July 11, 2009

Project to Re-engineer Photosynthesis in Rice

An ambitious project to re-engineer photosynthesis in rice, led by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) through a global consortium of scientists, has received a grant of US$11 million over 3 years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As a result of research being conducted by this group, rice plants that can produce 50% more grain using less, fertilizer and less water are a step closer to reality.

Currently, more than a billion people worldwide live on less than a dollar a day and nearly one billion live in hunger. Over the next 50 years, the population of the world will increase by about 50% and water scarcity will grow. About half of the world’s population consumes rice as a staple cereal, so boosting its productivity is crucial to achieving long-term food security.

Photosynthesis, the process by which plants use solar energy to capture carbon dioxide and convert it into the carbohydrates required for growth, is not the same for all plants. Some species, including rice, have a mode of photo-synthesis (known as C3), in which the capture of carbon dioxide is relatively I inefficient. Other plants, such as maize and sorghum, have evolved a much more efficient form of photosynthesis known as C4.

According to IRRI scientist and project leader Dr. John Sheehy, in tropical climates the efficiency of solar energy conversion of crops using the so-called C4 photosynthesis is about 50% higher than that of C3 crops. Given the demands from an increasing population, combined with less available land and water, adequate future supplies of rice will need to come in large part through substantial yield boosts and more efficient use of crop inputs.

“Converting the photosynthesis of rice from the less-efficient C3 form to the C4 form would increase yields by 50%,” ; said Dr. Sheehy, adding that C4 rice would also use water twice as efficiently. In developing tropical countries, where billions of poor people rely on rice as their staple food, “The benefits of such an improvement in the face of increasing world population, increasing food prices, and decreasing natural resources would, be immense,” he added.

“This is a long-term, complex project that will take a decade or more to complete,” said Dr. Sheehy. “The result of this strategic research has the potential to benefit billions of poor people.”

It will take three years to prove the concept and 15 years to have a “functioning C4 rice” to quote Achin Dobermann, the deputy director general for research of IRRI.

Can the gene of the rice plant that controls its photosynthetic engine be tweaked so that it expresses itself with 4 carbon atoms rather than its normal 3 carbon atoms and still retain its essential characteristics as a plant species?

China Long Term Energy and Economic Plans

China new energy programs would involve investment of trillions and that new energy output was likely to exceed the targets set by the nation's overall energy and renewable energy plans. China target is to increase per capita income ten-fold by 2050 while increasing the per capita emissions by 50% to 6 tons per person.

Nation master has a table of per capita emissions by country. The US is at about 19-20 tons per capita.

The first phase of the program would see a strategic shift in three years to nuclear, solar, wind, biomass power and clean coal technologies - with investment opportunities worth as much as 3 trillion yuan ($438.9 billion), Liu said. Phase two encompasses the period up to 2020 and would entail far more investments, he pointed out.

The research panel of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the nations' top planner, has predicted that China's clean energy development strategy would create huge investment opportunities for private and State investors.

China needs to spend at least 40 trillion yuan by 2050 to go 'green', according to the expert panel of the NDRC's Energy Research Institute.

"Roughly, we need to spend an extra 1 trillion yuan every year to raise energy efficiency," Bai Quan, a senior member of the panel, said. The panel will publish its research findings on China's low-carbon roadmap this month.

Explaining the mathematical model that his colleagues had built, Bai said the money would be mainly used to introduce technologies that raise the energy efficiency of end-users in industry, construction and transportation.

If the investment showed results, it would mean the country's per capita greenhouse gas emissions would increase by only 50 percent during the 2010-50 period - to 6 tons from the present 4 tons. Per capita emissions stood at 3.58 tons in 2004.

The target could be made a national goal, given that per capita income is expected to increase 10-fold to 200,000 yuan by 2050 from 20,000 yuan in 2010.

China appears likely to have solid economic growth for 2009 and 2010.

July 10, 2009

Technology Roundup - Brainboosting EPO, Nanopillar solar power

1. Erythropoietin (EPO) cognitive performance in mice. .Erythropoietin improves operant conditioning and stability of cognitive performance in mice. Early erythropoietin treatment leads to lasting improvement of cognitive performance in healthy mice. This finding should be exploited in novel treatment strategies for brain diseases. The red blood cell boosting is used to treat anemia and some athletes use it to boost endurance.

2. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley have demonstrated a way to fabricate efficient solar cells from low-cost and flexible materials. The new design grows optically active semiconductors in arrays of nanoscale pillars, each a single crystal, with dimensions measured in billionths of meter.

