April 11, 2009

Printable Supercapactors and Optomec's Printable 5+ Ghz Carbon Nanotubes Thin Film Transistors

The combination of printable supercapacitors, batteries and electronics with lithography rivaling speed could open up many new applications using very capable cheap thin films. Prices for many applications could also be driven down if these systems can produce high quality at high volumes. The high speed electronics is at room temperature

New form factors that are both very large, smaller or more flexible will be possible.

Eventually higher speed electronic printing will be possible by converting current systems to the use of multiple printing heads that print line at time and scanning down a page or page at time or eventually reel to reel printing.

Printable Super-Capacitors

Printable Supercapacitors

UCLA researchers have made printable super-capacitors.

Thin film supercapacitors were fabricated using printable materials to make flexible devices on plastic. The active electrodes were made from sprayed networks of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) serving as both electrodes and charge collectors. Using a printable aqueous gel electrolyte as well as an organic liquid electrolyte, the performances of the devices show very high energy and power densities (6 W h/kg for both electrolytes and 23 and 70 kW/kg for aqueous gel electrolyte and organic electrolyte, respectively) which is comparable to performance in other SWCNT-based supercapacitor devices fabricated using different methods. The results underline the potential of printable thin film supercapacitors. The simplified architecture and the sole use of printable materials may lead to a new class of entirely printable charge storage devices allowing for full integration with the emerging field of printed electronics.

Printable Electronics at Speeds Rivaling Computer Processors

Optomec, a leading rapid manufacturing company, has an all-printed CNT-TFT (carbon nanotube-thin film transistor) on a polyimide substrate. All the elements of the TFT are fabricated solely by using aerosol-jet printing technology without involving any photolithography fabrication steps. An ultrahigh operating frequency of over 5 GHz was demonstrated with an on-off ratio of over 100. Such an all-aerosol-jet-printed process eliminates the need for lithography, vacuum processing, and metallization procedures and thus provides a promising technology for low-cost, high-throughput fabrication of large-area high-speed flexible electronic circuits on virtually any desired flexible substrate.

Aerosol Jet printing is an additive manufacturing solution that reduces the overall size of electronic systems by using nanomaterials to produce fine feature circuitry and embedded components without the use of masks or patterns. The resulting functional electronics can have line widths and pattern features as small as 10 microns, and as large as 100 microns or more — successfully bridging the gap between existing screen-printing and thin-film lithography capabilities.

Printing TFTs on flexible substrates at room temperature offers a cost-effective way to achieve mass production of large-area electronic circuits without using special lithography equipment. This is important for many emerging applications such as flexible displays, RFID tags, electronic paper, and smart skins. The Aerosol Jet deposition process was used to completely print all four layers of the Thin Film Transistor including materials with a wide spectrum of viscosities, making it an ideal solution for this type of multi-layer device.

Dr. Mike Renn, (a co-author of the paper) states that “One of the unique benefits of the Aerosol Jet technology is that it is capable of printing TFT devices with high drain current, high on-off ratio, and low operation voltage. Additionally, Aerosol Jet systems have achieved sub-micron layer thicknesses, and less than10 micron features sizes and 5 micron registrations”.

Optomec’s Aerosol Jet systems are used in the development of next generation printable devices such as solar cells, fuel cells, embedded sensors, and more. Aerosol Jet systems use a patented process that first aerosolizes conductive and nonconductive inks or pastes and then forms an aerodynamically focused droplet stream of the material. This Direct Write capability eliminates the need for screens or stencils required by traditional contact deposition processes while also enabling much finer feature sizes than is possible with ink jet printing technology.

Optomec is the world-leading provider of additive manufacturing systems for high-performance applications in the Electronics, Aerospace & Defense, Solar, and Biomedical markets.

All Aerosol-jet-printed carbon nanotube thin-film transistor on a polyimide substrate with an ultrahigh operating frequency of over 5 GHz

The TFT is in a top gated configuration. It consists of source S and drain D electrodes, a carrier transport layer based on an ultrapure, high-density >1000 CNTs/microns m^2. CNT thin film, a gate dielectric layer, and top gate electrode G. All of these TFT elements were printed on a DuPont Kapton FPC polyimide film by using an Optomec’s M3D Aerosol Jet printing system. The S and D electrodes were first printed on the Kapton FPC polyimide film using UTDAg silver nanoink from
UT-Dots, followed by the thermal annealing at 130 °C for 30 min. The width of the S and D electrodes was 50 microns, and the separation between the S and D electrodes, i.e., channel length 1, is 100 microns. An active carrier transport layer was then printed using an ultrapure, electronic grade CNT solution CJ-28 from Brewer Science, Inc.

Optomec Aerosol Jet Can Also Print Solar Cells with 20.3% efficiency

The Aerosol Jet printed solar cells achieved efficiencies of over 20% when combined with Light Induced Plating (LIP) and Annealing, versus an average efficiency for screen-printed mono-crystalline front junction silicon solar cells in the range of 16–18%. The narrower, higher integrity collector lines produced by Aerosol Jet deposition systems have higher conductivity and a lower shadowing effect, thereby increasing cell efficiency. In addition, because the process is non-contact, Optomec’s Aerosol Jet system can print on thinner wafers and with less breakage than screen- printing.

Aerojet Process and Printer

The Aerojet 300 weighs about 820 kilograms and is about 1 meter across and has a 1 square foot work area and can print 25 centimeters per second.

China Wind, Hydropower and Nuclear Power New, Now and til 2020 and Japan Nuclear Power

(H/T David Walters at DailyKos for some of the pointers to links

1. Organizers of the 3rd China (Shanghai) International Wind Energy Exhibition and Symposium 2009 forecast installed capacity in China's wind power sector will grow 64 percent this year to 20 million kilowatts (20 Gigawatts). It appears that China is well on track to 100 Gigawatts or more of wind power by 2020.

2. Beijing aims to increase hydropower capacity to 300 gigawatts by 2020, nearly triple the level in 2007. (original source South China Morning Power)

Tehran Times also reports the 300 Gigawatt hydro power for 2020 target for China.

3. China's energy administration wants to increase nuclear capacity to 75,000 megawatts, up from the 40,000 it had called for in a plan put forward in 2007, the Shanghai Securities News said.

The revised plan will soon be submitted to the State Council, the cabinet, for approval, Cao Shudong, a senior official with the National Energy Administration, told the paper.

The 75,000 megawatt plan was 5,000 megawatts more than previously reported.

China's Overall Energy Picture From 2007 to 2020

In 2006/7 the projection was that China would have about 35% power from non-fossil fuel sources in 2020. 270GW Hydro, 40GW nuclear, 123GW from renewable if targets are reached. 42% of power would be from non-coal sources if natural gas usage is increased as projected. CapGemini projects that China will have 1230GW of electrical power by 2020. Up from about 600GW in 2006.

At the end of 2007, the total installed capacity was 713.29 GW,annual generation of electricity was 3255.9 TWh.

In 2008, China added 90 million kilowatts of power generation capacity, including 20.1 million kilowatts of hydropower capacity, 65.75 million kilowatts of coal-fired capacity and 4.66 million kilowatts of wind power capacity, according to the CEC report. In 2008, China approved the construction of 14 nuclear power generation turbines with a total capacity of 15.12 million kilowatts. China added 4.66 million kilowatts of wind power generation capacity.

