January 16, 2009

Arizona State University working with Methuselah Foundation on SENS Life Extension Project

A Biodesign Institute research team is working on applying the same principles used to remove contaminants from the environment, on the human body, in an effort to reverse the effects of aging.

This work is the Lysosens project.

Their collaboration addresses age-related problems, such as heart disease, macular degeneration, and Alzheimer’s disease, by understanding the root causes of disease. A number of diseases that appear with age are primarily caused by a lifetime of accumulated debris inside of cells.

One theory of aging is that, as the molecular junk collects in our bodies through the years, it causes the onset of disease. For example, the buildup of a vitamin A byproduct is directly responsible for the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, macular degeneration, while the accumulation of sticky proteins in the brain has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Every day, millions of metabolic products whiz throughout our bodies to help nourish and sustain human health. Most of the time, those that aren’t used are filtered and passed out of the body, but over time some become resistant to degradation, piling up as junk in our cells.

Our bodies are not naturally equipped to degrade these harmful substances; however, Schloendorn noticed that there is not an overabundance of these molecules in the environment. Therefore, there must be a source of natural enzymes that are capable of breaking down the cellular debris. In much the same way as the buildup of junk can put a stranglehold on the natural environment around it, the collection of these miscellaneous materials can place extreme stress on a cell. The enzymes capable of decomposing the junk are like implementing a recycling program in a landfill. They salvage the used materials and there is a possibility that the basic pieces can be reused elsewhere in the cell.

The $300,000 partnership between the Biodesign Institute and the Methuselah Foundation has proven fruitful. For example, results published in the journal Biodegradation by Rittmann’s team announced the discovery of five microbes from soil and sludge samples capable of decomposing a molecule called 7-ketocholesterol. This cholesterol variant is widely accepted as a cellular toxin and thought to be a primary culprit in the development of atherosclerosis. The body does not routinely degrade it and its accumulation causes hardening of the arteries, which in turn leads to arterial blockages and heart attacks.

The researchers are now exploring the use of microbial machinery to biodegrade 7-ketocholesterol to attempt to reverse the cause of arterial distress. The targeted decomposition of 7-ketocholesterol in humans may also open doors for the therapeutic treatment of other age-related disease. Reversal of the damage done to cells by destroying the harmful biomolecules will rejuvenate cells and make them physiologically younger. On a broad scale, this technique may eliminate death by ‘old age,’ allowing people to be younger at the cellular level, and extending not only human life, but also healthy human life.

LysoSENS Progress & Next Steps
Our teams have now cultured bacteria capable of degrading 7-ketocholestrol (implicated as a major cause of atherosclerosis and also involved in Alzheimer's disease), A2E (responsible for age-related macular degeneration) and CML, a sugar-derived protein modification which accumulates throughout the body and is associated with many of the symptoms of diabetes (this last target, although technically part of the GlycoSENS strand, is presently being handled at our Arizona laboratory). The enzymes involved in A2E degradation have been identified and we are working with Professor Janet Sparrow to test them for therapeutic benefit in cellular models of macular degeneration.

Our preliminary work on 7-ketocholesterol was recently published in the international journal Biodegradation, in the March 15th 2008 issue. Our microarray program, based at Rice University, has identified a series of enzymes implicated in 7-ketocholesterol degradation which we are now characterising and cloning into E. coli to allow more extensive testing. We will publish these results (and hopefully many others!) in the near future.

This is one of seven changes in the body that are being targeted by the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS)

Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University

SENS research, MPrize and Methuselah foundation funding

China Revises End of 2007 GDP Upward

The Chinese economy expanded a revised 13% in 2007 from a year earlier, up from an original estimate of 11.9%, the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement on its Web site. Therefore, China economy at the end of 2007 was 25.731 trillion yuan ($3.766 trillion) as compared to Germany's GDP was $3.54 trillion in 2007, using end-of-year exchange rates. China was the third largest economy at the end of 2007. The Euro went higher in early 2008 but then came back down.

The U.S. ranked as the world's largest economy in 2007 with a GDP of $13.808 trillion followed by Japan at $4.38 trillion.

Uwe Parpart, chief Asian strategist with Cantor Fitzgerald in Hong Kong, said December's money supply and lending growth data released Tuesday suggested China's economy was unlikely to cool as much as consensus expectations suggested.
"My contrarian view ...is that China will grow by 8%.," wrote Parpart in a note Wednesday. "That view received strong support from today's [Tuesday's] releases of December export, money supply, and reserve accumulation figures, all surprising well to the upside."

Year GDP(yuan) GDP growth USD/CNY China GDP China+HK/Ma US GDP
2007 25.77 13 7.3 3.77 3.97 13.8 Past Germany
2008 28.12 9.3 6.85 4.11 4.31 14.3
2009 30.37 8 6.7 4.53 4.73 14.3
2010 33 9 6.2 5.3 5.5 14.8
2011 36 9 5.6 6.4 6.6 15.3 Past Japan
2012 39 9 5.1 7.7 7.9 15.9
2013 43 9 4.7 9.2 9.4 16.4
2014 47 9 4.2 11.0 11.2 17.0
2015 51 9 3.8 13.2 13.4 17.6
2016 56 9 3.5 15.9 16.1 18.2
2017 60 8 3.2 18.8 19.0 18.8 Past USA
2018 65 8 3 21.6 21.8 19.5
2019 70 8 3 23.3 23.5 20.2
2020 76 8 3 25.2 25.5 20.9
2021 82 8 3 27.2 27.5 21.6
2022 88 8 3 29.4 29.7 22.4
2023 95 8 3 31.7 32.0 23.1
2024 103 8 3 34.3 34.6 24.0
2025 111 8 3 37.0 37.3 24.8
2026 119 7 3 39.6 39.8 25.7
2027 127 7 3 42.4 42.6 26.6
2028 136 7 3 45.3 45.5 27.5
2029 145 7 3 48.5 48.7 28.5
2030 156 7 3 51.9 52.1 29.4

China passes Germany to become 3rd largest economy

Previous post start of credit crisis assessment

Comparison of historic GDP numbers between China and the USA

US Navy Readying Electro-Magnetic Launch for New Carriers Which Will Also be Ready for New Lasers and Railguns Later

Current steam catapults use about 615 kg/ 1,350 pounds of steam for each aircraft launch, which is usually delivered by piping it from the nuclear reactor. Now add the required hydraulics and oils, the water required to brake the catapult, and associated pumps, motors, and control systems. The result is a large, heavy, maintenance-intensive system that operates without feedback control; and its sudden shocks affect airframe lifespans for carrier-based aircraft. The Aircraft carrier will have two A1B nuclear reactors for 600 MW of power.

EMALS (Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System) uses an approach analogous to an electro-magnetic rail gun, in order to accelerate the shuttle that holds the aircraft. That approach provides a smoother launch, while offering up to 30% more launch energy potential to cope with heavier fighters. It also has far lower space and maintenance requirements, because it dispenses with most of the steam catapult’s piping, pumps, motors, control systems, etc. It also offers ancillary benefits, like the ability to embed diagnostic systems.

The challenge is scaling a relatively new technology to handle the required weights and power. EMALS motor generator weighs over 80,000 pounds, and is 13.5 feet long, almost 11 feet wide and almost 7 feet tall. It’s designed to deliver up to 60 megajoules of electricity, and 60 megawatts at its peak. In the 3 seconds it takes to launch a Navy aircraft, that amount of power could handle 12,000 homes. This motor generator is part of a suite of equipment called the Energy Storage Subsystem, which includes the motor generator, the generator control tower and the stored energy exciter power supply. The new Gerald R. Ford Class carriers will require 12 of each.

