May 02, 2008

China 3rd largest economy

China (including Hong Kong and Macau) has a larger GDP than Germany based on current exchange rates. The Euro has traded down to 10.77 to the Chinese Yuan

The Euro/Yuan exchange rate will likely continue to fluctuate.

The European countries (France, Spain, Italy) have been saying that the Euro has been too strong. The US federal reserve has indicated that it will probably not cut US interest rates further. All factors that would indicate the Euro should continue to ease to the 10.5 level against the Chinese yuan over the next month. Then China would be third largest even without including Hong Kong and Macau.

China's economy could be 2.5 times that of the US by 2030, based on Japan's experience and the yuan's appreciation against the greenback, a senior Chinese economist says in Harvard Business Review's Chinese edition.

The forecast by Justin Lin Yifu, head of Peking University's China Center for Economic Research and chief economist-designate of the World Bank - in the May issue of the magazine published on Thursday - is one of the most ambitious for China's economic growth.

By 2030, it is possible that the per capita GDP of China reaches half of that of the Americans. Given that the Chinese population might be five times that of the US at that time, the Chinese GDP would be 2.5 times of the US.

The World Bank, where Lin will assume his post at the end of this month, said last month that China had surpassed Japan to become the second largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity.

China's GDP in 2007 was 24.66 trillion yuan ($3.38 trillion) and per capita GDP was $2,556, official figures suggest.

My projection is that China will get close to double the size of the US economy in 2030 on an exchange rate basis.

May 01, 2008

Toyota Production system applied to semiconductor fabs will transform the business

The Toyota Production System was applied to a semiconductor fab and they reduced the manufacturing cost per wafer by 12 percent and the cycle time—the time it takes to turn a blank silicon wafer into a finished wafer, full of logic chips—by 67 percent. In addition, the number of products produced increased by 50 percent, and the production capacity increased by 10 percent, all without additional investment. If the fab continues on this journey of organizational learning and improves aspects such as equipment maintenance variability, even bigger gains are expected.

The new economics of semiconductor manufacturing now makes it possible to produce chips profitably in much smaller volumes. This effect may not be very important for the fabs that make huge numbers of high-performance chips, but then again, that segment will take up a declining share of the total market. This isn't because demand for those chips will shrink. Rather, demand will grow even faster for products that require chips with rapid time-to-market and lower costs, such as consumer electronics.

Implementing TPS not only reduces the cost per unit at a given production volume, it also reduces the minimum number of units a fab needs to turn out to be cost-effective. That is, TPS moves the cost curve down and also broadens it.

Spear and Bowen (then at the Harvard Business School,) distilled TPS into four rules, which in summary are (1) highly specify activities, (2) clearly define the transfer of material and information, (3) keep the pathway for every product and service simple and direct, and (4) detect and solve problems where and when they happen, using the scientific method. When we present these rules, even in their fully detailed form, clients generally protest that they “do it that way already.” But on closer examination—while auditing their fabs—we often find something quite different.

Here is the TPS questions to see if your fab is really following best practices:


1. Do you know the theoretical minimum time to process a wafer?

2. Do you know exactly how many process steps are required to complete a wafer?

3. Is your actual manufacturing process time less than twice your theoretical minimum process time?

a. Do you know the critical process step that constrains the throughput capacity of your fab?

b. Is the uptime of the process equipment in that step predictable?

c. Is there a fundamental reason that the manufacturing process time cannot approach the theoretical minimum process time in your fab?

4. Do you know the cost per wafer of each process step?

a. Is your scrap rate less than 2 percent?

b. Is your rework rate less than 2 percent?

5. Do you know exactly how many wafers are in your fab?

a. How many are product wafers?

b. How many are test wafers or process-monitor wafers?

c. How many are engineering wafers?

d. What is the ratio of product-wafer processing to non-product-wafer processing?

6. Were you able to rapidly identify and trace the latest drop in yield in your fab?

a. Did you have enough data to empirically correlate the yield drop to a piece of equipment or specific process step?

b. How do you know that the process equipment is operating within specifications?

7. Did everyone give you the same answers?

Were they all in the fab today?

Bakken oil study North Dakota only and independent of USGS, Active Companies and list of new 2008 producing wells

The southern play is related to the map trends that are seen in Montana and carrying them over into North Dakota. This activity is currently concentrated around McKenzie County. The northern play is related to the interval that has been producing from the middle member for a number of years. The few wells, primarily along the northern Nesson anticline, have limited production from perforations in the middle member. The Bakken in these wells was not the primary target; that was deeper usually the Devonian Winnipegosis. The Bakken was generally a bailout zone, perforated because the wells were reaching their economic limit or had no other production. [pictures and captions from a North Dakota state presentation made in Regina]

NOTE: As of May 2, 2008, I, Brian Wang, do not own any of these stocks directly. I have some mutual funds but I do not know what stocks are held there.

This article provides information on companies, links to North Dakota state reports and presentation and North Dakota released wells and initial production from each well.

This article indicates exactly how fast the Bakken is playing out. 5000 to 9000 barrels of oil per day per month in North Dakota are being added. This does not include Montana, Saskatchewan and South Dakota or Manitoba. Since the end of 2007, 23000 barrels of oil per day more oil from North Dakota (138,000 bopd total)increase to the end of February, 2008. [Most, 80-90%, from the Bakken.] A simple projection would be that 100,000 barrels per day could be added in 2008. On the positive side : Drilling activity is increasing. The summer should have more activity. On the negative side: there is the decline rate of wells, average new wells may not be as good as January and February. I will monitor and write updates as the 2008 and later information rolls in.