At the end of 2008, the total installed capacity was about 792.5 GW and consumed 3.4 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity, up 5.23 percent. However, the growth rate was 9.57 percentage points lower from that in 2007. China's installed power generating capacity is likely to increase to a record 860 gigawatts by the end of 2009, forecasts from the China Electricity Council showed.

The new 2020 targets are 300 GW Hydro, 75GW nuclear, 150GW from renewable if targets are reached. 46% of power would be from non-coal sources if natural gas usage is increased as projected.

The government's official survey data show the country could theoretically generate 694 GW from hydro sources, of which about 541 GW is technically feasible and 401 GW is economically feasible.

4. Japan is planning to complete 13 new nuclear reactors from 2014 to 2020. Nine reactors are about 1.37 GW and four are about 1.54 GW.

5. Southern Nuclear has given notice to its main contractors to proceed towards two new reactors at Vogtle. They are starting to break ground and begin preparations. Full construction scheduled to start mid-2011 for these two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors that would each produce 1105 MWe.

6. The Oyster Creek nuclear reactor licences were renewed to 2029.

The list of current reactors under construction or being planned around the world.

April 10, 2009

A Passive Microscale Solar Sail: Computer Chip Space Craft that Could Go Anywhere in the Solar System

Justin A. Atchison of Cornell University University proposes creating miniturized spacecraft with all systems made using computer chip technology and using only the active layer to achieve a weight of 7.5 milligrams or less. The system would act like a micro solar sail and could go like space dust anywhere in the solar system given enough time. The goal is self-contained “Microscale Infinite-Impulse” (MII) spacecraft capable of demonstrating significant, useful propellantless propulsion by virtue of its small length scale.

We consider spacecraft length scaling as a means of enabling achieving passive, feasible infinite-impulse orbits. Taking inspiration from the orbital dynamics of dust, this paper discusses the consequences of length scaling on acceleration due to solar radiation pressure and demonstrates its effectiveness on a candidate microscale spacecraft. We propose to fabricate this dime-sized spacecraft on a single ultra-thin substrate of silicon. This choice reduces the total mass to fewer than 7.5 mg and makes the spacecraft bus itself a solar sail, yielding a lightness number β of 0.0175. This architecture can provide passive solar sail formations and various passive methods of changing orbital energy. We also consider augmenting this architecture with traditional CP1 sail material (β of 0.1095) to reduce transfer times further. The paper surveys and compares passive methods of achieving a marginally stable sun-pointing attitude including the addition of fixed vanes and optical grating of the surface. The microscale infinite impulse (MII) spacecraft design replaces the traditional spacecraft subsystems with a single integrated circuit (IC). Our current fabrication efforts are directed at realizing this spacecraft as a simple sensing and transmitting circuit with standard IC tools.

The mass of such a 1 cm2 silicon substrate is 5.75 mg. For conservatism, the mass budget includes 30% margin, yielding a total mass of 7.46 mg, which is used in this paper’s calculations. The silicon fabrication process consists of additive and subtractive processes, which add or remove material from the substrate to form a device. The net contribution of these processes is assumed to be negligible.

A. Propulsion
Traditional propellant mechanisms such as chemical or ion thrust systems cannot be easily scaled to the IC level. A novel exception is so called “digital propulsion”. Lewis, et al. have successfully fabricated and demonstrated a device that delivers discrete amounts of thrust using microscopic chambers and chemical propellant. Though digital propulsion may prove relevant for our research in the long run, our current research is motivated primarily by propellantless propulsion, in hopes of enabling otherwise impossible missions and orbits. SRP, as described above, is among the potential propellantless-propulsion approaches.

B. Attitude Determination and Control
This paper has surveyed methods of achieving stable attitude orientations using passive SRP and spin stabilization. The sun-pointing architectures require a particular design and fabrication. Once released into an orbit, they behave passively. The momentum-stabilized architecture requires a method of spinning each chip about its major axis. A conceptually simple but perhaps costly solution is to design a mechanism to both spin and deploy each chip once in space. Alternatively, we are exploring outgassing as a means of producing torque. In this architecture, volatile material deposited on the edges of each chip would outgas in the vacuum of space to impart angular momentum, without the need for a spinning-deployment mechanism. Future research will also consider active control, perhaps with micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) as proposed by McInnes.

C. Structure
The structure of the spacecraft consists of the volume of semiconductive substrate on which the other subsystems are fabricated. A gallium-arsenide substrate offers desirable radiation hardening and the opportunity to produce high efficiency solar cells. However, the cost of integrating MEMS subsystems on gallium arsenide may discourage its use. We therefore focus on a more common, silicon substrate. At 2300 kg/m3, solid Silicon is significantly denser than 100 kg/m3, the net density of a typical spacecraft. Nevertheless, the silicon substrate offers the most near-term opportunity to decrease total mass.

Like traditional structural subsystems, the substrate must support and mechanically interface the other subsystems, facilitate ground handling, and withstand vibrations during transportation and launch. The MII design is less concerned with vibration control because the natural frequencies of such a structure are be far higher than the likely attitude-control bandwidth of any launch vehicle and the MII itself . Instead, the design is based on the lightest structure on which components can be fabricated: the thinnest possible substrate for a required surface area.

For polished silicon wafers, this limit is approximately 200 μm. Thinner silicon is too brittle to machine. Siliconon-Insulator (SOI) wafers are an alternative. Such wafers consist of an ultra-thin layer of silicon on top of a siliconoxide layer. This substrate offers structural rigidity and handling during fabrication, after which the silicon-oxide layer can be removed to leave the processed device on the ultra-thin silicon layer. Then, arbitrarily thin silicon can be produced, although the thickness in this paper is restricted to no less than 25 μm for conservatism.

We estimate that sufficient functionality can be achieved in 1 cm2. In order to maximize use of the surface area, we consider flip-chip fabrication. In this process, two chips are manufactured such that their backsides can be mated and both chips face outward. This technique allows the MII spacecraft to incorporate devices whose fabrication techniques are incompatible by producing them separately and integrating them as a final step. Of primary interest is the placement of solar cells on both sides of the chip to ensure that power is always available, regardless of attitude.

The mass of such a 1 cm2 silicon substrate is 5.75 mg. For conservatism, the mass budget includes 30% margin, yielding a total mass of 7.46 mg, which is used in this paper’s calculations. The silicon fabrication process consists of additive and subtractive processes, which add or remove material from the substrate to form a device. The net contribution of these processes is assumed to be negligible.

D. Power
Solar cell power generation is both passive and based in semiconductor physics, making it a natural choice for power in this application. We focus on silicon-based, first-generation solar cells, which use a single-layer p-n junction diode to pass photovoltaic currents. With sets of individual cells strategically connected in parallel or series, an array can be designed with specific voltage and current characteristics to accommodate propulsive, attitude control, or payload requirements. Commercially available, high-efficiency cells commonly achieve specific power on the order of 200 W/kg. Integrated solar cells are much less efficient3. This inefficiency drives the design to devote the majority of the available silicon surface to photovoltaics. Likewise, electrochemical batteries are difficult to integrate. It may be that an MII spacecraft will simply be powerless in eclipse. Alternatively, thin film capacitors printed on the chip might be used to store power. Solar cells produce electric power proportional to the cosine of the pitch angle. For this reason, sun-pointing attitude solutions offer an important advantage over other attitudes.