A flexible solar cell is achieved by removing the aluminum substrate, substituting an indium bottom electrode, and embedding the 3-D array in clear plastic

A flexible solar cell is achieved by removing the aluminum substrate, substituting an indium bottom electrode, and embedding the 3-D array in clear plastic

The efficiency of the test device was measured at six percent, which while less than the 10 to 18 percent range of mass-produced commercial cells is higher than most photovoltaic devices based on nanostructured materials – even though the nontransparent copper-gold electrodes on top of the Javey group’s test device cut its efficiency by 50 percent. In future, top contact transparency can easily be improved.

“There are lots of ways to improve 3-D nanopillar photovoltaics for higher performance, and ways to simplify the fabrication process as well, but the method is already hugely promising as a way to lower the cost of efficient solar cells,” says Javey. “There’s the ability to grow single-crystalline structures directly on large aluminum sheets. And the 3-D configuration means the requirements for quality and purity of the input materials are less stringent and less costly. Nanopillar arrays are a new path to versatile solar modules.”

3. MIT researchers have developed light-detecting fibers that, when weaved into a web, act as a flexible camera. Fabric composed of these fibers could be joined to a computer that could provide information on a small display screen attached to a visor, providing the soldier greater awareness of his surroundings.The new fibers, less than a millimeter in diameter, are composed of layers of light-detecting materials nested one within another.

Those layers include two rings of a semiconductor material that are light sensitive, each ring only 100 billionths of a meter across. Four metal electrodes contact each of the rings, extending along the length of the fiber, for a total of eight. Each semiconductor ring with its attached electrodes is in turn encased in rings of a polymer insulator that separate it from its neighbor.

The team starts with a macroscopic cylinder, or preform, of these elements. That preform is placed into a special furnace that melts the components, carefully drawing them into miniscule fibers that retain the original orientation of the various layers. The process can produce many meters of fiber.

Fink's team demonstrated the power of their approach by placing an object - a smiley face - between a light source and a small swatch of fabric composed of the fibers that was in turn connected to an external amplifying electrical circuit and computer.

The individual fibers measure the intensity of the light illuminating them and convert it to an electrical signal. Importantly, they are also designed to differentiate between light at different wavelengths or colors. A mesh of fibers is then deployed to measure light intensity distribution at different wavelengths across a large area.

In the current work, the smiley face was illuminated with light at two separate wavelengths. This generated a distinct pattern on the fabric mesh that was then fed into a computer. From there, an algorithm described earlier by the Fink team in Nature Materials assimilates the data to create a black-and-white image of the object on a computer screen.

Rive Technology Working to Increase Oil Refining Efficiency 7-9% by 2011

Holey catalyst: Rive Technology is designing a zeolite catalyst with pores larger than those found in conventional zeolites, which are widely used in petroleum and petrochemical production. The larger pores allow the catalysts to handle a wide range of compounds. Credit: Rive Technology

Rive Technology will help refiners increase production of transportation fuels and process less desirable crudes with its innovative catalyst technology. Mesopores (>4 nanometers) in zeolite enable larger molecules to be cracked. Petroleum refiners would obtain a higher yield of desirable products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, and propylene, and less of undesirable products like heavy cycle oil and coke.

"By the end of the year, we hope to have hit upon the optimum mix of these things," says Dougherty. "We hope to be in commercial refineries in the second half of 2011." The plan is to license the recipe to commercial manufacturers of petroleum catalysts, such as BASF or W.R. Grace.

Rive’s proprietary catalyst – RiveCat – is focused on the most important conversion process in the refinery – fluid catalytic cracking (FCC). The FCC process converts or “cracks” the long-chain hydrocarbons found in crude oil into smaller, more valuable molecules such as those that comprise transportation fuels.

RiveCat is more accessible to the bulky hydrocarbon molecules found in FCC feedstock, allowing more of the feedstock to get “cracked”, especially when processing low quality crudes. As result, refiners produce a more valuable slate of products from a barrel of crude and increase throughput in the refinery, leading to higher profit margins. Refiners are also able to purchase cheaper, lower quality crudes and process them economically.

Refiners can utilize RiveCat without significant capital investment or changes in operating conditions, allowing them to immediately improve refining yields and profits.

MIT Technology review has details.

Andrew Dougherty, vice president of operations at Rive, says that the catalyst could increase the proportion of petroleum processed by as much as 7 to 9 percent.

The company's technology is based on zeolites--tiny pore-studded particles made of a mix of aluminum, oxygen, and silicon that are a mainstay of the petroleum and petrochemical industries. Heated and mixed in with crude petroleum, zeolites act as a catalyst, breaking apart the complex hydrocarbon molecules of crude into simpler hydrocarbons that make gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and other desirable products in the process known as fluid catalytic cracking. By making zeolites with pores larger than those in conventional ones, Rive hopes to create catalysts that handle a higher proportion of hydrocarbons.

