of classical and quantum noise models which include bosonic environment (phonons or electromagnetic noise) and also spin environment. We also considered the most important type of error in AQC, which is excitation at the energy anticrossing between the lowest two energy levels. Every other type of error in AQC is suppressed by a much larger gap. What we found is that decoherence broadens the resonance region. Since for the global AQC only the integral of the transition rate matters, the broadening doesn’t affect the probability of excitation. On the other hand, for local AQC the width of the broadening plays an important role making it very sensitive to decoherence. Indeed, the computation time in local AQC is limited by the decoherence time the same way as it is in gate model QC. The fact that Landau-Zener transition (i.e., global AQC) is insensitive to phase coherence has also been discussed before us by others, see e.g., Saito et al. arXiv:cond-mat/0703596, in which they also consider a completely general noise model.

Investors betting big on yuan appreciation

Investors from California to Singapore are making a big bet that China will have to appreciate the yuan

Rajeev De Mello, who helps manage $600 billion as head of Western Asset's Singapore office, says the currency may climb 6.4 percent this year to 7.11 to the dollar as the government attempts to restrain the world's fastest-growing major economy.

``The yuan is going to be stronger,'' said De Mello, who plans to start buying the forwards. ``I don't believe that China will tolerate high inflation.''

One-year non-deliverable yuan forwards jumped 1.6 percent to 7.1475 per dollar this month. The contracts are agreements in which assets are bought and sold at current prices for delivery at a later specified date. A non-deliverable forward is typically settled in U.S. dollars and involves no physical exchange of other currencies.

The yuan has appreciated 5.6 percent to 7.5674 against the dollar since Paulson, 61, took office on July 10, 2006. The British pound rose almost twice as much, though the pace of growth in the U.K. is about a quarter of China's 11.9 percent.

Western Asset Management Co. in Pasadena and Pictet Asset Management in Geneva are buying contracts tied to the future value of the yuan, driving the price so high that the currency must strengthen at least 5.5 percent in the next 12 months before they see any profit. The so-called non-deliverable forwards are rising at the fastest pace in two years.

China may let the currency strengthen 3.5 percent in a single step this year to cool ``overheating politicians in Washington'' as much as the economy, said Glenn Maguire, chief Asia economist in Hong Kong at Societe Generale SA, France's second-biggest bank. He also predicts deposit rates will rise ``substantially.''

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the world's largest securities firm by market value, recommended buying two-year non- deliverable forwards as one of its top 10 trades for 2007, because the contracts only priced in annual appreciation of 4 percent.

China's foreign reserves total $1.33 trillion.

China may have a one day 3.5% appreciation of the yuan

Appreciation of the yuan and continued strong economic growth in China are central to my thesis that the Chinese economy will pass the United states economy on an exchange rated basis by 2020 I now think that there is a greater than 50% chance that this could happen by 2015-2018 based on the faster appreciation of the yuan and weakness in the US economy.

Energy sources compared on lifecycle CO2 and energy intensity

A 182 page pdf from Australia that befores a detailed analysis on the CO2 generated for the full life cycle of different energy sources and compares energy sources based on energy intensity

Here is the chart that summarizes the comparisons. Notice the ranges in the brackets. Those are the range across which the values could fall depending upon location and other variable factors

Nuclear power is about 10-20 times better for CO2 than coal or natural gas.
Nuclear power is better than photovoltaics for CO2 and three times worse than wind and four times worse than hydroelectric.

Hat tip to for pointing out this source and collecting several interesting articles from around the blogosphere.

As usual a high quality article from Kirk Sorensen at Kirk provides an indication of how much of California has seismic issues where a nuclear reactor would not be placed. Kirk also reiterates his plan for submarine placement of nuclear reactors to enable reactors to tide out any earthquake.

A reminder:
Go to the California power initiative to support allowing nuclear power to be used to provide clean energy to Californians

July 29, 2007

Quantum phase coherence imaged and manipulated

Researchers have imaged the quantum order which is sometimes referred to as phase coherence and can manipulate the distance over which it can be maintained. The team from the London Center for Nanotechnology, has detected a hidden magnetic "quantum order" that extends over chains of 100 atoms in a ceramic without classical magnetism.

Image of quantum order made using neutrons by the LCN (London Centre for Nanotechnology)/UCL team and its collaborators from the US and Japan at the ISIS particle accelerator in the UK. The sharp red peak in the middle of the picture corresponds to nearly perfect quantum coherence. (Credit: Image courtesy of University College London)

Other examples of large-scale quantum phase coherence include superconductors and superfluids where quantum physics leads to fascinating properties.

The team also discovered that they could limit the coherence or make it disappear altogether by introducing defects into the material either by adding chemical impurities (doping) or heating. These defects break the chains into independent sub-chains, each with its own, hidden order. This part of the reported research is the first step towards engineered spin-based quantum states in ceramics.

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