E. Communications
Following Sputnik’s example and facing the challenges of little available power, we conceive the communications subsystem as a transmit-only beacon. The data consists of a single beep at a single frequency—a binary output based on the presence or absence of the carrier. There is no signal per se carried on that frequency.

For this simple transmission to be tracked from a ground station, it must be powerful enough to overcome free-space loss, atmospheric attenuation, and other noise sources. The communication link’s carrier-to-noise-ratio C/N is therefore a useful measure of goodness. This ratio is influenced by the signal’s frequency, the orbit’s altitude, the transmitter’s losses and power, atmospheric conditions, and antenna efficiency. A single chip can accomplish only so much. A simple way to close the link budget is to select a ground station with high enough gain. For example, a candidate ground segment might use one of the Deep Space Exploration Society’s two 60 foot diameter parabolic dishes located in a radio-quiet region of Colorado. With an antenna gain of 32 dB, this dish represents an extremely sensitive publicly accessible receiver. Roughly speaking, a C/N of 10 at 8 GHz requires only 5 mW of emitted power to reach ground from LEO.

A simple RC-tank charging circuit can produce periodic bursts of power. In the baseline architecture, solar power charges a capacitor until a critical voltage is reached and a transistor is opened, releasing the stored energy. This energy is sent through an LC oscillator and is emitted as RF energy via two antennas. This sequence results in a pulsed oscillating signal. When sunward, the spacecraft exhibits an 8 s charging constant. The performance of RLC circuits depends on temperature, implying that the pulse frequency will vary with temperature. This dependence can be modeled or characterized experimentally and used to infer temperature from the beacon’s center frequency

Current Status
They are developing a simple hardware demonstration of the MII bus in the Cornell NanoScale Science & Technology Facility (CNF). Their most recent efforts have focused on the RLC oscillator. Having achieved our target 10 nF/cm2 capacitance density using silicon-dioxide as a dielectric layer, they are fabricating a series of inductors based on a three-layer octagonal design by Craninckx. Below is a photograph of their current oscillator at 20x magnification. Concurrently, members of their group are exploring the challenges associated with solar cell integration and have begun fabrication on organic solar cells which are compatible with many other fabrication processes. Once the chip is fabricated, they will begin thermal vacuum chamber and sun simulator testing.

You can bond the electronics to straight solar sail material for better/different performance and missions.

There are a lot of other technology developments that could be leveraged into this kind of system.

The MEMS 3D origami where MEMS are folded into 3 dimensional structures. Chips made with graphene or carbon nanotubes. Recently 5 Ghz electronics were printed using carbon nanotube ink.

If these spacecraft chips could be created in cheap mass quantities then it would be a technology pathway to creating a Dyson shell of solar power gathering devices. Being able to make a lot of chip spacecraft would have many interesting possibilities in terms of massive arrays, sensors all over the solar system etc...

Progress Toward Reconfigurable Spacecraft Via Magnetic Flux Pinning

There is progress working in the lab and in theory how to create reconfigurable spacecraft. The dynamics and control problems have been worked on in theory, math and simulation and the joints have been mocked and tested on an air table. Success would transform space operations and systems and enable large particle based solar sails, large optical telescope arrays and large lens for focusing lasers and networks of satellites and flexible modules for space stations. Shoer and Peck and others at their lab are doing great work in this area.

Magnetic reconfiguration would allow for unique structures in space. An example is below. The speed and flexibility of the reconfiguration is especially powerful if the magnetic joints and components are more compact.

A modular spacecraft could be constructed with interfaces consisting of combinations of magnets and Type II superconductors, establishing a non-contacting interaction between modules via magnetic flux pinning. This stable field interaction allows fractionated or modular spacecraft to fix their relative positions and orientations in a passive, virtual structure without mechanical connection, active control, or power expenditure. We report an experiment that investigates the mechanical properties of this magnetostatic interaction by finding the linear restoring forces and torques on a flux-pinned magnet and superconductor simultaneously in 6DOF for small displacements from a static equilibrium. Our results indicate that flux pinning is promising for modular spacecraft assembly and station-keeping applications, providing mechanical stiffnesses over 200 N/m at small (5 mm) magnet-superconductor separations and potentially useful nonzero stiffnesses at larger (over 3 cm) separations, with significant structural damping. We find that increasing the magnetic flux density at the superconductor surface strengthens the flux-pinning forces, suggesting that higher stiffness can be obtained over larger distances by increasing or focusing the pinned magnetic field. Still larger separations will be possible with other superconductors, particularly single-domain superconductors, which show evidence of flux pinning up to a separation of 7 cm or more. Related experiments may be used in the future for performance verification of flux-pinning spacecraft systems.

Reconfiguration of fractionated spacecraft is a challenging dynamics and control problem. It is possible that these challenges can be partly or fully addressed by instead treating the problem of spacecraft reconfiguration as a kinematic one. Selection of the appropriate kinematic constraints adds determinism and robustness to modular systems. The extensive theory of multibody kinematics and kinematics of machines can then apply to spacecraft reconfiguration applications. The need for active control and actuation during reconfiguration maneuvers decreases if the system kinematics are prescribed in such a way.

We view the flux-pinned interface as an enabling technology for such reconfigurable kinematic systems. FPIs are capable of locking and freeing joints between spacecraft modules (altering the spacecraft Jacobian), as well as latching onto and releasing the modules entirely (changing the incidence matrix of the multibody system). We have described two simple ways in which FPIs enable the formation of mechanisms to reconfigure a modular space system. In addition, we have demonstrated a simple kinematic mechanism incorporating an FPI on an air table. Future work in this area will concentrate on the development of suitable flux-pinned interfaces for the formation of kinematic mechanisms and on maneuver strategies for such mechanisms in spacecraft reconfiguration. However, the prospect of treating reconfigurable, modular spacecraft systems as kinematic mechanisms has more general application than to systems mated with flux pinning.

April 09, 2009

Interview with Tom Shelley, Vice President of Marketing for Space Adventures

Space Adventures has a video animation on its site that illustrates the new lunar flyby mission (privately experience what Jim Lovell a few others did - not the Apollo 13 hazard but the good missions)

This is an interview with Tom Shelley by Sander Olson. Tom is the Vice President of Marketing for Space Adventures, Ltd. Space Adventures is the only company providing space access to tourists. They have been in the news lately because of the flight of Charles Simonyi to the International Space Station. Here are the main points of the interview:

- Space access costs are increasing and may continue to increase for the next few years, due to the fact the growing demand for Soyuz capacity and the limited availability of man-rated rockets. Beyond that, however, space access costs should massively decrease due to next-generation launch systems emerging.

-The current cost for an orbital flight is $35 million, and $100 million for a lunar flyby. U.S. rockets like the Delta are not man-rated and are substantially more expensive than Soyuz, so Soyuz is currently the only game in town for commercial orbital flights. Chinese rockets are being developed and they might be appropriate for such missions in the future.

-Space Adventures needs two paying customers to proceed with the lunar flyby mission. The mission will include three customers, one of whom is the pilot/commander. The mission would include one pass around the farside of the moon, and would take about a week.

-Although near-term commercial space plans revolve around tourism and satellites, there are numerous other potentially lucrative space enterprises, such as mining asteroids and space-based solar power, either of which could become multi-billion dollar industries. Once space-access costs are sufficiently reduced, orbital hotels should become feasible, and Space Adventures is very interested in that concept.