Typically, the openings of pores in zeolites are less than a nanometer wide, which limits the range of hydrocarbon that can get into the porous catalysts. But Javier Garcia Martinez, a cofounder of Rive and now a professor at the University of Alicante, in Spain, came up with a way to control the size of the openings while working as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT's Nanostructured Materials Research Laboratory. He mixes the constituents of the zeolites in an alkaline solution, then adds a surfactant--a soaplike liquid. The surfactant makes bubbles, and the zeolites form around the bubbles. Then he burns away the surfactant, leaving behind zeolites with openings two to five nanometers wide--big enough to let in larger hydrocarbon molecules. By varying the chemistry of the surfactant, Garcia Martinez can control the size of the pore openings.

Dougherty also sees Rive's zeolites being used in hydrocracking, a refining technique that employs high-pressure hydrogen to create a low-sulfur diesel. Hydrocracking is a small market, but with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency trying to reduce sulfur emissions, it's a growing one, he says. With its ability to choose pore size, the company might also make catalysts for processing tar sands, which contain extremely dense petroleum. Further down the road, the material might also be used to process biofuels, according to the company.

Powersat Space Based Solar Power Plans and Patent

PowerSat Corporation estimates they can make 2500 megawatts of space based solar power plants for roughly $3-4 Billion. PowerSat is anticipating being able to transmit power to commercial customers in 10-12 years.

Launching a powersat is very similar to launching a communications satellite, and uses the same technology and equipment. Where PowerSat’s satellites differ is in the way they travel from low earth orbit (LEO) to geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO). Unlike any other satellite, PowerSat satellites use electrical thrusters instead of chemical propulsion to move between LEO and GEO, thus decreasing the total weight of the system by 67% and the cost of launch by roughly $1 billion for a 2,500 MW power station. The base structure is inflatable – sent it up in a tight package, and then blown up to full size.

Ars Technica has some more details

The company's models predict that it can get about 17MW out of a single 10-ton unit.

Powersat will launch into low earth orbit, inflate and use ion engines powered by the solar power to transfer to geosynchronous orbit in 6-8 months.

The satellites will receive a pilot signal from the ground and use that to coordinate their energy-carrying return signal to the ground-based receiver. "The satellites act as a radio frequency cloud to create a phase array of phased arrays," Maness says. When the microwave signal hits the ground, the transmission from each satellite should be additive—all of which dramatically cuts down the weight and complexity of the hardware that has to be put into orbit

The microwave power sent by the satellites is received by a structure that's about a mile wide and between one and two miles long, depending on how far north of the equator it's based. Maness says that there are chunks of unallocated microwave frequency that can easily handle the 230 watts per square meter that's allowed by the EPA. Despite the size, the cost of the ground stations are only a small fraction of the total expense; PowerSat estimates it at $100 million or so. That's largely because the hardware is very diffuse. Rain and sun can pass right through it, and Maness suggested the ideal location might be over an orchard or corn field, where the added heat could be advantageous.

And there is some added heat; models suggest about two degrees Fahrenheit for every 10 minutes in the core of the signal—about a quarter of what you'd get on a sunny day at the beach


PowerSat Corporation (www.powersat.com), a pioneer in safe and reliable energy generation from space, today announced the filing of U.S. Provisional Patent No. 61/177,565 or “SPACE-BASED POWER SYSTEMS AND METHODS.” The patent includes two technologies, BrightStar and Solar Powered Orbital Transfer (SPOT), which enable the reduction of launch and operation costs by roughly $1 billion for a 2,500 megawatt (MW) power station.

Solar Power Orbital Transfer (SPOT) propels a spacecraft to an optimal, Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) using electronic thrusters that are powered by the same solar array that is eventually used for wireless power transmission. Until now, all satellites have had to use chemical propulsion or a chemically fueled “space tug” to move from Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which is 300-1,000 miles in altitude to GEO, which is 22,236 miles in altitude.

BrightStar, allows individual powersats to form a wireless power transmission beam without being physically connected to each other. This “electronic coupling,” conceptually similar to cloud computing, effectively eliminates the need to handle large (gigawatt) levels of power in a single spacecraft. Because of BrightStar, one transmission beam may now come from hundreds of smaller powersats. Another advantage of Brightstar is increased reliability. If any of the individual component satellites fail they can be easily replaced without significantly affecting the performance of the system, thus establishing much greater reliability.

July 09, 2009

NanoFET: Nano-particle field extraction thruster funded by the Air Force

Funded by the Air Force, Brian Gilchrist and his colleagues are developing a new type of thruster that uses nanoparticles as propellant. Much of the engine is etched directly onto a wafer-thin piece of silicon via micro-electromechanical systems technologies, known as MEMS, that are more commonly used in the semiconductor industry. Measuring no thicker than a half-inch (1 centimeter, including the fuel) and with tens of thousands of accelerators able to fit on an area smaller than a postage stamp, these “stick-on” thrusters could power tiny spacecraft over vast distances.