Control problems with the old steam launch system results in minimum and maximum weight limits. The minimum weight limit is above the weight of all UAVs. An inability to launch the latest additions to the Naval Air Force is a restriction on operations that cannot continue into the next generation of aircraft carriers. The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System provides solutions to all these problems.

The first full size test motor generator for the Navy’s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) was assembled, and finished its 30 days of factory acceptance testing at Kato Engineering’s plant in Mankato, MN on April 11, 2008. 5 units are being manufactured under General Atomics’ Systems Development & Demonstration contract. One is slated for component level testing, and 4 will be installed and used for system level testing at the Lakehurst, N.J., EMALS catapult site.

Four Main Sub-systems
* Linear induction motor
The linear induction motor (LIM) is the main component of the EMALS. It consists of a row of stator coils that, when energized, accelerate the carriage (equivalent to a conventional motor’s rotor) down the track. Only the section of the stator coils surrounding the carriage is energized at any given time, minimizing reactive losses. The EMALS will use a 300 ft (91 m) long LIM capable of launching a 100,000 lb (45,000 kg) aircraft to 130 knots (240 km/h).

* Energy storage subsystem
To power the LIM, the EMALS requires a large amount of electric energy to be used in a short amount of time. The ship’s power source cannot provide this much immediate energy, so the energy-storage subsystem accumulates power from the ship and stores it kinetically on rotors of four disk alternators. Each rotor can store more than 100 MJ, and can be recharged within 45 seconds of a launch.

* Power conversion subsystem
At the time of launch, the power conversion subsystem releases the stored energy from the disk alternators in a controlled manner by using a cycloconverter. The cycloconverter provides a controlled rising frequency and voltage to the LIM, energizing only the small portion of stator coils that affect the launch carriage at each instant in time.

* Control consoles
The power used by the EMALS is controlled through a closed loop system to give the operators complete control over the system's performance. A number of Hall effect sensors positioned on the track provide feedback to the control consoles, allowing the system to monitor itself and ensure that it provides the desired acceleration. The closed loop control system allows the EMALS to maintain a constant tow force, which helps reduce the launch stresses on the plane’s airframe

The schedule is for the Gerald Ford carrier to start joining the fleet in 2015

Other New Technology for the New Aircraft Carrier

Technological advances in the field of electromagnetics have led to the development of an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System, (EMALS), and an Advanced Arresting Gear, (AAG). An integrated warfare system has been developed to support flexibility in adapting the infrastructure of the ship to future mission roles. The new Dual Band Radar (DBR) combines S-band and X-band radar in a single system. With new design and technology the Ford will have a 25% increase in sortie generation, threefold increase in electrical generating capacity, increased operational availability, and a number of quality life improvements.

Electromagnetics will also be used in the new Advanced Arresting Gear system. The current system relies on hydraulics to slow and stop a landing aircraft. While effective, as demonstrated by more than fifty years of implementation, the AAG system offers a number of improvements. The current system is unable to capture UAVs without damaging them due to extreme stresses on the airframe. UAVs do not have the necessary mass to drive the large hydraulic piston used to trap heavier manned planes.

The Dual Band Radar works by combining the X-Band AN/SPY-3 Multi-Function Radar with the S-Band Volume Search Radar.

New defense systems, such as laser guns, dynamic armor, and tracking systems will require more power and the Gerald Ford Aircraft has been designed for easy integration of new laser and rail gun and other advanced systems as they become available.

The new A1B reactor will generate about 300MW (three times as much as the current A4W reactor), which is about 420,000 horsepower.

Free Republic has discussion of the EMALS launcher and a photo of what appears to be one of the first test units.

2005 RAND document on the plan to modernize the US Navy

Solid State Lasers in the 150 kilowatt to multi-megawatt ranges are on track for deployment around 2013-2020

-High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (Hellads), a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program set to produce refridgerator sized 150 Kilowatt lasers for about 2013
-Navy has multi-megawatt lasers funded for over $160 million in a five year program started in 2008

Railguns also on track for 2013-2020

- Navy’s goal of developing a tactical 64-megajoule ship-mounted railgun weapon.
- BAE Systems has delivered a functional, 32-megajoule Electro-Magnetic Laboratory Rail Gun (32-MJ LRG) to the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va. in

At full capability, the rail gun will be able to fire a a 40-pound projectile more than 200 nautical miles at a muzzle velocity of mach seven and impacting its target at mach five. In contrast, the current Navy gun, MK 45 five-inch gun, has a range of nearly 13 miles. The high velocity projectile will destroy its targets due to its kinetic energy rather than with conventional explosives.

-2012 field trials
-The program's goal is to demonstrate a full capability, integrated railgun prototype by 2016-2018

A lot of railgun program details and analysis.

-Defense Industry analysts believe it will take longer than navy goals to get railguns. They think it will take until 2020-2024 to integrate railguns into navy ships.

8 page US military vision for directed energy weapons

Free Electron Lasers (FEL)
The FEL is a unique, electrically powered device that offers the potential for high average power, essentially unlimited run time with good beam quality and operation at a wavelength of the designer’s choosing. It functions by extracting kinetic energy from a relativistic, free (unbound) electron beam (ebeam) and converting it to electromagnetic (EM) radiation. The EM radiation is achieved by passing the ebeam
through an alternating magnetic field in a device called an “undulator” or “wiggler”. The spatially periodic wiggler magnetic field induces transverse force on the electrons causing them to produce EM radiation in the forward direction of the ebeam.
FEL oscillators and amplifiers have been demonstrated to produce an electrically driven, powerful source of wavelength selectable, coherent EM radiation.
Current plans for the FEL include largescale development under an ONR Code 35 Innovative Naval Prototype (INP) Program planned to begin in FY 2010. To achieve the longterm goal with respect to a FEL for the “next navy”, the major nearterm focus areas are:
1. Development of a 100kW, preferably upgradeable, FEL with a working wavelength that can range between 1.00 and 2.20 micrometer depending on the atmospheric conditions.
2. A MW (megawatt) class beam control system to integrate with the FEL. The FEL offers technically challenging control issues for both electron and photon beams in the laser systems of interest.

Railgun Vision

$825 Billion Proposed Stimulus Bill, $400 million for high-risk, high-payoff Energy

Via Greencarcongress: Democrats in the US House of Representatives unveiled their $825-billion recovery package, a combination of $550 billion in spending and $275 billion in tax cuts.
* $46.75 billion is to be directly applied to the transportation sector, including on-road, rail, air and maritime segments.
- Of the direct transportation money, $30 billion (64%) is targeted at highway and bridge construction.

* $11.77 billion going to boosting scientific research across many fields.
- $1.9 billion is targeted directly at the US Department of Energy for basic research into the physical sciences including high-energy physics, nuclear physics, and fusion energy sciences and improvements to DOE laboratories and scientific facilities
- $400 million is for the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy to support high-risk, high-payoff research into energy sources and energy efficiency.

* $11 billion is to be applied for research and development, pilot projects, and federal matching funds for the Smart Grid Investment Program to modernize the electricity grid.
* Power grid upgrades to support increased use of renewables will get $32 billion.