I focused on Saskatchewan in a separate article. Initial production has tended to decrease an average of 60% of initial production [decline rate].

Wells stay confidential for 6 months. ND also releases its actual monthly production from 3 months ago.

Sometimes during quarterly earnings reports companies will pre-release well production info generally if they have good news, like to 3000 barrels per day from two new wells from EOG / Enron Oil and Gas). In the further reading section I have and will add links to quarterly earnings transcripts for relevant oil companies. I will have the quarterly earnings call transcipts for more companies involved in ND Bakken as they become available.

Looking at only the North Dakota portion of the Bakken oil field

UPDATE: Welcome instapundit readers.

The Bakken shale formation in North Dakota holds up to 167 billion barrels of oil but only about 1 percent of it can be recovered using current technology, a new North Dakota state Department of Mineral Resources study says.

Here is a link to the daily drilling activity report for North Dakota It lists wells permited, completed, dry and released from confidential status.

Here was a big list of released from confidential status. Wells stay on the confidential list for 6 months after they are completed.

EOG Resources, Marathon Oil, Headington Oil, Continental Resources, Hess Corporation, Petro Hunt has several wells.

Some of the smaller players with poor well production might not be using the latest and best horizontal multiple fracturing methods or some may just be drilling into poorer parts of the formation.

Just from the April 28, 2008 well information release 9411 barrels of oil per day.
WELL                                                 BOPD 
#16469 - EOG Resources, Herbert 1-26H, Mountrail Co. 1267 
#16637 - EOG Resources, Long 1-01H, Mountrail Co.    1058 
#16776 - Hunt Oil, Bowman 1-18H, Bowman Co.           864 
#16713 - EOG Resources, Austin 1-02H,  Mountrail Co.  781 
#16751 - Marathon Oil, Reiss 34-20H, Dunn Co.         524 
#16664 - Headington Oil, Basaraba 44X-27, Billings Co 485 
#16730 - Burlington Resources, 11-14H,  McKenzie Co.  456 
#16704 - Marathon Oil, Darcy 34-32H, Dunn Co.         398 
#16729 - Marathon Oil Co., Vihon 44-8H,  Dunn Co.     348 
#16694 - Hess Corp, Ha-Mogen-152-95, McKenzie Co.     348 
#16750 - Sinclair Oil , Uran 1-22H, Mountrail Co.     337 
#16749 - Headington Oil, Ekren 44X-5,  Williams Co.   312  
#16451 - Marathon Oil , Gerald Tuhy 21-4H, Dunn Co.   225 
#16683 - Burlington Res, Federal Jorgenson 14-5H,Dunn 224 
#16748 - Samson Res, Sparks 4-162-98H, Divide Co.     197 
#16725 - Petro-Hunt, Gordon Hall 29C-3-1H, Divide Co. 119 
#16663 - Petro-Hunt, Torgerson 15B-2-2H Mountrail Co. 117  
#16560 - Samson Res, Hanisch 28-163-98H H, Divide Co.  58 
#16737 - Continental Res, McGinnity 1-15H, Divide Co.  53

14% of the new oil production in North Dakota was not in the Bakken for the April release. The above list removed wells for the Red River, Madison and Devonian. About 1300 bopd.

After the jump more wells from

March 13, 2008 had a large release of well production information

Bakken North Dakota Isopach. Distribution of the Middle Member throughout North Dakota and Montana. Note the prominent trend in the isopach coming in from Richland County, MT and the depositional center just to the east of the Nesson Anticline.

WELLS                                                   BOPD  
#16578 - EOG Resources, Risan 1-34H, Mountrail Co.       817 
#16635 - EOG Resources, Sampson 1-12H, Mountrail Co.     581 
#16715 - Marathon Oil, Kevin Buehner 11-18H, Dunn Co.    463 
#16656 - Headington Oil, Hazel 44X-22,Williams Co.       411 
#16695 - Hess Corp, Ha-Chapin-152-95 3229H-1,McKenzie Co 392 
#16726 - Marathon Oil, Benz 24-21H, Dunn Co.             278 
#16699 - Continental Res., Jones 11-33NH,  Bowman Co.    277 
#16572 - Encore Operating, Sadowsky 44-1H, Dunn Co.      261 
#16724 - Continental Res, Spry 21-13NH, Bowman Co.       232 
#16702 - Continental Res, Sophia 44-12SH, Bowman Co.     228 
#16676 - Murex Petroleum, Ryan Thomas 27-34H,Williams Co 223
#16701 - Headington Oil, Ramberg State 14X-15,Williams   192
#16744 - Tracker Resource Dev, LLC, Trampe 1-1H, Dunn Co 163
#16703 - Burlington Res, Kelly 44-2H, Dunn Co.           144 
#16738 - Zenergy, Ft. Buford 1-16H, Williams Co.         125 
#16710 - Hess Corp, BL-Wallentinson-156-95, Williams Co. 110 
#16677 - Marathon Oil, Beck 24-8H, Dunn Co.              101 
#16642 - Continental Res, Jorgensen 21-4 SH, Bowman Co.   54 
#16428 - Summit Res., Summit State 26-34, Billings Co.    22 
#16712 - Hess Corp, NSCU P-715AH, Bottineau Co.           17 