- The commercial space industry is poised for exponential growth, similar to the growth that occured a century ago with airplanes. The commercial airline industry acheived critical mass in the 1930s, during the heighth of the Great Depression, so this recession will not stop the exponential growth.

Tom Shelley Interview

Question 1: In what ways is your company, Space Adventures, unique?

: Space Adventures, which was formed in 1998, is the pioneer in the field of private spaceflight. We are the only company to have actually put private citizens into space. We also offer zero-g flights through our subsidiary, the zero-g corporation. If you are a private citizen and you want to go into space, our company is currently your only viable option.

Question 2. What are the current costs for an orbital flight? How will pricing change during the next few years?

: Although prices fluctuate, they will range from $35 million to $100 million. An orbital manned spaceflight mission to the International Space Station (ISS) is $35 million. Charles Simoni, who we launched to the ISS, is paying $35 million for the privilege. A lunar flyby mission is $100 million, and we are taking orders for that now.

Question 3. Will costs increase or decrease during the next decade?

: Costs should increase during the next few years, but decrease substantially once new technologies emerge. The only way into orbit at the moment is through the Russian Soyuz system, and prices have been going up as demand for space on the capsules has increased. Governments, including NASA, are buying flights from the Russians, so supply is quite limited.

Question 4. Is Space Adventures developing its own Rocket or spacecraft?

: We are not a developer/manufacturer, but an experience provider. There are next-generation launch vehicles currently being developed, and it is our intention to utilize some of these systems for our clients

Question 5: Has NASA been a positive or negative force for commercial space exploration?

: NASA has been supportive of our clients. They go to NASA for training, and while NASA does not supply the flight, they have been a constructive force in what we are trying to do. In particular, the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) is benefiting private space corporations by providing them a revenue opportunity.

Question 6: To what extent is the global recession affecting space tourism?

: The economic downturn naturally has an impact, but there are people out there who take a longer-term view regarding their dreams and aspirations. Overall, there are a huge number of individuals who want to go into space. It is important to remember that the aerospace industry achieved critical mass during the great depression in the 1930s.

Question 7: What steps could the Government take to encourage the commercial development of space?

: More than anything else, the Government should ensure that the regulatory environment does not become overly restrictive and stifle the development of new spaceflight technologies. The Government is doing a good job in this regard so far, and we hope it continues. Of course, having the Government as a customer would help any industry to grow. The Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) is a good example of that.

Question 8: Describe the Space Adventures Lunar Mission package.

: The package will technically get started when we have two paying customers. Several potential customers have shown interest. The mission itself will involve one pass around the farside of the moon, and would cost $100 million per customer. The spacecraft would contain three people, two of whom would be paying customers, and one of whom would be the spacecraft commander/pilot. The mission would last about a week from start to finish.

Question 9: Has Space Adventures examined the feasibility of orbital hotels?

: We are interested in the subject, and there are organizations actively researching the concept. There is undoubtedly a market for orbital hotels, but access to the hotels is a key question that needs to be answered - customers need to be able to access the hotels essentially at will.

Question 10: Besides tourism and satellites, what other commercial markets exist for space development corporations?

: There are a number of other commercial opportunities for space development. The mineral wealth in the asteroids is vast, and includes both common and precious metals. So mining the asteroids could eventually turn into a multi-billion dollar industry. Space-based solar power generation is another promising field, since the power could transmit electricity to the earth continuously.

Question 11: Some have argued that the space industry is poised for exponential growth. Do you agree?

: Absolutely. To date, fewer than 500 people have actually been to space. But there is enough activity going on now to reduce the cost of space access, and next-generation launch systems that provide regular access to space are actively being developed. Significantly more people will travel to space in the next two decades than in the past fifty years of manned spaceflight.

April 08, 2009

Raser Technologies Announcing Plug In Hybrid SUV

Raser Technologies is announcing an plug in hybrid electric SUV that can get up to 100mpg in city driving with recharges every 40 miles.

It will use a 200 kw Symetron Electric drive and a 100kw Symetron generator. The vehicle is propelled by a 200 kW Symetron Enhanced AC induction motor and drive system designed by Raser Technologies. It is one of the most powerful electric motor offered in a passenger vehicle today. The traction motor will also provide regenerative braking to help recharge the batteries and slow the vehicle. The high power Symetron Controller drives the motor at maximum efficiency using proprietary control algorithms. All vehicle systems are managed by the hybrid master controller.

They have several flyers that describe the technology.

Raser Technologies is targeting the new symetron motors to make better forklifts and for many military and industrial applications.

Symetron Engine Claims

The Symetron enhanced AC induction motor produces over 4x the peak torque and 37% more continuous torque than the series wound DC motor. These significant improvements in motor performance produce key benefits of quicker speeds, better acceleration and a faster, smoother response in directional change, for example, when changing from forward to reverse and vice versa. Symetron technology means high performance, high productivity.

An AC induction motor has fewer parts than a DC motor, such as brushes and commutators, which allows for a smaller, more efficient motor size. A Symetron enhanced AC induction motor helps optimize forklift design requirements and reduce motor costs and maintenance.

DC batteries lose power over time, requiring periodic recharging. AC motors reduce mechanical "down-time" by regenerating battery power, capturing energy through braking, coasting and constant directional change. Symetron enhanced AC motor technology increases motor output and its efficient ability to regenerate power.

* Up To 3x More Torque
* Up to 50% Smaller Motor
* Greater Efficiency
* Quiet, Clean, Inexpensive Energy
* High Performance, High Productivity

April 07, 2009

Sentience Driving Software Can Reduce Fuel Usage 5-24% Starting in 2012

Sentience driving software can control a car or trucks acceleration and braking and enable 5-24% fuel savings and could be installed in vehicles starting in 2012. It is also a transition path to completely robotic driving. For about $30 to install ion each car or truck the system would save an average of 14% of fuel usage.

In evening tests on public roads in ‘real-world’ conditions in the vicinity of TRL (Transport Research Laboratory), achieved mean savings at all times in excess of 5 per cent.

The Full Robotic CAr Vision
Robotic car only zones were proposed at Nextbigfuture.

Masdar City, a place that will 100,0000 people, is being built with only electric robotic pod cars on wheels for transportation.

Massive robotic warehouses have already been built.

Robotic cars can be used to make a safer and more efficient transportation system and would enable revolutionary new modes where almost no cars are parked but are oncall for use by other people.

Back to Sentience Smart Cruise Control with Acceleration and Braking Control
The wide variation in the numbers comes from the type of car -- hybrid vehicles will save more fuel than those with internal combustion engines alone -- and from the driver's driving style.

On an empty road with no other vehicles, the Sentience system could completely control a vehicle.

With other cars on the road, the driver must control acceleration and braking because the Sentience system is not equipped with the real-time location of all the other vehicles on the road. Future versions of Sentience could be, said Overton, although no final decision on that possibility has been made.

The other option is to have Sentience, or a program like it, installed on every car on the road, said Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Joseph Sussman, an expert on intelligent automotive systems.

Tom Robinson, leader of the Sentience project, said that journeys might take a couple of minutes longer but drivers would accept this in return for safer journeys and cheaper fuel bills. A driver who spends about £50 a week to fill their fuel tank would save more than £500 a year.