* $8 billion for loans for renewable energy power generation and transmission projects is to be provided.

* the production tax credit, which was extended for one year last year after much partisan bickering, will receive a $20 billion boost and a multi-year extension for wind, geothermal, hydro, and bioenergy.

* Building retrofits to improve energy efficiency will get $16 billion.
* Carbon capture technologies will get $2.4 billion.
* Weatherizing middle-income homes will get $6 billion.

Venture beat also lists some other items getting funding

* $6.9 billion to help state and local governments become more energy efficient
* $6 billion for broadband and wireless services in underserved areas
* $430 million for small business loans
* $650 million to continue a coupon program to convert American televisions from analog to digital transmission

Full text of the 258 bill is here

January 15, 2009

Casimir Force Affected by Temperature

Scientists at the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute in Wako, and co-workers at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NASU), have shown for the first time that the Casimir force has a complex dependence on temperature. They propose a related experiment that could clarify the theory around this important interaction, which has widespread applications in physics and astronomy, and could eventually be exploited in nano-sized electrical and mechanical systems.

“As the temperature increases, metal objects in a vacuum experience two competing effects,” explains Sergey Savel’ev from RIKEN and Loughborough University in the UK. “They lose some of their electrical conductivity, which tends to cause a decrease in the Casimir force. At the same time they are bombarded with more radiation pressure from the thermal heat waves, and this increases the Casimir force.”

Nori and co-workers derived the temperature dependence for Casimir attractions between a thin film and a thick flat plate, and between a thin film and a large metal sphere. They found that the Casimir force will tend to decrease near room temperature, but can increase again at higher temperatures as the thermal radiation effects take over.

Anomalous Temperature Dependence of the Casimir Force for Thin Metal Films

Next Generation Cloaking Device from Duke University

Pictured is the new cloak with bump, left, and the prototype, right. (Image: Duke University)

Invisibility, cloaking, superlenses, hyperlenses, super-microscopes, advanced lithography are all closer to being practically achieved.

New algorithms were developed and the latest cloaking device was completed from conception to fabrication in nine days, compared to the four months required to create the original, and more rudimentary, device. This powerful new algorithm will make it possible to custom-design unique metamaterials with specific cloaking characteristics, the researchers said.

"The difference between the original device and the latest model is like night and day," Smith said. "The new device can cloak a much wider spectrum of waves — nearly limitless — and will scale far more easily to infrared and visible light. The approach we used should help us expand and improve our abilities to cloak different types of waves."

MIT Technology Review describes the new breakthrough

The cloak that the researchers built works with wavelengths of light ranging from about 1 to 18 gigahertz--a swath as broad as the visible spectrum. No one has yet made a cloaking device that works in the visible spectrum, and those metamaterials that have been fabricated tend to work only with narrow bands of light. But a cloak that made an object invisible to light of only one color would not be of much use. Similarly, a cloaking device can't afford to be lossy: if it lets just a little bit of light reflect off the object it's supposed to cloak, it's no longer effective. The cloak that Smith built is very low loss, successfully rerouting almost all the light that hits it.

The broadband cloak is a rectangular structure measuring about 50 by 10 centimeters, with a height of about 1 centimeter. It's made up of roughly 600 I-shaped copper structures. Making each structure is a simple matter, says Smith. "They're copper patterns on a circuit board, cut up and arranged. It's a well-known, inexpensive technology." The hard part is determining the dimensions of each of these 600 structures and how to arrange them.

The cloak itself, described this week in Science, is indeed impressive, says Fang, who's working on metamaterials for super-resolution biological imaging. But what's more exciting is that the new approach to design will accelerate the development of other metamaterials. Smith says that he and his group have already moved beyond the cloak reported in Science, but because their latest work is unpublished, he can't specify what they've made. "Now [that] this is becoming a more feasible technology," he says, "we will start to see a lot more of it."

Other applications of metamaterials, says Smith, include optical devices that take light energy and concentrate it, instead of turning it away--conceptually, the opposite of a cloak. "You could improve solar cells by making structures to increase the field strength of the light," he says. The new work suggests that this could be done over the whole spectrum of wavelengths found in sunlight. Similarly, broadband "hyperlenses" that gather up light missed by normal lenses could revolutionize biological imaging. Fang and others have developed narrowband hyperlenses with resolutions of only a few nanometers, which make the molecular workings of cells visible. A broadband hyperlens could work with all colors of visible and infrared light.

In the latest laboratory experiments, a beam of microwaves aimed through the cloaking device at a "bump" on a flat mirror surface bounced off the surface at the same angle as if the bump were not present. Additionally, the device prevented the formation of scattered beams that would normally be expected from such a perturbation.

The underlying cloaking phenomenon is similar to the mirages seen ahead at a distance on a road on a hot day.

"You see what looks like water hovering over the road, but it is in reality a reflection from the sky," Smith explained. "In that example, the mirage you see is cloaking the road below. In effect, we are creating an engineered mirage with this latest cloak design."

Smith believes that cloaks should find numerous applications as the technology is perfected. By eliminating the effects of obstructions, cloaking devices could improve wireless communications, or acoustic cloaks could serve as protective shields, preventing the penetration of vibrations, sound or seismic waves.

"The ability of the cloak to hide the bump is compelling, and offers a path towards the realization of forms of cloaking abilities approaching the optical," Liu said. "Though the designs of such metamaterials are extremely complex, especially when traditional approaches are used, we believe that we now have a way to rapidly and efficiently produce such materials."

With appropriately fine-tuned metamaterials, electromagnetic radiation at frequencies ranging from visible light to radio could be redirected at will for virtually any application, Smith said. This approach could also lead to the development of metamaterials that focus light to provide more powerful lenses.
The newest cloak, which measures 20 inches by 4 inches and less than an inch high, is actually made up of more than 10,000 individual pieces arranged in parallel rows. Of those pieces, more than 6,000 are unique. Each piece is made of the same fiberglass material used in circuit boards and etched with copper.

The algorithm determined the shape and placement of each piece. Without the algorithm, properly designing and aligning the pieces would have been extremely difficult, Smith said.

Follistatin used to Inhibit Myostatin for Increased Strength and Muscle in Mice

Follistatin was used in mice to determine if enhanced muscle mass impacts the symptoms of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). After treatment, the mice had increased muscle mass, gross motor function improvement and an increase in average life span of 30 percent.”

With the therapy, MU researchers inhibited myostatin, a protein that limits muscle tissue growth. Myostatin activity can be reduced significantly by enabling several proteins that bind to myostatin, including follistatin. When myostatin is inhibited, muscle mass and strength increase.

This site has covered the development of myostatin inhibitors before and believes that it will be used to safely enhance the strength, performance and health of people.

Myostatin inhibition could be four times more effective than high dosages of steroids for muscle growth.

Delivery of recombinant follistatin lessens disease severity in a mouse model of Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Saskatchewan and North Dakota Oil

As of mid-October, 2008, Saskatchewan had 1,050 wells capable of producing in the Bakken. Of these, the vast majority (979) have been drilled since October 2004. Over the first eight months of 2008, the Bakken accounted for about 8.6 million bbls (an average of 35,250 bbls a day) of Saskatchewan's oil production of 105.7 million bbls (approximately 434,000 bbls a day).