bopd  5091

Feb 11, 2008 another big well information day

#16484 - EOG Resources, Wenco 1-30H, Mountrail Co.        1670
#16691 - Continental Resources, Inc., Lamb 11-24NH, Bowman Co. 614
#16542 - Whiting O&G Corporation, Lindvig 11-13, McKenzie Co. 560
#16598 - Continental Res, Kid Creek 44-29NH,  Bowman Co. 519
#16571 - Burlington Res, Lillibridge 11-23H,McKenzie Co. 476
#16647 - Burlington Res, Corral Creek 34-33H, Dunn Co.         439
#16611 - Marathon Oil Company, Carlson 21-29H, Dunn Co.         428
#16629 - Whiting O&G Corporation, Solberg 32-2, Williams Co. 420
#16439 - Marathon Oil, Hecker 21-5H, Dunn Co.                 373
#16689 - Helis O&G, L.L.C., Linseth 4-8H, McKenzie Co.   373
#16678 - Encore Operating, L.P., Truchan 11X-33H, Dunn Co. 315
#16653 - Prima Exploration, Inc., Paradox 11-30H, Burke Co. 285
#16502 - Encore Operating, TR Madison Unit 21-14H, Billings Co. 276
#16610 - Hess Corp, BB-Olson-150-95 0817H-1, McKenzie Co. 267
#16670 - Continental Res, Jean Nelson 1-35H, Mountrail Co. 266
#16634 - Petro-Hunt, L.L.C., Wold 31D-4-3H,Burke Co.      187
#16638 - Zenergy, Inc., Charbonneau 1-14H,  Williams Co. 143
#16723 - Zavanna, LLC, Brushy Bill 1-19H, Williams Co.         140
#16679 - BTA Oil Producers, 20401 JV-P Nelson Williams Co. 138
#16420 - Summit Res, Williamson Federal 2-26, Golden Valley Co. 102
#16568 - Samson Resources Co, Holm 33-163-98H, Divide Co. 102
#16529 - Continental Res., Spry 11-13NH, Bowman Co.         100
#16681 - FH Petroleum Corp., Marie 24-28, Golden Valley Co. 72
#16706 - Hess Corporation, BLSU D-405,  Williams Co.         56
#16609 - Continental Resources, Inc., Jost 1-20H, McKenzie Co. 38
#16617 - Hess Corp, Bl-Heen-156-95 2227H-1, Williams Co. 38
#16688 - Hess Corp, NSCU M-717AH, Bottineau Co.           34
#16692 - BTA Oil Prod, 20401 JV-P Gohrick 43-17, Williams Co. 32
#16641 - Continental Res, Jorgensen 21-4 NH, Bowman Co.         25
#16655 - Hess Corporation, BLDU B-305, N, Williams Co.    11
#16697 - Primewest Petroleum Price 5H, Williams Co.         10
BOPD 8509

Jan 4, 2008 another big well information release day.

North Dakota's Bakken oil is increasing at about 6000-7000 barrels of oil per day per month. The trend is for another 50,000-60,000 barrels of oil per day to be added this year (2008) For North Dakota's Bakken oil production.

Another process that affects the Bakken section is hydrocarbon generation. The Bakken is a rich source rock with TOC values ranging up to 40%. This map shows the maturity of the Bakken as a source rock. Areas of intense generation are found in McKenzie and the eastern portion of Richland Counties.

Current technology could lead to the recovery of about 2.1 billion barrels in North Dakota's the "middle Bakken" formation, where oil-producing rock is sandwiched between layers of shale about 10,000 feet under the ground. Helms said the federal [USGS] study focused on the performance of wells currently working in the Bakken, while the state "went back and looked at the rock."

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said it costs more than $5 million to drill a Bakken well, and dozens are currently producing.

"What industry is mostly concerned with is to find - economically - what is going to work in the Bakken," Ness said. "What we have right now is one big scientific experiment going on out there."

The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that up to 4.3 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota and Montana, using current technology.

That report was done independently of the state study, Murphy said.

"Their numbers also include Montana, ours only includes North Dakota," he said.

The federal report found up to 2.6 billion barrels could be recovered in North Dakota, compared with the state's estimate of 2.1 billion barrels, Murphy said.

The Bakken oilfield in context. This article reviews the oil megaprojects around the world. The Middle east, Russia, Khazakistan, Brazil are still the bigger players. The USA should have a deep oil rig, Thunder horse, coming online in 2008 and it should reach 250,000 barrels of oil per day sometime in 2009.

The confidential well list for North Dakota

A discussion on which stocks to invest in to take advantage of the Bakken oil development

EOG, BEXP, CLR , WLL and NOG, perhaps even others like HESS

EOG Resources, Inc. (EOG)
Whiting Petroleum Corp. (WLL)
Brigham Exploration Co. (BEXP)
Northern Oil and Gas, Inc. (NOG)
Continental Resources (CLR)
Marathon Oil (MRO)
HES corporation Q1 2008 earnings call transcript

On the Bakken, we [HESS] currently have net 410,000 acres or so. We're still in the business of acquiring more acreage provided it makes economic sense. We have 50 operated wells in the Bakken. We expect production in 2008 to be around 8,000 barrels a day. We're running six rigs. By the end of the year we'll go up to eight, and by 2009 we'll go up to 10.

Individual well rates with rates being the average of the first 30 days of production range from about 100 barrels a day to 400 barrels a day. We see some variation in the reservoir quality in an aerial sense. We're doing a lot of work to model the subsurface, to understand the geology better, and we're also continuing to do work to optimize completion practices, particularly fracing technology.