By being able to anticipate red lights and congestion well before the driver can see them, cars can brake smoothly and minimise fuel consumption. The driver simply steers the car, keeping his feet well away from the brake and accelerator pedals, overriding the system only in an emergency, such as a pedestrian suddenly stepping out.

An analysis of potential total UK fuel saving of 14 per cent, equating to between 1.2 and 2.9 million barrels of oil per year. The UK uses about 570,000 barrel of gas/diesel per day. The USA uses 4.2 million barrels of gas/diesel per day.

Sentience represents a potentially very low cost of implementation. In a vehicle already equipped with a phone and GPS (e.g. for a navigation system) then no additional hardware would be needed for a production implementation. If these systems were not pre-installed, then the project team estimates that these functions could be provided for a unit cost of around €20 in high volumes. Extra control and integration software would be needed but the processing and storage needs would be modest and likely to be readily integrated into almost any existing vehicle architecture. The availability of high resolution mapping would be a prerequisite for implementation but given the increased availability of such data, the project team estimate that a Sentience based system could be put into production in approximately 3-4 years based on technology availability for model year development programmes in around 18 months.

The Sentience system uses a GPS-equipped smart phone, on the cellular phone network Orange, to determine the vehicle's position. Wireless Bluetooth technology links the phone to the other piece of hardware necessary for Sentience, the r-cube, developed by the Ricardo company. The r-cube controls the vehicle's acceleration and braking.

For the initial tests, the Sentience team used an imported Ford Escape hybrid.

The maps generated by Ordnance Survey include everything from speed bumps to school zones. When a Sentience-equipped vehicle approaches, say, a roundabout, the software automatically slows the vehicle down enough to take the turn. Once the turn is complete, the software then accelerates the vehicle in the most fuel-efficient way.

1 MW and 20 Megawatt Kitegen Wind Power Systems Funding of 15 million Euro Announced

The radical italian Kitegen wind power system appears to have funding of 15 million euro (announced not distributed). An interesting synergy is possible with large Kitegen systems and nuclear power plants. Kitegen systems could be co-located with nuclear power plants to help prevent any illegal airplanes from hitting the nuclear plant. (Kite flying would be adjusted to entangle any planes or UAVs that venture into what is a no-fly zone). Meanwhile the extra power generation would be going along the existing built up power grid to the nuclear plant.

UPDATE: the funding has been announced but has not been provided yet as per Italian Technologist commenter Carlo Perassi.

There is a 14 page IEEE Control Systems research paper on the 40KW prototype and progress on the system.

For medium-to-large-scale energy generators, an alternative KiteGen configuration is being studied, namely, the carousel configuration. In this configuration several airfoils are controlled by their KSUs placed on the arms of a vertical-axis rotor. The controller of each kite is designed to maximize the torque exerted on the rotor, which transmits its motion to an electric generator. For a given wind direction, each airfoil can produce energy for about 300◦ of carousel rotation; only a small fraction (about 1%, see the “Simulation Results” section of the IEEE paper for details) of the generated energy is used to drag the kite against the wind for the remaining 60◦. According to our simulation results, it is estimated that the required land usage for a kite generator may be lower than a current wind farm of the same power by a factor of up to 30–50. Electric energy production costs lower by a factor up to 10–20.

At present, a small scale yo-yo prototype has been realized. This system can generate up to 40 kW using commercial kites with characteristic area up to 10 m2 and line length up to 800 m. The prototype is under test. Preliminary tests show that the amount of energy predicted by simulation is confirmed by experimental data.

A new KiteGen prototype is expected to be built in the next 24–36 months to demonstrate the energy-generation capabilities of the carousel configuration. In particular, a carousel structure with a single kite steering unit mounted on a cart riding on a circular rail will be considered. To collect the energy produced by the wagon motion, the wheels of the cart are connected to an alternator. Such a prototype is expected to produce about 0.5 MW with a rail radius of about 300 m. According to scalability, a platoon of carts, each one equipped with a kite steering unit, can be mounted on the rail to obtain a more effective wind power plant. This configuration can generate, on the basis of preliminary computations, about 100 MW at a production cost of about 20 €/MWh, which is two to three times lower than from fossil sources.

A standard 2-MW wind turbine has a mean production of 4000 MWh/year. To attain a mean generation of 9 TWh/year, which corresponds to almost 1000-MW mean power, 2250 such towers are required, with a land usage of 300 km2 and an energy production cost of about 100–120 €/MWh. In comparison, the production cost from fossil sources (gas, oil) is about 60–70 €/MWh. Simulation results show that a KiteGen capable of generating the same mean energy can be realized using 60–70 airfoils of about 500 m2, rotating in a carousel configuration of 1500-m radius and flying up to 800 m. The resulting land usage is 8 km^2, and the energy production cost is estimated to be about 10–15 €/MWh.

Kitegen has been covered before at Nextbigfuture A 100 MW Kitegen power plant is estimated to deliver a cost of energy produced lower than 0.03 Euro per kWh.

Note: this article is using a translation of a webpage that was in Italian.

From translation: To june the 2006 kitegen it has received a financing of 15 million euro.

The wind at high altitude (500-600 meters height) is nearly always present and blows 7000 hours during the year while that at ground level wind is present only for approximately 1700-1800 hours per year (hours that represent the Kwh relationship produced in a year regarding the power of the wind turbine generator), a year have 8760 hours.

A Kitegen system able to deliver 1 GigaWatt is projected to cost 80 million euro.

Using the first 4 million euro a 1 megawatt prototype kitegen will be built. The remaining 11 million euro of the public contribution will be used for a 20 Megawatt version. It will be constructed on the old nuclear reactor site at Trino (VC). The area is ideal because already it is protected by a “no fly zone”, will be dealt, in this case, of Aeolic of high quota. In any case, it is believed that the technology of the generators to vertical axis, when mature, will supplant that to horizontal axis, as of the rest it is already, partially, happening.

The Kitegen site has research papers and more information.

Nextbigfuture has a section with Kitegen articles.

Gene therapy appears safe to regenerate gum tissue

The figures show microcomputed tomographic images of regenerated periodontium (tooth supporting structures) following delivery of PDGF genes.

Scientists at the University of Michigan have developed a method of gene delivery that appears safe for regenerating tooth-supporting gum tissue—a discovery that assuages one of the biggest safety concerns surrounding gene therapy research and tissue engineering.

Gene therapy is an accepted, viable therapeutic concept, but safety is a major hurdle, said William Giannobile, professor at the U-M School of Dentistry. The most notable incident highlighting the safety concerns of gene therapy research and treatment occurred several years ago when a teenager died when given the adenovirus during a gene therapy clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania.

The U-M therapy also uses the adenovirus, Giannobile said, but the big difference in the U-M approach lies in the local application and much lower dose. Instead of injecting the genes into the blood vessels, where they can then travel through the bloodstream and result in unexpected and sometimes fatal reactions, U-M scientists put the genes on a localized area, directly on the tissue during surgery much like a paste.

The next step for the U-M team is to use the new gene delivery approach in human clinical trials, Giannobile said. The planning stages for these studies will commence in the next year.

The paper, called "Adenovirus Encoding Human Platelet-Derived Growth Factor-B Delivered to Alveolar Bone Defects Exhibits Safety and Biodistribution Profiles Favorable for Clinical Use," is partially available online. It's scheduled to appear in the May issue of the journal Human Gene Therapy.