In Saskatchewan, Bakken wells at Viewfield were drilled in 2004 by Bison Resources Ltd. The company was acquired by Mission Oil & Gas Inc., which was in turn acquired by Crescent Point Energy Trust, currently one of the three major players in the Bakken (along with TriStar Oil & Gas Ltd. and Petrobank Energy and Resources Ltd.).

Advances in horizontal well techniques that offer maximum exposure to the reservoir, coupled with the application of new fracturing and completion technologies, have been the key to unlocking the economics of the Bakken. Petrobank pioneered the use of the Packers Plus StackFrac system, which has become the industry standard in the Canadian Bakken.

In 2007, operators drilled 292 Bakken wells (269 horizontal and 23 vertical). To mid- November of this year, about 600 wells targeting the Bakken had been drilled. Although a breakdown isn't yet available, the vast majority would have been horizontal wells, according to a government spokesman.

Operators such as TriStar, with current production from the Bakken of more than 4,700 BOE per day, are continuing to focus on improving potential primary recovery factors in the play. In the second and third quarters of this year, the company drilled several shorter horizontal wells (approximately 600 metres compared to 1,400 metres for full-length horizontals), while continuing to fracture stimulate the wells using the same number of fracs as full-length wells. This technique reduces the inter-fracture distance and increases effective reservoir contact per metre of horizontal wellbore. Early production results from these shorter length wells are very encouraging with initial production very similar to what would be expected from longer-length horizontal wells, according to the company.

As of November, 2008 North Dakota is producing 215,000 barrels of oil per day and most of that is from the Bakken oil formation. This is over 6 million barrels of oil per month or 72 million barrels of oil per year.

TriStar has drilled 10 (6.5 net) of the shorterlength wells with the oldest on production for more than eight months.

TriStar's current oil reserve booking is based on a recovery factor of 1.1% of the estimated net total original oil in place. Achieving a primary recovery factor of 12.5% consisting of four wells per section at current average reserve engineer bookings would yield up to 70.5 million bbls of additional recoverable oil to its current booked reserves, the company has calculated.

TriStar has set a $285-million budget for 2009, of which two-thirds will be spent in southeast Saskatchewan including $165 million for the Bakken. Spending will include construction of key infrastructure to support the company's significant development plans for the area. TriStar has more than 235 (155 net) sections of development and exploration lands on which it has identified more than 813 (549 net) Bakken drilling locations.

Crescent Point's Bakken technical team conservatively expects over time it could achieve a 15% recovery factor on primary production, based on detailed simulation work that suggests up to 19% recovery with infill drilling at eight wells per section. Crescent Point, with its privatelyheld offshoot Shelter Bay Energy, holds about 600 sections of land in the play, making it the largest landholder in the Bakken.

Another option is enhanced recovery with water or carbon dioxide (CO2) floods. Crescent Point is in the early stages of determining how best to apply water and/or CO2 flooding to the formation with the objective of increasing its recovery rate to as much as 25-30%.

Saskatchewan's oilsands were discovered in the 1970s and Shell Oil bought leases covering them but failed to develop them. In the 1990's when the leases lapsed small companies picked up the leases and developed them.

An ecologist makes the case to use nuclear power to supply the energy recover oil from oilsands

60 GHz Standard Promises Ultra-Fast 15 Gbps Applications

Ultra-high-speed wireless connectivity – capable of transferring 15 gigabits of data per second over short distances – has taken a significant step toward reality. A recent decision by an international standards group could help bring this technology to market soon.

Multi-gigabit technology could also help enable “viral communications.” Viral communications scenarios envision a future of decentralized, ubiquitous, wireless devices that aren’t directly connected to a central communications conduit. Instead, they cooperate with one another to both utilize and expand bandwidth and data availability.

Georgia Electronic Design Center (GEDC) researchers have already achieved very high data transfer rates that promise unprecedented short-range wireless speeds—15 Gbps at a distance of 1 meter, 10 Gbps at 2 meters and 5 Gbps at 5 meters.

The GEDC-developed chip is the first 60GHz embedded chip for multimedia multi-gigabit wireless use. The chip unites 60GHz CMOS digital radio capability and multi-gigabit signal processing in an ultra-compact package.

This site had covered the development of cheap system on a chip for 60Ghz wireless communication for less than $1 per chip.

EMCA press release on multi-gigabit radio.

Methane on Mars: Could Be Farts from Microbe Life on Mars ?

NASA has found three discrete regions where Mars is releasing methane at this time.

Methane can only survive a short time in the atmosphere until it is destroyed by sunlight, and so its continued presence means it is being replenished.

"The production (of methane) is likely due to only one of two possibilities. The first is geochemistry, the second is biology. That raises much interest on which one is the dominant production mechanism."

If the methane is produced by geological activity, it could either originate from active Martian volcanoes or from a process called serpentinisation.

The latter process occurs at low temperatures and occurs when rocks rich in the minerals olivine and pyroxene react chemically with water, releasing methane.

We've demonstrated there are regions of active (methane) release," said Dr Mumma.

"What we'd really like to do is map the entire planet identifying all such regions of release and validating that some are reproducible from year to year.

"In addition, we'd like to map the gases being released to establish which of those are more likely biological in origin versus others that may be geochemical in origin.

"On this basis we could target several interesting sites for lander missions."

Nasa's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, due to launch to the Red Planet in 2011, will carry instruments that have the potential to distinguish between carbon in gases produced by biological activity and those with a geochemical origin.

Unequivocal determination may have to wait for the next rover mission after MSL as explained at Astrobiology Magazine.

Astrobiology Magazine Explains the Science
Although the amount of martian methane is small (10 parts per billion compared to 1,800 parts per billion on Earth), it appears to be concentrated in regions around the equator. Because these methane "clouds" only last a year before dispersing, the methane sources must be fairly localized and constant.

Microbes called methanogens produce this greenhouse gas as part of their metabolism. Onstott estimates that this localized generation is comparable to that of Earth's Arctic permafrost, which is one of our planet's main sources of this greenhouse gas.

The building blocks of methane (carbon and hydrogen) exist in different forms, called isotopes, that differ in mass. Geochemistry isn't picky and will use whatever isotopes it finds to make methane. Life, however, prefers to consume lighter isotopes.

"Enzymatic processes work faster on compounds of lighter weight," Onstott said.

In the case of methanogens, they will select molecules with hydrogen (rather than its heavier isotope deuterium) and carbon-12 (rather than the heavier carbon-13).

The result is that biogenic methane should be lighter than abiogenic methane.

One confounding factor is that organisms that eat methane may also inhabit Mars. These so-called methanotrophs have a preference for light-weight methane, thereby removing the evidence of methanogen activity.

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) — now scheduled to launch in 2011 — will carry such an optical spectrometer (the Tunable Laser Spectrometer, or TLS). This device may be able to measure the carbon isotope ratio in martian methane, but Onstott does not think it will be able to say unequivocally whether life or geology is the source.

For this reason, he and his colleagues are designing a special kind of optical spectrometer, called a cavity ring-down spectrometer (CRDS), that will be 1,000 times more sensitive than TLS. The CRDS works by illuminating an atmospheric sample with a laser whose frequency can be tuned to resonate with methane molecules of a particular isotopic configuration.

Although the CRDS is a mature technology, Onstott and his group need to develop a portable device that can reach a high sensitivity. They have already built a test version that weighs 70 pounds, about a fifth of what a typical mass spectrometer weighs.