EOG Resources Q1 2008 May 2, 2008 earnings call transcript

Our 8-rig North Dakota Bakken development is proceeding as anticipated and is still averaging 100% direct after-tax reinvestment rates of return. We're consistently making very good wells.

Austin 8-26H well that was completed at the end of February had an initial production rate of 3,060 barrels of oil per day. Recently, we completed the Austin 6-15H well that had an initial production rate of 3,630 barrels of oil per day. These are the two best wells in the field today, and I will note that those are probably two of the best wells in recent history in the Bakken play in North Dakota in its entirety.

Within the Parshall field, very strong initial production rates are now routine, similar to our frequency of monster wells in the Johnson County. The more drilling we do, the more confident we are regarding our net 80 million barrel reserve estimate for this asset.

The upside to this estimate will be determined in three possible ways: First, by extending the field limits and step-outs really; second, by a possible 320-acre downspacing; and the third, by secondary recovery. The field is currently being drilling on 640 acre spacing, and we are currently completing our first 320-acre downspace well.

We will need several months of production history from the well in order to determine the impact to any increase in reserve recovery versus acceleration. I expect that by yearend, we'll have a definitive idea regarding the Bakken reserve side.

EOG currently has 320,000 net acres in the entire Williston Basin and the field that we always talk about, partial field including those 3000 barrel a day, Austin wells, really only it comes to about a 110,000 of those 320,000 acres. So, answer to your first question is absolutely, yes. We believe that there are other perspective areas within the Williston Basin that we have currently leased and we will be testing in the future for oil prospects.

[On the USGS 3.7 billion barrel estimate] The USGS estimate is the entire shale will work to the tune of maybe 25,000 total locations, wells to be drilled, and that's where we think it's perhaps a little optimistic. The shale may not be intact...Parshall is such a sweet spot because of fracture density in the facies of the rock and that will probably not be true in very many other places in the Williston Basin. So, in summary, I'd say that the overall number is not incorrect; it's just perhaps optimistic.

On the North Dakota state site the Austin 8-26H well is still listed as confidential. #16885 NWNW 26-154-90 and won't be released by the state until Aug 14, 2008. But obviously EOG is talking about it. They seem to hold the information confidential for 6 months.

16954 EOG RESOURCES, INC. AUSTIN 6-15H SWSE 15-T154N-R90W 10/8/2008

Continental Resources Q1 2008 earnings call transcript.

[Continental Resources] has increased our 2008 CapEx budget for drilling, land and seismic by $167 million, which is 27% higher than the budget approved last November. $65 million of this increase is allocated to the Bakken play in Montana and North Dakota where we have a dominant operating position.

Finally, even as we are successful in one area, we must be engaged and prepared to take new positions of significance in other resource plays as a potential in mergers. This is what Continental has accomplished in the Bakken and the Woodford, and is committed to achieve elsewhere in the United States. We are prepared to talk today about a play in Western Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle, some of you have called our stealth play.

We began 2008 with 13 operated drilling rigs. We now have 22, and we expect to reach 30 by yearend. As a result of this increased activity, we expect our 2008 production exit rate will be about 43,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, or about 42% higher than average rate for the first quarter just ended.

Continental recognizes potential early in the development of play and began leasing back in 2002. As a result Continental is the largest producer and controls the largest acreage position in the Williston Bakken play today, with approximately 487,000 net acres under lease. And we continue to build our position with 66,000 of acres added so far this year.

Continental is also one of the most active operators participating in one-third of the 74 Bakken wells currently drilling in the play.

We will be increasing that count to 12 in May and 13 during the third quarter with the additional rigs being deployed in North Dakota. There are also three additional rigs operated by ConocoPhillips that are drilling on the company's behalf within the 50-50 area of mutual interest in North Dakota.

Drilling results had been inline with our expected average recovery of 300 Mboe gross from our 320 acre infilled and 640 tri-lateral drilling in Montana as well as our 1,280-acre drilling along with Nesson Anticline in North Dakota.

During the quarter, we completed 18 gross, 8.1 net wells. And as detailed in the press release, you can see some of our more recent completions with 7-day initial production rate ranging from 348 to 609 barrels of oil equivalent per day. The average 7-day initial production rate for all wells completed so far this year has been 340 barrels equivalent per day.

Whiting Petroleum Q1 Earnings Call transcript

[Whiting] continues to generate excellent results from our Bakken drilling program in North Dakota where we recently brought in the Maynard Uran Trust No. 11-24 with an initial production rate of 2,132 BOEs per day. We own an 84% working interest and a 68% net revenue interest in this well.

Turning to our Bakken play, our net production from the middle Bakken formation in the Sanish and Parshall fields of North Dakota, totaled 3,344 barrels of oil per day during the first quarter of 2008. This represents a 92% increase in that same volume number over the fourth quarter of 2007. Net production from these fields in March rose to 4,153 barrels of oil per day or 9.9% of March's 41,800 BOEs per day.

In our Sanish field, in Montreal County, we completed the Maynard Uran Trust 11-24H on April 23, flowing 1,923 barrels of oil and 1.3 million cubic feet of gas per day from the Middle Bakken formation at a vertical depth of approximately 10,300 feet. On an equivalent basis, this equates to the previously stated 2,132 BOEs per day.

The triple lateral was drilled on a 1,280 acre spacing unit and penetrated more than 20,000 feet of horizontal pay. Whiting holds an 84% working interest and 68% net revenue interest in this new producer and of course we are the operator. We are currently drilling or completing 6 wells in the Sanish field, 4 operated, 2 non-operated, and one well is waiting for the lateral to be drilled.