In 2008, there was progress reported on regenerating teeth

China Technology: Supercomputers and Breeder Nuclear Reactor

1. China's first supercomputer with a computing speed of over 100 trillion times per second, the Dawning 5000A, also called the "Magic Cube," will officially be installed in the Shanghai Supercomputer Center in mid-May, according to the Dawning Information Industry Company.

The Dawning 5000A, which is to be installed in Shanghai, will have three important missions— the national grid, Shanghai's basic scientific research platform, and information services for the eastern China region, said Li Jun, President of the Dawning Information Industry Company. It will provide massive information processing, information development services, and high-performance computing services for the purpose of scientific research in all sectors of eastern China.

2. The installation and adjustment of main equipment for the China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) has been completed.

The sodium-cooled, pool-type fast reactor is being constructed with some Russian assistance at the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIEA), near Beijing, which undertakes fundamental research on nuclear science and technology.

Fuel produced by Russia's TVEL will be loaded into the reactor July/August and it is scheduled to be commissioned by the end of 2009.

The thermal power of the CEFR is 65 MW, matched with a 25 MWe turbine generator.

A 600 MWe prototype fast reactor is envisaged by 2020 and there are outline plans for a 1500 MWe version by 2030. In October 2008, the Russian-Chinese Nuclear Cooperation Commission called for construction of an 800 MWe demonstration fast reactor similar to Beloyarsk 4, currently the world's only commercial fast breeder reactor.

Unlike most of the reactors used today for nuclear power generation, fast neutron reactors (FNRs) make maximum use of uranium resources by generating a certain amount more fuel than they consume. They do this by using fast neutrons to 'burn up' uranium and plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, which can be surrounded a uranium 'blanket' in which slightly more plutonium is created than is used. The MOX fuel uses the plutonium recovered when spent fuel, including that from conventional light water reactors, is reprocessed.

What is DARPA Doing Now ?

1. DARPA has funded Rice University to develop platform-aware compilation environment". Enable compilers which are the everywhere to be faster without needing highly skilled people spending a lot of time tuning each one. If they succeed all computers would become faster.

"When a compiler translates human-written code into executable code, it makes myriad choices that have a direct impact on how fast the application runs, how much power it uses and how much memory it uses," Cooper said.

The tools PACE project researchers hope to build will cut the time needed to create high-quality compilers. In addition, the PACE team will learn as it goes, measuring and weighing the goals, capabilities and performance of each processor, to create compilers that are optimized for particular situations.

Krishna Palem, Rice's Ken and Audrey Kennedy Professor of Computer Science, said, "It is a rare treat to be working with this 'dream team' and continue Rice's rich tradition in compiler research. PACE involves many innovations using radical ideas intended to allow compilers to learn and adapt, much as humans do during infancy."

"This is akin to a Turing Test for compilers," Sarkar said. "Our goal is to enable PACE tools to be used as a substitute for the time-consuming human expertise that is currently needed to improve the quality of compilers for any given platform.

"The challenge is daunting," he said. "It's not just hard, it is DARPA-hard."

Because the PACE project will focus on portable performance, Cooper said, the researchers will rely on vendor-supplied compilers -- for languages such as C and Fortran -- to perform the final steps of code generation for the target systems. The output of the PACE tools will be a distinct version of an application's code for each kind of processor in the system. Each of those codes will be specifically optimized for the processor, the surrounding system and the vendor compiler.

2. IEEE Spectrum reports DARPA is funding a system to provide detailed 3d building maps of above and below ground facilities over 3 days.The UK register also has coverage.

All this should be achieved without any US personnel needing to get within 10 meters of the building, and only brief excursions inside 20 meters: and the machinery should have the complete building map produced within 3 days.

3. A summary of other DARPA projects is provided from an interview with Gregory T.A. Kovacs who lead DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office.

The MTO funds engineering in five general areas: electronics, photonics, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), computer architectures, and algorithms. But as Kovacs has repeatedly said, the role of DARPA is more about integrating these units into interdisciplinary projects.

* The Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (HI-MEMS) program. Researchers funded under that program are tasked with the creation of moths or other insects that have electronic controls and energy-harvesting devices implanted inside them, making them self-powered remote-controlled spies.

* Trust in Integrated Circuits (TIC) program, which aims to verify the contents of any microchip assembled offshore. This is a punishing task, as only a few hundred transistors out of 2 billion could theoretically wreak havoc; finding them is a classic needle-in-a-haystack problem.

* Integrated Sensor Is Structure (ISIS) aims for the construction of a 150- to 300-meter-long stratospheric airship to deliver real-time surveillance of the battlefield below and the horizon all around.

* Previously you couldn’t carry sizable [GPS replacement location determining] equipment [into the cave]. Unless it’s the size of a couple of sugar cubes, it’s got no hope of helping. DARPA now have versions of that that are very advanced and very small—small enough to be carried.

Another example is the ocean. It’s impenetrable to the radio frequencies that GPS uses. You have no geographic fix at all, and at that point, all you know is your depth. Sure, a compass will work, but if you’ve ever dived, you’re relying on a compass in murky water. It’s not very accurate.

* DARPA is investigating an entirely new type of transistor, called a tunneling transistor, which would operate at lower voltages—a quarter volt instead of today’s 1 volt. That would greatly reduce the active heat dissipation, which is proportional to the square of the voltage.

Three Times Higher Carbon 12 Purity for Synthetic Diamond Enables Better Quantum Computing

Element Six is a global leader (Europe based) and innovator in supermaterials with a history spanning more than 50 years.

Element Six has created synthetic diamond with less carbon 13 isotope and more pure carbon 12, which enables longer quantum coherence times to be maintained longer. Note: Normally 1.07% is carbon 13 isotope. They have reduced this ratio by over three times.

Element Six has been faced with the challenge of simultaneously reducing the concentration of the isotope 13C to less than 0.3% and reducing the concentration of other paramagnetic defects to less than 10^14 cm-3.

The full 5 page paper is available.

With the current limit in dephasing times (1.8 ms), two nitrogen-vacancy electron spins, at a distance of 100nm, will be coherently coupled. This distance is sufficient for the two centres to be addressed and read out separately by modern methods of nonlinear optical microscopy and also manufacturable with current implantation techniques that allow some 10nm precision.

As the distance at which coherent coupling prevails scales as cube root of NC, a further reduction of the 13C concentration by one order of magnitude would enable an increase of the mutual separation by roughly a factor of 2.

Note that the ultimate limit for the coherence time of a spin-free diamond host is given by spin-lattice relaxation, which is expected to occur in a seconds timescale. In this case, micrometre-scale-separated electron spins would show coherent coupling, an almost macroscopic scale quantum array.

Isotopic enrichment was accomplished by using purifiers to reduce non-intentional dopants and isotopically enriched methane at 99.7% in a hydrogen environment (95% by composition). These conditions led to samples in which the paramagnetic impurity concentration (including nitrogen, hydrogen and silicon defects) was minimized.

Longer Quantum Coherence Any unintentional defects with paramagnetic spin in the diamond can result in the qubits rapidly losing their quantum information, severely limiting the number of possible computations. So researchers are putting a great deal of effort into increasing "coherence time" which is one of the many challenges to building practical computers. This requires developing quantum purity diamond with a very low defect spin concentration. In this letter to Nature Materials, the EQUIND consortium report, single electron spins having a room temperature spin dephasing time of 1.8 ms, the longest ever observed in a solid state system at room temperature.