The goal now is to make the instrument smaller and more compatible for space missions — such as the next rover mission after MSL.

"We plan to make modifications that will ensure it functions on Mars, where there's lower pressure and lots of dust," Onstott said.

Hyperion Power Generation Plans to Start Overseas

Hyperion Power Generation (HPG) plans to build hot-tub-size reactors that can generate 25 megawatts of electricity, or enough juice to power 20,000 homes. HPG's uranium hydride reactor has been covered extensively on this site. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission had indicated in a December, 2008 memo that the NRC does not plan to authorize new nuclear reactors that are not similar to current reactors in a timely fashion.

The company is already negotiating with several entities for the sale of 200 reactors, each at a cost of about $30 million. The idea is to deliver power at a cost of less than 10 cents a kilowatt-hour to locations — say remote areas of Alaska, military installations or industrial locations in Canada’s tar sands — where it’s difficult to obtain conventional power, said John Deal, Hyperion’s chief executive officer.

Hyperion is still finishing its manufacturing design and hopes to obtain federal licensing from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other bodies within a few years. Deal expects to deliver the first units to customers in less than five years.

Much of the demand has come from overseas. The United States, where much antipathy remains toward nuclear energy despite public surveys showing falling opposition, will have to wait.

“Honestly,” Deal said, “right now, I’m not really interested in fighting American ignorance about nuclear power.”

Most of the traditional nuclear reactors are being built in China and other countries from now until 2020. Over 75% of new reactors are being built or planned to be built outside of the United States and Western Europe.

Graphene OLED Thin Film Displays

Big and bendy: A transparent graphene film, two centimeters on each side, stretches and flexes when transferred to a rubber stamp. The stamp can be used to deposit the film on any substrate. Credit: Ji Hye Hong

MIT Technology Review reports that Korean researchers have found a way to make large graphene films that are both strong and stretchy and have the best electrical properties yet. These atom-thick sheets of carbon are a promising material for making flexible, see-through electrodes and transistors for flat-panel displays. Graphene could also lead to foldable organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays and organic solar cells.

Columbia University physics professor Philip Kim, who is a coauthor of the new paper, says that chemical vapor deposition is one of the cheapest ways to make quality graphene on a large scale and should be compatible with existing semiconductor fabrication technologies. Right now, the researchers can make four-inch pieces, but Hong says that they could easily scale up the process. "The conductivity is sufficient for some entry-level applications in small LCD displays and touch-panel displays," says Yang Yang, a materials-science and engineering professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. The conductivity would still need to be 10 times better in order to replace ITO in organic solar cells and OLEDs.

Researchers from the Sungkyunkwan University and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, in Suwon, Korea, have made centimeters-wide graphene films that are 80 percent transparent and can be bent and stretched without breaking or losing their electrical properties. Others have made large graphene films using simpler techniques, but the new films are 30 times more conductive. In addition, it is easy to transfer the new films onto different substrates. "We have demonstrated that graphene is one of the best materials for stretchable transparent electronics," says Byung Hee Hong, who led the work, which is published in Nature.

Graphene is an excellent conductor, and it transports electrons tens of times faster than silicon does. It could replace the brittle indium tin oxide (ITO) electrodes that are currently used in displays, organic solar cells, and touch screens. Graphene transistors could also replace silicon thin-film transistors, which are not transparent and are hard to fabricate on plastic.

The Korean researchers use a method called chemical vapor deposition. First, they deposit a 300-nanometer-thick layer of nickel on top of a silicon substrate. Next, they heat this substrate to 1,000 Cº in the presence of methane, and then cool it quickly down to room temperature. This leaves behind graphene films containing six to ten graphene layers on top of the nickel. By patterning the nickel layer, the researchers can create patterned graphene films.

Others, such as MIT electrical-engineering professor Jing Kong, are working on similar approaches to making large graphene pieces. But the Korean researchers have taken the work a step further, transferring the films to flexible substrates while maintaining high quality. The transfer is done in one of two ways. One is to etch away the nickel in a solution so that the graphene film floats on its surface, ready to be deposited on any substrate. A simpler trick is to use a rubber stamp to transfer the film.

Unidym is making transparent displays from carbon nanotubes

Perfect Successor to ITO
Unidym will supply standalone CNT-on-plastic films to current purchasers of ITO-on-plastic films, and partner with companies that use ITO in more integrated applications. Unidym is working with customers and partners in the touch screen, LCD display, OLED and solar industries.

Problems with ITO
Although ITO is currently the most commonly used transparent electrode material, it can be an inadequate solution for many device applications due to its brittle nature and correspondingly inferior flexibility and abrasion resistance. In addition, the indium component of ITO is rapidly becoming a scarce, and therefore increasingly-expensive, commodity, which has fueled demand for lower-cost solutions in recent years. Moreover, integration of ITO components into products such as LCD displays requires an expensive process that is complicated by ITO's incompatibility with many chemicals used in the display manufacturing process.

Benefits of Unidym Films
Unidym's CNT-based films have been demonstrated as substantially more mechanically robust than ITO, and can be deposited using a variety of low-cost and low-impact methods. Further, such films are chemically resistant and are manufactured from carbon, which is one of the most abundant elements on Earth. CNT prices continue to decrease every year, and Unidym expects to expand its existing film production to a commercial scale by 2008.

Anti-static Films
New designs and increasing size have made static a significant problem in LCD manufacturing. Unidym is developing high transparency anti-static films to eliminate the yield loss associated with ESD and particle accumulation.

Nuclear Energy Roundup: Kazakhstan Uranium Production, Japan Breeder Reactor and More

1. The Department of Energy's (DoE) Office of the Inspector General (IG) has concluded that the DoE has not followed through adequately on various promising potential applications for depleted Uranium. The DoE should do more to avoid having to treat the entire inventory as waste, according to the department's own internal watchdog.

The DoE has an inventory of some 700,000 tonnes of uranium hexafluoride tails - the "leftovers" from uranium enrichment. Radiation shielding uses alone would have the potential to absorb the entire inventory. The report, based on an audit carried out between November 2007 and August 2008, questioned plans to dispose of nearly all the 551,000 tonnes of depleted uranium from the deconversion project as waste at an estimated cost of $428 million.

A US speciality chemical company is working on using unconverted depleted uranium hexafluoride as a feedstock to produce fluorine for the manufacture of high-value fluoride gases. In November, International Isotopes Inc said that plans to build a commercial plant based on its patented Fluorine Extraction Process (FEP) technology remained on track with work on a pilot plant to begin in 2009.

With a strong neutron source depleted uranium can be converted into material for nuclear weapons. So depleted uranium needs to have careful management.

2. Japan's Monju fast breeder reactor could be nearing restart after being shutdown for 13 years because of fire and safety problems.

3. Brazil is moving ahead with uranium enrichment facilities.

Up until now uranium used to fuel Brazil's nuclear power reactors has been sent as uranium concentrate to Cameco in Canada to be converted into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas, which has then been sent to Urenco's enrichment plants in Europe. After enrichment, the gas has been returned to Brazil for INB to reconvert the UF6 gas to powder, which is then used to produce nuclear fuel pellets.

There are plans to raise enrichment capacity by 2015, including the construction of capacity to supply the planned Angra 3 unit.