We are also completing a 100% working interest well in the northern portion of the neighboring Parshall field. This well is known as the Lee State 44-16H well. We expect to have as many as 9 rigs working in the area by year-end 2008.

In 2008, we plan to drill approximately 36 operated wells in the Sanish with an average working interest of 81%. We expect most of these to be single-lateral wells drilled on 1,280-acre spacing units. Ultimately, we may drill two single-lateral wells per 1,280-acre spacing unit. Along with some potential in-fill drilling, we estimate we could have up to 230 total well locations in the Sanish field. Our net production in the Sanish field alone in March 2008 averaged 1,175 barrels of oil per day.

Well search by company name

Petrobank Energy & Company NPV PBG.TO is a good investment for Saskatchewan's part of the Bakken [Crescent Point and Tristar are also succeeding in Saskatchewan's Bakken oil]

Northern Oil and Gas, Inc. (NOG)

Detailed presentations on the North Dakota Bakken oilfields

It is about 29000 bopd from the totals of initial production for North Dakota.
I need to weed out some of the red river numbers.

I will be adding highlights from the North Dakota presentations on the Bakken
Isopach maps etc...

Cumulative oil production by formation in North Dakota

Production by formation for 2007

The USGS assessment with 38 powerpoint slide discussion.


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Future Predictions

The Carnival of Space - the anniversary edition

The one year anniversary edition of the Carnival of space is up at Why Home School ? As this is the anniversary edition it is the largest ever with the most articles.

I provided my article updating the progress of the vasimr plasma rocket and comparing the solar electric sail to a dandelion seed on the solar wind.

Centauri Dreams talks about Nick Bostrom's article about the Big Filter theory of the Fermi Paradox

Colony Worlds talks about conquering the kuiper belt

Loads of astronomy and the theme of space television with mentions of Star Trek, Space 1999, Battlestar Galactica, My Favorite Martian, Lost in Space, Babylon 5 and 2001 a Space Odyssey.

April 30, 2008

Memristor new basic circuit element, old elements were resistor, capacitor and inductor

In 1971, Professor Leon Chua described and named the memristor, arguing that it should be included along with the resistor, capacitor and inductor as the fourth fundamental circuit element. The memristor has properties that cannot be duplicated by any combination of the other three elements. It is would help replace DRAM and for the human brain-like characteristics, memristor technology could one day lead to computer systems that can remember and associate patterns in a way similar to how people do [artificial intelligence and singularity related]. Faster computers and electronics that use a lot less energy are now possible.

UPDATE: excellent coverage on this at Ars Technica

Currently the good folk at HP Labs have exploited this to create simple data storage devices. Using memristors, they have been able to store 100 gigabits on a single die in one square centimeter. That is substantially more than the 16 gigabits for a single flash chip, and a comparable storage density to modern hard drives. In the future, HP thinks they can get that up to a terabit or more per centimeter... with the access speed of DRAM. Clearly, this will vie with other technologies such as IBM's racetrack memory. Of course, storage is only one possible role for memristors.

Memristors could also be useful in creating analog processors. When there is a smaller change in charge, the change in resistance is also smaller. The authors suggest that this could lead to the development of transistors akin to neurons, in which increased use leads to increased conductance.

A final beauty of memristors comes from their response to decreasing size. The smaller the device, the more important memristance becomes. Conventional electronic circuits have ever increasing problems with heat and leakage at smaller sizes, but memristance is proportional to the inverse of the square of the film thickness, so smaller films mean a stronger memristance effect. By developing transistors based on memristors, we may be able to continue scaling down microprocessors for a (relatively) long time to come.

Memristors would be a single device element and not several transistors and capacitors (less silicon, denser circuits and less power) and less heating than phase change memory.

Wolfgang Porod, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Notre Dame and director of the university's Center for Nano Science and Technology. "However, if it's going to be 100 times better or 1,000 times better (than today's flash), it's very hard to say at this point."

Williams and co-authors Dmitri B. Strukov, Gregory S. Snider and Duncan R. Stewart were able to formulate a physics-based model of a memristor and build nanoscale devices in their lab that demonstrate all of the necessary operating characteristics to prove that the memristor was real.

"This opens up a whole new door in thinking about how chips could be designed and operated," Williams says.

Engineers could, for example, develop a new kind of computer memory that would supplement and eventually replace today's commonly used dynamic random access memory (D-RAM). Computers using conventional D-RAM lack the ability to retain information once they are turned off. When power is restored to a D-RAM-based computer, a slow, energy-consuming "boot-up" process is necessary to retrieve data stored on a magnetic disk required to run the system.

Memristor-based computers wouldn't require that process, using less power and possibly increasing system resiliency and reliability. Chua believes the memristor could have applications for computing, cell phones, video games - anything that requires a lot of memory without a lot of battery-power drain.

17 memristors in a row are visible on this AFM image. The memristor consists of two titanium dioxide layers connected to wires. When a current is applied to one, the resistance of the other changes. That change can be registered as data. Image credit: J.J. Yang / HP Labs

Memristor-based memory and storage has the potential to lower power consumption and provide greater resiliency and reliability in the face of power interruptions to a data center.
Another potential application of memristor technology could be the development of computer systems that remember and associate series of events in a manner similar to the way a human brain recognizes patterns. This could substantially improve today’s facial recognition technology, enable security and privacy features that recognize a complex set of biometric features of an authorized person to access personal information, or enable an appliance to learn from experience.