Better Magnetic Imaging Application

Diamond with these properties is also applicable to research into a new type of nanometre-scale magnetic sensors that could be used in biological imaging. In their letter, the researchers note, "The ability of ultrapure isotopically controlled CVD diamond to detect weak magnetic fields with high local resolution might have implications in a wide range of fields such as: life science, metrology and quantum applications. A possible example are diamond magnetometers used to detect magnetic fields associated with the ion flow through membrane channels in cells."

Nature Materials : Ultralong spin coherence time in isotopically engineered diamond Published online: 6 April 2009 | doi:10.1038/nmat2420

As quantum mechanics ventures into the world of applications and engineering, materials science faces the necessity to design matter to quantum grade purity. For such materials, quantum effects define their physical behaviour and open completely new (quantum) perspectives for applications. Carbon-based materials are particularly good examples, highlighted by the fascinating quantum properties of, for example, nanotubes or graphene. Here, we demonstrate the synthesis and application of ultrapure isotopically controlled single-crystal chemical vapour deposition (CVD) diamond with a remarkably low concentration of paramagnetic impurities. The content of nuclear spins associated with the 13C isotope was depleted to 0.3% and the concentration of other paramagnetic defects was measured to be <10^13 cm-3. Being placed in such a spin-free lattice, single electron spins show the longest room-temperature spin dephasing times ever observed in solid-state systems (T2=1.8 ms). This benchmark will potentially allow observation of coherent coupling between spins separated by a few tens of nanometres, making it a versatile material for room-temperature quantum information processing devices. We also show that single electron spins in the same isotopically engineered CVD diamond can be used to detect external magnetic fields with a sensitivity reaching 4 nT Hz-1/2 and subnanometre spatial resolution.

E6 makes a lot of other advanced materials

E6 is toughening electronics for extreme environments

The electronics toughening is part of Europe's Morgan project

Diamond work is also part of the Morgan project

The Diamond isotope purification results highlight the progress of research carried out under the three-year project called "Engineered Quantum Information in Nanostructured Diamond" or "EQUIND" which started in early 2007. EQUIND is part of the European Union’s "FET Open Funding Programme", aimed at studying the potential of future and emerging technologies that may have an impact on society or industry.

AI and Robotic Breakthroughs that Multiply Scientific Research Productivity

A series of announcements that will multiply the productivity of scientific research and enhance the ability of lay people to have scientifically correct results. These new programs and robotic systems will be further enhanced with the increasing use of cloud computing, robotic and sensor advances and increased computing power from things like GPGPU. (H/T Michael Anissimov at Accelerating Future) These advances go along with other technology and processes that are accelerating scientific research. Examples of other technology are combinatorial arrays for running many tests at the same time, cheap diagnostic devices and sensors and computer simulation.

1. Wired Science reports on a computer program that self-discovers the laws of physics. It is analyzing large datasets and determining laws (some previously undiscovered) which explain the data. More information and video at Cornell University.

In just over a day, a powerful computer program accomplished a feat that took physicists centuries to complete: extrapolating the laws of motion from a pendulum's swings.

Developed by Cornell researchers, the program deduced the natural laws without a shred of knowledge about physics or geometry.

The research is being heralded as a potential breakthrough for science in the Petabyte Age, where computers try to find regularities in massive datasets that are too big and complex for the human mind.

Lipson and Schmidt designed their program to identify linked factors within a dataset fed to the program, then generate equations to describe their relationship. The dataset described the movements of simple mechanical systems like spring-loaded oscillators, single pendulums and double pendulums — mechanisms used by professors to illustrate physical laws.

The program started with near-random combinations of basic mathematical processes — addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and a few algebraic operators.

Initially, the equations generated by the program failed to explain the data, but some failures were slightly less wrong than others. Using a genetic algorithm, the program modified the most promising failures, tested them again, chose the best, and repeated the process until a set of equations evolved to describe the systems. Turns out, some of these equations were very familiar: the law of conservation of momentum, and Newton's second law of motion.

"It's a powerful approach," said University of Michigan computer scientist Martha Pollack, with "the potential to apply to any type of dynamical system." As possible fields of application, Pollack named environmental systems, weather patterns, population genetics, cosmology and oceanography. "Just about any natural science has the type of structure that would be amenable," she said.

Compared to laws likely to govern the brain or genome, the laws of motion discovered by the program are extremely simple. But the principles of Lipson and Schmidt's program should work at higher scales.

The researchers have already applied the program to recordings of individuals' physiological states and their levels of metabolites, the cellular proteins that collectively run our bodies but remain, molecule by molecule, largely uncharacterized — a perfect example of data lacking a theory.

Their results are still unpublished, but "we've found some interesting laws already, some laws that are not known," said Lipson. "What we're working on now is the next step — ways in which we can try to explain these equations, correlate them with existing knowledge, try to break these things down into components for which we have clues."

2. Wolfram|Alpha's online computed answer engine will be like having a house scientist to consult for you.

Wolfram|Alpha looks like a search engine, in that there’s a one-line box where you type in a question. The output appears a second or two later, as a page of text and graphics below the box. What's happening behind the scenes? Rather than looking up the answer to your question, Wolfram|Alpha figures out what your question means, looks up the necessary data to answer your question, computes an answer, designs a page to present the answer in a pleasing way, and sends the page back to your computer.

Let me give three random examples. If you enter the query, “3/26/2009 + 90 days” you’ll get a page that gives a date ninety days later than the first date. If you enter “mt. everest height length of golden gate” you’ll get a page expressing the height of Mount Everest as a multiple of the length of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you enter “temperature in los gatos,” you’ll get something like the current temperature, a graph of the temperatures over the last week with projections for the next few days, and a graph of the temperatures over the last year.

Wolfram|Alpha can pop out an answer to pretty much any kind of factual question that you might pose to a scientist, economist, banker, or other kind of expert. The exciting part is that you’re not just looking up pages on the web, you’re getting new information that’s generated by computations working from the known data. Wolfram says the response can be so speedy because, “We’ve found that, of all the things science can compute, most take a second or less.”

Wolfram|Alpha will let users input data and models, along the lines of Wikipedia. He says they will in fact allow that, although via a less open system than Wikipedia. Contributors would need to fill out a form, including some references verifying that their information is correct.

3. Adam is an automated scientist programmed by a team of researchers at Aberystwyth University and the University of Cambridge to carry out each step of the scientific process — from generating hypotheses to making conclusions — without any direct help from humans. Adam will help speed up research and enable rapid replication of experiments and speed the extension of previous work.

A freezer, a plate washer, incubators, air filters, other laboratory equipment, and a sophisticated AI system make up Adam the robot scientist.

Using a form of artificial intelligence, Adam first examines a model of the life processes of the yeast and determines which enzymes are orphans. He then compares these orphans to similar enzymes in other organisms. And based on this comparison, he formulates an original hypothesis about which genes might encode for the orphans.

“This robot is very exciting,” says Bart Selman, a computer scientist and artificial intelligence expert at Cornell University. “It demonstrates active machine learning, where a robot actually decides what data to collect and what type of experiment to run.”

Adam offers scientists more than just relief from the daily drudgery of laboratory work. He provides them with a new way to understand and share their research. Each step of Adam’s experiments is recorded in a formalized logical language that can be carefully examined and easily replicated.