The first cascade at the Resende plant commenced operation in 2006 and the second was expected to do so in 2008. Stage 1 - eventually to be four modules totalling 115,000 SWU per year and costing $170 million - was officially opened in 2006. Each module consists of four or five cascades of 5000-6000 SWU per year. Stage 2 will take capacity to 200,000 SWU.

INB's fuel fabrication plant, designed by Siemens, is also at Resende, with capacity of 160 tonnes per year pellet production and 280 tonnes per year fuel assembly production.

4. azakhstan - the world's third biggest major uranium supplier, after Canada and Australia - reported a 28% increase in uranium production during 2008. The increase is in line with Kazakhstan's plan to become the world's leading uranium supplier.

KazAtomProm announced that Kazakhstan's uranium production increased 28% in 2008 to 8521 tonnes, compared with 6637 tonnes in 2007. Production in 2008 was, however, 1080 tonnes less than planned.

Plans call for uranium production to reach 11,900 tonnes in 2009.

Kazakhstan plans to increase uranium output to some 18,000 tonnes by 2010, which would make the country the world's largest producer of uranium. Kazakhstan has set a uranium production target of 30,000 tonnes per year by 2018, the increase being due to a perceived shortfall being likely about 2014.

A new 1.2 million tonne per year Canadian-built sulfuric acid plant feeding from the Kazakhmys copper smelter in Balkhash started production at the end of June 2008, financed by a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) loan to abate sulfur dioxide emissions from copper smelting.

5. The Wall Street Journal provides an overview of the shift in attitude in Europe towards nuclear power because climate crisis concerns and concern over Russia cutting off natural gas.

6. Excerpts from Steven Chu's confirmation hearing.

The point here is that nuclear power, as I said before, is going to be an important part of our energy mix. It’s 20% of our electricity generation today, but it’s 70% of the carbon-free portion of electricity today. And it is baseload. So I think it is very important that we push ahead.

Sen. Burr: Do I have your commitment that you’ll work to make this a more workable program?

Steven Chu: You absolutely do.

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN): The issue of nuclear. I'm gonna skip down and just be very brief since you've had now nine questions regarding that [nuclear]. I noticed a lot of people say that they support nuclear, but they also mention the waste issue. And it's as if once we solve the waste issue then we can pursue nuclear again. It's my understanding, based on what I've heard here today, you mean pursue nuclear now in spite of the, some of the issues that we have regarding waste. Is that correct? All out now? Loan guarantees, let's move ahead. We have 104 plants today. Probably need 300, let's move on?

Steven Chu: Yes, because I'm pretty confident, I'm confident that the Department of Energy, perhaps in collaboration with other countries, can get a solution to the nuclear waste problem.

Sen. Corker: Okay. Perfect. So, you'd move ahead while that was being solved?

Steven Chu: I think, certainly, these first several [new] plants that we talked about, use the loan guarantee to start them going. Just also, as you well know, Senator, I think, this is a complicated economic decision by the utility companies that will invest in these plants. So it's partly loan guarantee, it's partly the rates that utility companies will allow. But it, there is certainly a changing mood in the country, because nuclear is carbon-free, that we should look at it with new eyes.

Sen. Mary Landrieu : So would you just briefly state again what are your number one, number two, and number three strategies to move us forward on nuclear?

Steven Chu: The first is to accelerate this loan guarantee program for the several [new] nuclear reactors, their need to start, to restart the nuclear industry. So that, certainly, you’ve got to get going as you say. I agree with you, Senator. The other question, and it’s a concern of other Senators, is that we need to develop a long range plan for the safe disposal of the waste. And this is something that’s the responsibility of the Department of Energy. And that has to go forward as well, because you have to develop that concurrently with the starting of this industry again. And so those are [inaudible], in my mind, the two highest priorities. The third is that there is research that has to be done. Again, because reprocessing has the potential for greatly reducing both the amount and lifetime of the waste and to extend the nuclear fuel.

Setback in the War on Spam: Botnets Are Making Smarter Zombie PCs

Zombie PCs are getting smarter and harder to track down, according to security software vendor Commtouch. This is a early hint of a world with more advanced artificial intelligence (AI). The AI could be used for good or bad and could themselves be good or bad.

Hackers and malware are targeting new cloud computing and virtualization.

New zombies now routinely request new IP addresses from their ISPs, so anti-spam software that works by blocking spam based the originating IP addresses can no longer effectively halt them, the company said in its most recent quarterly Internet Threats Trend Report.

While some ISPs deny their request to change IP address, others accede, giving them new IP addresses in real time, Amir Lev, chief technology officer at Commtouch (NASDAQ: CTCH), told InternetNews.com. The result is that zombies can change addresses much faster than most security services and software can respond, which means their users are not protected, Lev said.

The resurgence in botnets has seen spam levels go up, as well. While they averaged 72 percent of all e-mail traffic throughout the fourth quarter of 2008, they now total 85 percent of all e-mails. That 85 percent constitutes 150 billion spam messages daily, Lev said.

There is an estimated 300,000 zombie PCs.

Spam and botnet activity fell sharply late last year after major spam host McColo was shut down in November.

Weeks later, however, the spammers and botnet controllers surged back.

Another new tactic adopted by spammers involves more complicated attacks that help them more easily slip past defenses. They include combination attacks, like the one that breached online bill paying service CheckFree -- and these are proving almost impossible to stop. The CheckFree attackers used a combination of phishing (define), pharming -- redirecting traffic to a bogus Web site -- and a "drive-by" malware injection that added botnet software to visitors' PCs.

"We're still seeing blended attacks and they have only one purpose -- distributing more botnets," Commtouch's Lev said. "They mainly direct people to landing pages, where they're infected."

Another new tactic adopted by spammers increases the difficulty of detecting and stopping the malicious links they trick victims into clicking. Increasingly, spammers' malicious links send Internet users to a traffic management system, which redirects each visitor to a different location every time -- distributing the traffic load, making it more difficult to track the spammers and hiding the malicious activity from the system administrator.

January 14, 2009

Mr. Roarke and Number Six Have Died

Ricardo Montalban dies at age 88. Famous for Mr Roarke on Fantasy Island and Khan Noonien Singh on Star Trek.

Patrick McGoohan Dead At 80 famous for being Number Six on the Prisoner.

The Prisoner Number Six on a Break from the Island Village

Mr Roarke on Fantasy Island

New Ground Telescopes and Near Term Space Telescopes

Ground Telescopes underway now.

Among telescopes projects under way in 2009 are:

• A major upgrade of the 19-year-old Hubble Space Telescope, including two advanced detectors that will vastly improve its vision for another five years.

• A bigger European rival to Hubble called the Herschel Space Observatory.

• ALMA, an array of 50-plus telescopes on a lofty desert in Chile that will be the most powerful ground-based observation system to date.

• Kepler, an orbiting telescope designed specifically to look for inhabitable planets around distant stars.

• Pan-STARRS, a set of four interconnected telescopes to detect fast-moving hazardous objects, such as satellites or space rocks.

• IceCube, an upside-down space particle observatory buried under the ice at the South Pole.

• The Allen Telescope Array, a set of 42 of radio telescopes listening for extra-terrestrial messages from possible civilizations around another star.

Awaiting funding:

The 140-foot-wide European Extremely Large Telescope, could make pictures of clouds, mountains and seas on distant planets. It's now in the design stage, and construction might begin in 2010.

Better Rockets Would Help
Moderately better rockets like the Ares V will enable larger space telescopes to be launched.