Solar power breakthroughs SUNRGI 7 cents per kwh 2009 and Israel Solar Power 100 times lower cost

SUNRGI's "concentrated photovoltaic" system relies on lenses to magnify sunlight 2,000 times, letting it produce as much electricity as standard panels with a far smaller system. They say they'll start producing solar panels by mid-2009 that will generate electricity for about 7 cents a kilowatt hour, including installation.

Update: Very cool: Dilbert blog [Scott Adams] has linked to this article.

In terms of Scott Adams idea that Israel with 100 times cheaper solar power could break the Middle East oil stranglehold. The Israeli government announced its support for a broad effort to promote the use of electric cars, embracing a joint venture between an American-Israeli entrepreneur and Renault, of France, and its partner, Nissan Motor, of Japan. The idea, said Shai Agassi, 39, the software entrepreneur behind the new company, is to sell electric car transportation on the model of the cellphone. Purchasers get subsidized hardware - the car - and pay a monthly fee for expected mileage, like minutes on a cellphone plan, eliminating concerns about the fluctuating price of gasoline.

Part of the global effort is the development of ultrabattery (cheaper, higher performance, longer lasting battery/supercapacitor combinations.

Solar panels generate electricity when photons in sunlight knock loose electrons in silicon or another semiconductor. Other concentrated photovoltaic makers magnify sunlight about 500 times. SUNRGI says it can multiply that by four because it has a system to instantly cool its germanium-based semiconductor from 3,300 degrees to 20 degrees above ambient temperature. High temperatures can melt a solar cell.

Also pushing down costs are a highly efficient semiconductor that converts 37% of the sunlight to electricity, more than double the industry average. The unit's compact size allows it to be made at electronics or PC factories, avoiding the need to build new plants.

SUNRGI technology is discussed in greater detail at their website.

SUNRGI panels

Scientists at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel claim they have found a way to construct efficient photovoltaic cells costing at least a hundred times less than conventional silicon based devices, and with 25% energy conversion efficiency.

The reactive element in the researchers' patent pending device is genetically engineered proteins using photosynthesis for production of electrical energy.

They also claim that PS I generates a stable charge separation in 200 ns across 6 nm of protein to generate an electric potential of 1 V with quantum efficiency of 1 and absorbed energy conversion efficiency of 47 percent. A further advantage of PS I is said to be its transparency to infrared radiation, which eliminates the need for expensive cooling equipment.

The researchers include Prof. Chanoch Carmeli, Dr. Shachar Richter, Dr. Itai Carmeli and Prof. Yossi Rosenwaks. Ramot, Tel Aviv Universitys technology transfer company, is set to help commercialize the invention.

Larry Loev, director of business development for high technologies at Ramot told EETimes the low cost of the proposed device is based on the low cost of PS I in comparison to silicon. While one square meter of PS I should cost around $1, a similar area made of silicon should cost around $200.

Coolearth's concentrated solar power balloons is my favorite for solar power. SUNRGI appears to be ahead by a few months to a couple of years. Nanosolar and Coolearth concentrated solar balloons are being deployed to municipal and rural areas.

The overall energy plan that I would recommend In the big energy picture solar power is tiny and even with these breakthroughs will take time to have a major impact. Plus without cheap power storage solar is not base load power.

For wind power, kitegen is a more promising architecture

Generation of fuel from algae is the best bet for a lot of efficient biofuel

Nuclear power can and will have far more positive impact than most people believe.

This article points how much risk there is for each energy source and show how rooftop solar can cause more deaths than Chernobyl. The solar options above SUNRGI, the protein pools and Coolearth are installed on the ground.

April 29, 2008

Future Lithography : or is Moore's Law still the law? Yes it is

Intel Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif.) has decided that extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography will not be production-worthy by 2011 when Intel plans to begin manufacturing 22 nm microprocessors, said Mark Bohr, director of process architecture and integration at Intel's logic technology development group.

Intel plans to do 22 nm in 2011. EUV will not be ready for volume production in 2011. Maybe a year later, in 2012 and Intel won't wait for it. Intel intends to extend 193 nm immersion lithography with “various techniques" [computational lithography - model light and precompensate for distortions and pixelated masks - pixels or small holes build up the pattern]. Intel sees computational lithography extending immersion ArF lithography, while also pursuing EUV lithography.

Intel is continuing to develop EUV lithography, and Bohr said one encouraging trend is that “a growing number of companies see EUV as a way to get to their 22 nm technology, or maybe 16 nm. We have got to find ways to make it work.”

Intel technologists have been discussing a form of computational lithography that involves etching pixels with various shapes and slopes on what appears to be a totally transparent, chromeless piece of glass. When 193 nm light is projected, the pixelated mask creates phase-shifted patterns that could extend immersion lithography to 22 nm. With a traditional mask, the circuit pattern is carved into chrome. But a pixelated mask is little more than a collection of holes poked into a sheet of glass. Computational lithography models light as it passes through the mask, lens and resist and allows for compensation in advance by adjusting the features of the mask.

the above image is from an Intel research poster. DFM is Design for Manufacturability

For its 32 nm technology, Intel was able to use double patterning (DP) to extend immersion lithography for the critical layers, with conventional DFM techniques. At 22 nm, the source said the pixelated masks will further extend immersion without the use of extensive DP, adding that Intel believes EUV remains far too expensive for commercial production.

Substrate conformal imprint lithography (SCIL) technology that will be added to an existing equipment platform for large-area imprint applications.