The researchers were able to reuse Adam’s experimental data in order to investigate other phenomena. “You would expect that when you remove enzymes from yeast, it would become less efficient because it evolved to have those enzymes for a reason,” King says. “But we found that in many cases the opposite was true.”

Adam is not designed to replace scientists. On the contrary, as the researchers are careful to point out, the idea is to develop a way of enabling teams of robot and human scientists to work together.

April 06, 2009

General Motors and Segway to Make PUMAs for 2012

Segway reveals specifics on the PUMA on their site

Built off of the proven reliable and safe technology you find in Segway Personal Transporters (PTs), the prototype truly does expand upon the exhilarating riding experience. It increases capacity to two passengers in a seated position; capable of carrying them up to anywhere between 25 and 35 mph (40 - 56 kph) for anywhere between 25 and 35 miles (40 - 56 km) on a single charge.* It does so while taking advantage of the unparalleled maneuverability and advanced control you get through Segway’s use of dynamic stabilization (balancing technology). Add in know-how with large format lithium-ion batteries and you have something that’s zero emissions during operation - likely only costing about $.60 in electricity to recharge.

Pricing has not been announced but will likely be more than a regular Segway $2000-5000 and a regular small car ($6000-10000). The PUMA weighs 300 lbs versus 120-200 lbs for a Segway Personal Transporter. A regular small car weighs 1400-2600 lbs. Venturebeat indicates about a $5000 estimated price.

The Wall Street Journal reports that GM and Segway will cooperate on a 35 mile per hour enclosed Segway.

Car and Driver indicates that it will have seating for two and was revealed at the New York Auto Show.

General Motors Corp. is teaming with Segway Inc., maker of the upright, self-balancing scooters, to build a new type of two-wheeled vehicle designed to move easily through congested urban streets.

The machine, which GM says it aims to develop by 2012, would run on batteries and use wireless technology to avoid traffic backups and navigate cities. It have a top speed of 35 miles per hour and 35 mile range.

A person on foot can comfortably travel in a 2 km area, the Segway PT increased that to 10 km and the PUMA will enable 20+km.

PUMA stands for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility and a prototype will be shown in Manhattan on Tuesday, April 7, 2009.

It will utilize dual electric in-wheel motors powered by a lithium-ion battery, the PUMA uses the same balancing technology as its smaller brother—although it leans forward onto a second set of wheels for greater stability during loading and unloading.


* Dynamic stabilization: The ability to balance on two wheels and have a true zero turning radius. It gives you incredible maneuverability.
* Electric propulsion: It’s extremely efficient and gives us significant fine control over vehicle dynamics. You also can use regenerative braking to charge back the batteries.
* Smart battery management: We’re one of the world’s largest customers of large format lithium-ion batteries. As such, we’ve become experts about the safe and efficient use of their chemistry.
* Drive-by-wire digital controls: Think about this whole thing as a digital solution to an analog problem. All steering inputs, acceleration, and deceleration are done with zeros and ones instead of levers, cables, and pads.
* Intuitive user interface: Shifting the center of mass of the vehicle controls how fast it goes and how quickly it stops. Check out the video to see it in action.
* Digital dashboard: Data from the vehicle such as speed, battery life, and other information can flow wireless to a handheld device wirelessly. Add in real-time traffic and other connectivity info. and you’ll be armed with enough information to sail through your commute.

Interview with Peter Antoinette, President and CEO of Nanocomp Technologies

This site has been following Nanocomp Technologies which makes sheets of carbon nanotubes. Nanocomp Technologies had 3X6 foot sheets back in early 2008. Then in early 2009, they announced that they had 4X8 foot sheets. So close to double the square footage of the 16 square foot sheets at 32.

In a single process, they have integrated the continuous growth Of Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs) and the formation of functional products (sheets of carbon nanotubes).


Volume of Production and Properties of the Bulk Sheets

* Nanocomp Technology is making hundreds of square feet of sheets each week. They are scaling up to tons of material in sheets next year (2012)
* the 3X6 and 4X8 foot sheets can and are being bonded together with a little overlap to make larger sheets for different applications
* Other companies are producing more carbon nanotubes but those are primarily only carbon nanotubes that are so short that the material is like powder
* The electrical properties of the sheets are already superior to existing materials by weigth for applications ilke radiation and electromagnetic shielding
* They can achieve the same electromagnetic shielding at one third to one half of the weight of traditional material (copper wires)
* Superior electrical properties already exist for antennas
* Nanocomp has developed the capability to tune multiple properties in their carbon nanotube sheets. Multiple functions can be addressed at the same time with this capability.

Nanocomp Technologies bulk properties.

High Strength – spun conductive yarns exhibit breaking strengths up to 3 GPa expressed or in other terms: 1.5 Nt/Tex or 450,000 psi and with fracture toughness that is higher than aramids (such as Kevlar or Twaron). CNT sheets have breaking strengths, without binders, that range from 500 MPa to 1.2 GPa depending upon tube orientation. Aluminum breaks at 500 MPa, carbon steel breaks around 1 GPa.

Electrical Conductivity – Capable of carrying more current than copper and are also more conductive than copper at high frequencies.

Thermal Conductivity - Capability to transfer more heat than copper or silver on a
per weight basis.

Thermoelectric behavior - Demonstrate a Seebeck coefficient of greater than 60 µV/ºK
and power greater than 1 watt/gram.

Extremely Lightweight – Less than half the weight of aluminum

The outside of the current Nanocomp furnace. Production facilities are being scaled up from 11,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet (next year/2010) and then to 100,000 square feet (a few years out).

Windle's Carbon Nanotubes versus Nanocomps

In Cambridge, Prof Windle is making carbon nanotubes that are several centimeters long and several times stronger than the Nanocomp carbon nanotubes. Nanocomp has been able to make a 40 centimeter long carbon nanotube as well but is focusing on what can be built in higher volume with a cost of $100/kg or less. The research on longer and stronger carbon nanotubes is vital but there will be the delay while high volume and reasonable cost production is achieved with stronger and longer carbon nanotubes.

Similarly other properties can be enhanced to higher levels in tiny quantities but industrial levels need high volume and reasonable cost.

Applications and Benefits of the Sheets and As Production Scales Up

* The production that Nanocomp is planning to achieve over three years would be enough to retrofit all of the EMI shielding in all commercial jets.
* 787 would save 2000 lbs using the Nanocomp CNT product for EMI shielding. This would save the airline money with lower fuel costs
* 200 lbs of weight could be saved in a typical satellite. Currently it costs $20,000-100,000 per pound to launch a satellite into geosynchronous orbit. Therefore, $4-20 million in launch cost savings for each launch.
* Alternatively or in combination superior EMI shielding could be employed at lower or equal weight.

DIY e-bombs could bring down current commercial aircraft, but superior shielding could prevent that vulnerability and shield from lightning strikes and allow passengers to use electrical devices like cellphones and wireless communication.

* the material is still ten times inferior to copper for the power grid in terms of ohm centimeters. Plus the cost is too high for the CNT and production is way too low.
* Where wires and cables need high frequency characteristics or other electrical and heat properties in lower volume (a few tons per year now and a few hundred tons per year in 5-10 years) then these CNT sheets should be superior.
* Other space applications that are being investigated are carbon nanotube solar sails and electric solar sail wiring

Форма для связи


Email *

Message *