Ares V is the rocket that will deliver NASA's next manned lunar lander to the moon as well as all the cargo needed for a lunar base. Its roomy shroud could hold about eight school buses, and the rocket will pack enough power to boost almost 180,000 kg (396,000 lbs -- about 16 or 17 school buses) into low Earth orbit. Ares V can haul six times more mass and three times the volume the space shuttle can.

Ares V is scheduled for 2018 operations.

There is a cheaper and faster development alternative rocket plan from Direct Launch. They propose the Jupiter 232 and Jupiter 120 rockets.

Heavy Lift Rocket Able to handle 180 tons or so Enables ...
Hubble is only 2.4 meters wide.

The Space Telescope Science Institute's Marc Postman has been planning a 16-meter segmented optical/ultraviolet telescope called ATLAST, short for Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope. The science from an aperture its size would be spectacular. ATLAST would be nearly 2000 times more sensitive than the Hubble Telescope and would provide images about seven times sharper than either Hubble or James Webb.

Dan Lester of the University of Texas at Austin envisions another 16-meter telescope, this one for detecting far-infrared wavelengths. Lester's Single Aperture Far-Infrared Telescope ('SAFIR' for short), comes in two flavors for the Ares V: an 8-meter monolithic version and a 16-meter segmented version.

Roger Brissenden of the Chandra X-ray Center is excited about the possibility of a future 8-meter-class X-ray telescope called Gen-X.

US and China Look at Accelerated Retirement of Inefficient Cars

Steven Chu Vows to Push Nuclear Power

Steven Chu said on Tuesday that he would push as the new energy secretary to help the nuclear energy and clean coal industries jump-start their contributions to battle the nation’s energy crisis.

The Nobel Prize-winning physicist told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during his confirmation hearing that he’d help streamline nuclear loan guarantees that would help the industry construct several new plants to produce low-emission energy and would push the Energy Department to examine options for recycling nuclear waste.

More Nuclear, Wind and other Energy News
Business Week indicates that wind power projects have financing problems.

According to market researcher Emerging Energy Research (EER), new installed wind capacity worldwide will increase by just 14% in 2009—less than half the typical annual growth rate booked in the past decade. Consultancy Accenture (ACN) projects wind power capital expenditures over the next two years could fall by as much as 30%.

The slowdown is closely tied to the global economic crisis. Project financing costs, a critical element in this capital-intensive sector, have skyrocketed as banks cut back on lending. Scores of independent (and often highly leveraged) energy producers have already been pushed out of the market. That could cause demand for wind turbines to fall by as much as one-third in 2009, as only cash-rich utilities such as Florida Power & Light (FPL) have the means to continue investing.

With sales soft, Europe's turbine manufacturers have been forced to cut prices to offload unsold inventory and to shut down costly plants built to accommodate now-reduced global demand. Profit margins have fallen in tandem.

Analysts project it will take until 2012 to install what was previously projected for 2010.

For European players, the toughest problem now is rising financing costs that render many wind projects no longer cost-effective. Industry watchers figure the cost of capital has jumped by up to 200 basis points (two percentage points) over the past six months as banks embraced more conservative lending practices.

Global wind capacity is expected nearly to double by 2020. But for now, public sector help seems needed. Says Sak Nayagam, climate change lead at Accenture: "Government help for the wind industry could provide a much-needed economic stimulus."

Until U.S. President-elect Barack Obama outlines more details about his proposed $150 billion, 10-year plan to invest in green energy, analysts reckon investors will shy away from the sector

European utilities On and RWE will act together to build "at least 6000 MWe" of nuclear capacity in the UK.

EOn signed a letter of intent to cooperate with Siemens and Areva to build the latter's 1600 MWe EPR design in April last year and it has gone on to secure a grid connection agreement for exactly 1600 MWe at Oldbury B. Meanwhile, RWE has secured agreements for three 1200 MWe connections at Wylfa C. This matches the output of Westinghouse's AP1000 reactor.

The connection deals are in the 'scoping' phase and would all be available between 2020 and 2022, according to data published on 12 January by the UK's National Grid company. They total 5200 MWe, leaving space for one more project to fulfill EOn and RWE's stated goal of 6000 MWe.

Separately in the UK's rush to replace its aging nuclear fleet, British Energy and its new owner Electricité de France plan four EPRs: two at Sizewell C and two at Hinkley Point C.

If all these projects go ahead, nuclear energy would generate about 35% of UK electricity in the 2020s, compared to about 15% last year and an all-time high of around 30% in the 1980s.

Italy continuing poltical moves and building commitment for major nuclear energy construction.

MIT is advancing an improved imaging technology for oil wells. This could help enhanced oil recovery. Only about 30% or less of the oil in the ground is removed before conventional drilling is unable to remove it economically.

Oil is around $35/barrel and the EIA is projecting two years of a loose oil market

January 13, 2009

Solid State Laser Programs On Track for 2013 Field Tests

Textron solid state lasers

Aviation Week reports on the status of military solid state lasers.

Hellad [High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System] program small [size of a large refrigerator and about 1650 pounds] 150KW lasers are working to ground tests in 2011 and will include a demonstration of the system's ability to shoot down two SA-10-class surface-to-air missiles in flight simultaneously. "We want as realistic a tactical environment as possible," says Woodbury. "The next step is to line up support for an airborne demonstration. The system will be ready in 2012, and we could see a demo in 2012-13."

In 2009, different competing solid-state lasers are expected to run at power levels exceeding 100 kw. Different designs for 150-kw. electric lasers will also be tested in the lab this year as a step toward ground, and later airborne, demonstration of a fieldable laser weapon early next decade.

The military wants speed-of-light weapons with pinpoint accuracy, unlimited magazines and variable effects, but while the megawatt-class Airborne Laser and kilowatt-class Advanced Tactical Laser provide high power levels, their size and logistic issues with the hazardous chemical fuels limit their potential. "Warfighters want an electric laser," says Don Seeley, deputy director of the U.S. Defense Dept.'s High-Energy Laser Joint Technology Office.

Solid-state lasers promise to be much smaller and lighter, easier to integrate on to mobile and airborne platforms, and powered by electricity generated on board. Compared with fuel-hungry chemical lasers, electric weapons offer longer run times and unlimited shots.

Northrop Grumman and Textron Systems are developing competing 100-kw. solid-state lasers under JHPSSL. Textron is also building a more powerful derivative of its JHPSSL laser for Hellads, while General Atomics is developing the unique "liquid laser" that gave the Darpa program its name.

Full-power firings of the Joint High-Power Solid-State Laser (JHPSSL) devices were planned for the end of 2008, but are now expected in February-March for Northrop Grumman and summer 2009 for Textron. Both companies have completed 30-kw. firings as a step toward full power levels. The 100-kw. demos will complete the program, but the solid-state lasers are candidates for the U.S. Army's High-Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator program to test a truck-mounted system in 2013-15 that can counter rocket, artillery and mortar projectiles.

JHPSSL is demonstrating two different approaches to scaling solid-state lasers to high power. Northrop Grumman uses a "master oscillator power amplifier" configuration where the beams from eight lasers are combined optically to get to 100 kw. Textron uses a power oscillator configuration where a single beam goes through a chain of gain modules to produce a 100-kw. laser.