This sub-50-nm patterning imprint technology is meant to bridge the gap between small rigid stamp applications for best resolution and large-area soft stamp usage with the usual limited printing resolution below 200-nm, with SCIL allowing large-area soft stamps with repeatable sub-50-nm printing capability

Nanoimprinting has made features as small as 10 nanometers Nanoimprinting can accurately stamp delicate insulating structures on advanced microchips, and, no, it doesn’t damage them, in fact it makes them better. Nanoimprint lithography can produce superior nanoporous insulator layers in advanced semiconductor devices with significantly fewer—and easier—processing steps than conventional lithography.

The latest on semiconductor lithography.

GNA: Glycerol nucleic acid, synthetic version of DNA a new nanotechnology building block

The first self-assembled nanostructures composed entirely of glycerol nucleic acid (GNA, —a synthetic analog of DNA)have been made by Biodesign Institute scientist John Chaput and his research team.

The only chemical difference between DNA and a synthetic cousin, GNA, is in the sugar molecule. GNA uses a three-carbon sugar called glycerol rather than the five-carbon deoxyribose used in DNA. The sugar provides the chemical backbone for nucleic acid polymers, anchoring a phosphate molecule and nitrogenous base (B). Credit: Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University

The five carbon sugar commonly found in DNA, called deoxyribose, is substituted by glycerol, which contains just three carbon atoms.

The first self-assembled DNA nanostructure was made by Ned Seeman’s lab at Columbia University in 1998, the very same laboratory where ASU professor Hao Yan received his Ph.D. Chaput’s team, which includes graduate students Richard Zhang and Elizabeth McCullum were not only able to duplicate these structures, but, unique to GNA, found they could make mirror image nanostructures.

“Making GNA is not tricky, it’s just three steps, and with three carbon atoms, only one stereo center,” said Chaput. “It allows us to make these right and left-handed biomolecules. People have actually made left-handed DNA, but it is a synthetic nightmare. To use it for DNA nanotechnology could never work. It’s too high of a cost to make, so one could never get enough material.”

The ability to make mirror image structures opens up new possibilities for making nanostructures. The research team also found a number of physical and chemical properties that were unique to GNA, including having a higher tolerance to heat than DNA nanostructures. Now, with a new material in hand, which Chaput dubs ‘unnatural nucleic acid nanostructures,’ the group hopes to explore the limits on the topology and types of structure they can make.

“We think we can take this as a basic building block and begin to build more elaborate structures in 2-D and see them in atomic force microscopy images,” said Chaput. “I think it will be interesting to see where it will all go. Researchers come up with all of these clever designs now.”

Nanodiamonds 100 times cheaper, track cells in the body and deliver drugs and genes

Taiwanese scientists have found a way to slash the cost of making the diamond chips by around 100 times.

Nanodiamond's fluorescent properties could be used to track cells moving through the body. And, last year, researchers showed they could safely deliver chemotherapy drugs.

Cheaper alternatives to nanodiamonds, such as fluorescent dyes or small chunks of semiconductor known as quantum dots, are in use already. The diamonds, though, are less prone to blinking on and off than fluorescent dyes, and are not toxic to cells, unlike quantum dots.

Image showing the internalization of green fluorescent diamonds by a cancer cell

FNDs are usually made by firing a high-energy electron beam into commercially available diamond powder and heating it up to 800 °C. Huan-Cheng Chang and colleagues at Academia Sinica in Taipei shoot a much less intense, and hence cheaper, beam of helium ions at diamond powder to make FNDs of the same quality.

The Taiwanese researchers used a purpose-built machine to bombard nanodiamonds with high-energy helium ions. This causes defects to form in the structure of the diamonds so that they fluoresce when they are hit by laser light.

'Our high-fluence medium-energy (40 keV) helium ion beam can be operated safely and routinely in ordinary laboratories,' says Huan-Cheng Chang, who led the team with Wunshain Fann at the National Taiwan University. The team have already started selling their nanodiamonds - charging around £150 for 10mg - a hundredth of the cost of those made by conventional methods
About $300 for 10 milligrams.

Chang's team could track the movement of a single fluorescent nanodiamond within a cell for over 3 minutes.

The researchers have also explored other applications for their cheap diamonds, such as using them to monitor stem cells in developing tissue, or to carry drugs into cells.

"In particular, we have demonstrated that FNDs are able to interact with plasmid DNA and to deliver different genes into cultured human cells," Chang told New Scientist. That could be used for gene therapy, or DNA vaccines.

Chang and his colleagues have set up a commercial operation selling their nanodiamonds and are working on making them even smaller and to fluoresce more brightly.

The cheaper diamond chips need to be made smaller, though, if they are to perform well as markers to reveal the inner workings of cells, he adds.

April 28, 2008

Vasimr 200KW almost flight ready in 2008 and the solar electric sail like a Dandelion seed

I will look at two near term space systems the Vasimr and the solar electric sail. Both could provide a significant increase in the performance of various space missions. Both have their advantages and would be welcome improvements in the capabilities of space systems. Vasimr can go up to higher power levels that are limited by the Vasimr system and the power system. The Solar electric sail uses no propellant while the Vasimr is ten times or more efficient than current chemical systems. Both could be in space flight tests in the next year or three.

The 200 kilowatt VX200 Vasimr system is almost ready for flight tests and the type of missions impacts it would have are discussed. The solar electric sail system which I reviewed last week is discussed again. Comparison is made to dandelion seeds and how the multiple parachute configuration could be used to combine the propulsion of several solar electric sails to move larger objects.