The Hellads program differs from JHPSSL in being the first program to impose size and weight requirements on a complete laser weapon system. The goal is to produce a 150-kw. weapon that fits within 3 cu. meters and weighs no more than 5 kg./kw. - more than 10 times smaller and lighter than any other high-power laser.

"JHPSSL is about scaling to 100 kw. in a laboratory. Hellads has higher power and aggressive targets for weight, size and run time, all within a form factor that fits on a tactical platform," says program manager Don Woodbury. Hellads is small enough to fit inside a bomber, transport or tanker and still allow the aircraft to perform other missions.

The original Hellads was conceived by Michael Perry, president of General Atomics' Photonics division, as a "radically different approach" to making a deployable laser weapon system. Perry says earlier work on ground-based high-energy lasers showed battlefield smoke and dust would degrade the beam. "We had to get the laser off the ground, but the issue was its size, weight and performance." The problem is not the laser head itself, which is "pretty small," he says, but the electrical supply and thermal management systems required to power and cool the weapon.

"The liquid laser design is completely different. It eliminates the thermal gradient and allows it to work a very high power," says Perry. The design is classified, but essentially the beam passes through a series of thin-disk laser amplifiers and the coolant in which they are immersed. The system comprises two 75-kw. modules, but they plug together to produce a single 150-kw. laser resonator, and there is no beam combining.

General Atomics has been working on Hellads since 2003. Textron entered the program only recently, having convinced Darpa it could scale up its ThinZag technology to meet the power and weight requirements. The design has three 50-kw. laser modules - called unit cells - similar to the JHPSSL power oscillator configuration "but with several significant design differences based on lessons learned," a company official says.

"JHPSSL was a great starting point and made it possible for Textron to be a competitor," says Woodbury. "They came in late and had to start from scratch, but they have made great progress in the laboratory and have gone well beyond JHPSSL in power, beam quality, run time and footprint." Darpa plans a shoot-off in the summer, with the winner going on to build the full laser. "All the science is in a unit cell; we simply replicate it to get to 150 kw.," he says.

As part of the $612.5 billion 2009 defense appropriations bill signed into law by President George W. Bush in mid-October, Congress fast-tracked Defense Science Board (DSB) recommendations that the military focus on the promise of directed energy weapons such as low-, medium- and high-power lasers, high-power microwaves and millimeter waves.

Textron awarded funding for Hellad lasers

Textron Defense Systems (TDS), an operating unit of Textron Systems, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, announced that it has signed an Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that will provide up to $21 million in government funding to design, fabricate and test a Unit Cell Module for a 150 kilowatt (kW) Laser Weapon System (LWS) and develop a critical design for the 150kW LWS.

Hellads coverage

Textron Defense systems lasers website

Separate from the DARPA Hellad program is the Navy program for megawatt lasers by 2012-2014. The Navy is looking at free electron lasers

36.5 Megawatt superconducting motor Successfully Tested at Full Power

-American Superconductor Corporation (NASDAQ: AMSC), a leading energy technologies company, and Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) announced today at the Surface Navy Association’s 21st National Symposium the successful completion of full-power testing of the world’s first 36.5 megawatt (49,000 horsepower) high temperature superconductor (HTS) ship propulsion motor at the U.S. Navy’s Integrated Power System Land-Based Test Site in Philadelphia. This is the first successful full-power test of an electric propulsion motor sized for a large Navy combatant and, at 36.5 megawatts, doubled the Navy’s power rating test record.

UPDATE: The new Aircraft carriers will eventually incorporate this superconducting engine and other technology like electro-magnetic launch and railguns and solid state lasers

Incorporating coils of HTS wire that are able to carry 150 times the power of similar-sized copper wire, the motor is less than half the size of conventional motors used on the first two DDG-1000 hulls and will reduce ship weight by nearly 200 metric tons. It will help make new ships more fuel-efficient and free up space for additional warfighting capability.

“The successful load test of our HTS motor marks the beginning of a new era in ship propulsion technology,” said Dan McGahn, senior vice president and general manager of AMSC Superconductors. “This motor provides the U.S. Navy with a truly transformational capability relative to size, stealth, endurance and survivability, providing our Navy with a clear performance advantage for years to come. We are grateful for the steadfast support from the Office of Naval Research, Naval Sea Systems Command and the Naval Surface Warfare Center.”

American Superconductor has background information on using superconductors for ship propulsion.

Degaussing Coil for Less Magnetic Signature and More Weight Savings
Earlier in 2008, the Navy successfully installed another HTS system – an HTS degaussing coil – onboard the USS HIGGINS (DDG 76). Powered by AMSC’s HTS wire and magnet cable technology, the coil system will undergo sea trials over the next two years onboard the HIGGINS. Similar to the motor, degaussing coils utilizing HTS wire will significantly reduce system weight for DDG 1000-class ships, landing platform dock (LPD) ships, and for the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS).

Degaussing coil

The degaussing coil provides better stealth capabilities.

Degaussing systems containing multiple tons of copper wire are utilized in most naval ships to cloak their magnetic signature, thereby making them much more difficult to be "seen" by magnetic sensors and magnetically activated mines. These systems are composed of a network of electrical cables installed around the circumference of a ship's hull, running from the bow to the stern on both sides of
the vessel.

"The work on the Higgins represents a true leap ahead for the U.S. Navy magnetic silencing and HTS communities that takes advantage of two decades worth of research," said ONR program manager George Stimak. "HTS degaussing brings with it a new capability in not only being able to perform the same functionality that legacy copper-based degaussing systems can accomplish but being able to do the same task in a much more efficient manner that is less invasive to the ship. It opens up the design trade space for the naval architect in planning out the degaussing system to meet the platform's signature requirement. The Navy's adoption of the technology is a result of many years of hard work in developing HTS wire and demonstrations funded by both the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy."

AMSC produces HTS wires that conduct more than 150 times the electrical current of copper wires of the same dimensions. With this "power density" advantage, the Navy estimates that HTS degaussing systems projected for the LPD-17, LCS, CG(X), DDG-1000, and CVN-21 classes of ship will show a 50%-80% reduction in total system weight
and a reduced total ownership cost compared to the current copper-based systems. In addition, a 90% reduction in the total installed cable lengths for all Navy ship classes is expected.

Office of Naval Research website The Superconducting motor is the code 33 technology section.

Office of Naval Research News

15 page 2005 PDF from American Superconductor on High Temperature Superconductor Ship Propulsion
The HTS ship propulsion motors offer a range of benefits and advantages for both naval and commercial shipping applications including the following:
• Up to three-times higher torque density than alternative technologies, HTS machines are more compact and lighter in weight. The size and weight benefits make HTS machines less expensive and easier to transport and install, as well as allowing for arrangement flexibility in the ship.
• Absence of iron stator teeth reduce the structureborne noise
• High efficiency from full-to-low speed, boosting fuel economy, sustained speed, and mission range, all key mission parameters for warships.
• Isothermal field winding is well suited for repeated load changes

A typical Navy ship, such as the DD(X) destroyer, needs two propulsion motors, each rated at 36.5 MW, 120-rpm. Such large motors have been built using conventional technology but they are four to five times heavier than the ONR funded 36.5 MW HTS motor being built by AMSC.

High Temperature Superconducting Motor Component Diagram

Sumitomo demonstrated a small superconducting motor for an electric car in 2008 and continues working on commercializing that technology for cars and trucks. The company says the prototype vehicle can travel more than 10% farther than conventional electric vehicles running on the same type of battery.

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