The 200 kilowatt Vasimr plasma engine is expected to reach NASA's technology readiness level 6 in 2008 An initial test firing of the full engine
prototype has been postponed until the 2nd quarter of 2008 in order to give Scientific Magnetics of Culham, UK. the needed time to complete its certification of the superconducting subsystem.

A 12 MW Vasimr system could send a ship to Mars in less than 120 days one way. A 200 MW Vasimr could go to Mars in 39 days.

1-2MW Vasimr lunar cargo vehicle could transfer up to 39% of the mass from low earth orbit to the moon.

The 6 page study of a Vasimr powered lunar cargo vehicle. Five of the 200 kilowatt Vasimr engines could make up a 1 MW plasma powered vehicle.

March 17, Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) [$4.1 billion company] and the Ad Astra Rocket Company of Houston, Texas signed and executed a Technology
Development Alliance
to explore future in-space propulsion systems for lunar and planetary missions.

VASIMR versus the Solar electric Sail
A VASIMR system can get up to 300 kilometers/second and faster while the solar electric sail goes 100 kilometers/second. Both systems could be improved beyond those performance levels. The variable specific impulse magnetoplasma rocket (VASIMR) uses radio waves and magnetic fields to accelerate a propellant. Current VASIMR designs should be capable of producing specific impulses ranging from 10,000-300,000 m/s (1,000-30,000 seconds) - the low end of this range is comparable to some ion thruster designs.

I was noticing how much like a dandelion seed the solar electric sail system would be. The solar electric sail would be blown by the solar wind.

I also believe that the solar electric sail could have multiple sails attached to one vehicle like a multiple parachute system.

Technology Readiness levels [6-9]

6. System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment: Representative model or prototype system, which is well beyond the breadboard tested for TRL 5, is tested in a relevant environment. Represents a major step up in a technology's demonstrated readiness. Examples include testing a prototype in a high fidelity laboratory environment or in simulated operational environment.

7. System prototype demonstration in an operational environment Prototype near or at planned operational system. Examples include testing the prototype in a test bed aircraft.

8. Actual system completed and 'flight qualified' through test and demonstration.

9. Actual system 'flight proven' through successful mission operations.

They are expecting to get to a flight test in 2010.


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Realtime integrated MEMS, scanning electron microscope nanoprobe assembly system by September 2008

Design of an on-chip microscale nanoassembly system has been published by Jason Gorman of the Intelligent Systems Division at the US government's National Institute of Standards and Technology. They are currently fabricating a somewhat revised micro-scale nanoassembly system that we believe will be capable of manipulating nanoparticles by the end of the summer, 2008.

Where the paper should appear soon online

The NIST system consists of four Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) devices positioned around a centrally located port on a chip into which the starting materials can be placed Each nanomanipulator is composed of positioning mechanism with an attached nanoprobe. By simultaneously controlling the position of each of these nanoprobes, the team can use them to cooperatively assemble a complex structure on a very small scale. "If successful, this project will result in an on-chip nanomanufacturing system that would be the first of its kind," says Gorman.

Our micro-scale nanoassembly system is designed for real-time imaging of the nanomanipulation procedures using a scanning electron microscope," explains Gorman, "and multiple nanoprobes can be used to grasp nanostructures in a cooperative manner to enable complex assembly operations." Importantly, once the team has optimized their design they anticipate that nanoassembly systems could be made for around $400 per chip at present costs.

Their paper was in the International Journal of Nanomanufacturing

an abstract to a Jason Gorman presentation

The previous issue of the International Journal of nanomanufacturing

A 2007 ieee paper by Jason Gorman. Multi-Probe Micro-Assembly by Wason, J. Gressick, W. Wen, J.T. Gorman, J. Dagalakis, N.

This paper describes the algorithm development and experimental results of a multi-probe micro-assembly system. The experimental testbed consists of two actuated probes, an actuated die stage, and vision feedback. The kinematics relationships for the probes, die stage, and part manipulation are derived and used for calibration and kinematics-based planning and control. Particular attention has been focused on the effect of adhesion forces in probe-part and part-stage contacts in order to achieve grasp stability and robust part manipulation. By combining pre-planned manipulation sequences and vision based manipulation, repeatable spatial (in contrast to planar) manipulation and insertion of a sub-millimeter part has been demonstrated. The insertion process only requires the operator to identify two features to initialize the calibration, and the remaining tasks involving part pick-up, manipulation, and insertion are all performed autonomously.

April 27, 2008

Gene Therapy used to improve the vision of genetically related Blindness

Gene therapy used to the vision of people with a form of blindness called Leber's Congenital Amaurosis This seems to be the beginning of being able to successfully correct or alter function that is genetically based in adults.

The procedure was safe and effective

Two of the volunteers who could only see hand motions were able to read a few lines of an eye chart within weeks.

One of the treated patients: Steven Howarth said he used to rush home from school because he was worried about getting around in the dark, according to remarks issued by the university. "Now, my sight when it's getting dark or it's badly lit is definitely better. It's a small change — but it makes a big difference to me," said Howarth, who lives in Bolton, near Manchester. After the injection last July, Howarth said his eye felt like sandpaper. It was better after a week, and his eyesight gradually improved. He was able to negotiate a dimly lit maze in 14 seconds without bumping into any obstacles; before it took him 77 seconds with eight errors.

There were no serious side effects reported in either group.

Gene Therapy for Leber Congenital Amaurosis : Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) is an inherited retinal disease that causes with severe visual impairment in infancy or early childhood. Current research on a gene transfer therapy may offer hope to people with a form of this disease.

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