Previous claims for nanoFETs [2007 paper]
- nanofets could deliver up to 10 times as much thrust as an ion engine
- nanofet systems can span an Isp range of 100 to 10000 s at greater than 90% thrust efficiency with three types of carbon nanotube particles
- advantages offered by nanoFET’s potential for high efficiencies, lower thruster specific mass, and longer operational lifetimes are both mission enhancing and enabling.
-Having EP systems with long operational lifetimes is important for future missions that require continuous propulsion capability for tens to hundreds of kilo-hours. The nanoFET concept’s operational lifetime is not driven by the primary life-limiting factors of state-of-the-art EP systems. Since the nanoparticles are charged electrostatically rather than ionized as in ion or Hall thrusters, greater reliability and efficiency can be achieved. Without the need to ionize propellant, nanoFET does not experience charge exchange (CEX) collisions between high energy charged and slow moving neutral particles.

The technology is called a “nano-particle field extraction thruster,” or nanoFET. The tiny thrusters that work much like miniaturized versions of massive particle accelerators. The device uses a series of stacked, micron-thick “gates” that alternate between conductive and insulating layers to create electric fields. These small but powerful electric fields charge and accelerate a reservoir of conductive nanoparticles, shooting them out into space and creating thrust.

“In that a particle accelerator uses an electrical field to propel charged particles to high speeds — that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Gilchrist said.

A 19 page pdf from 2008 AIAA paper "Nanoparticle Field Extraction Thruster (nanoFET): Introduction to, Analysis of, and Experimental Results from the “No-liquid” Configuration"

This paper introduces a nanoparticle field extraction thruster (nanoFET)
concept that does not depend on the liquid delivery of micro and nano-particles for
extraction and acceleration. The no-liquid approach potentially provides important
advantages such as allowing the use of smaller particles for propellant, which may
offer a greater specific impulse. The most likely developmental obstacles are the
adhesion of the particles to the source electrode and the cohesion between the
particles. Adhesion and cohesion models are presented along with proposed
methods of overcoming each.

A method of using the applied charging electric field to overcome the adhesion
force is investigated, which predicts that it may be possible to remove particles with diameters down to hundreds or even tens of nanometers from a planar electrode
with only the application of a high strength electric field. To investigate this particle removal model, eight test cases, involving 4 particle sizes and 2 electrode materials, are presented.

A method of transporting the dry particle propellant through an ultra-fine sieve
prior to the charging and accelerating stages is investigated as a method of
overcoming the cohesion between the particles. A simple proof-of-concept
experiment is presented which indicates that this method is capable of breaking the
cohesion force under appropriate conditions, which helps to guide future research.

Brian Gilcrist is also working with the Electrodynamic Applications company on nanofet

Developmental Progress of the Nanoparticle Field Extraction Thruster, July 2008 [16 page pdf]

Recent experiments in microgravity and on the ground have yielded promising results for NanoFET’s development. For the liquid-NanoFET configuration, the NanoBLUE microgravity flight results suggest that the electric field threshold for liquid surface instability is increased for smaller channels. Higher particle charging electric fields may thus be possible for channels at the MEMS scale, resulting in a larger range of specific charges and propulsion performance. While slot orifice geometries may be easier to microfabricate than large numbers of circular orifices, the trade-off must be evaluated between manufacturing ease and the reduction in the maximum allowable charging electric field relative to an array of circular orifices.

For the dry-NanoFET configuration, preliminary ground test results have demonstrated the ability to reduce particle liftoff electric fields with the use of inertial accelerations provided to the charging electrode. This phenomenon provides the dry-NanoFET design with added flexibility to tune its performance. Further studies are needed to better understand the particle adhesion and cohesion forces in the NanoFET system and their impacts on NanoFET’s design and operations.

An assumed PPU efficiency of 0.95 for the nanoFET system results in internal efficiencies over 85% for an Isp range of 100 to 10,000 seconds using three different types of carbon nanotubes. 800-V to 10-kV accelerating potentials are used for carbon nanotubes of (1) 5-nm diameter and 100-nm length, (2) 1-nm diameter and 100-nm length, and (3) 1-nm diameter and 3.5-mm length. Emitter inefficiencies are principally due to viscous drag and charge loss to the liquid, and efficiency losses associated with particle impingement on the gate structures and beam divergence are expected to be no worse than those of existing EP systems. From Equation (4), such high internal efficiencies associated with nanoFET translate to thrust-to-power ratios, particularly at low Isp, that are greater than state-of-the-art EP thrusters.

For applications that do not demand the entire 100 to 10,000 seconds Isp range, a wide Isp range can still be achieved with a single nanoparticle type, which simplifies the overall system integration. For example, a dielectric liquid configuration can potentially use carbon nanotubes with 1-nm diameter and 400-nm length and acceleration potentials ranging from 400 V to 10 kV to span an Isp range of 800 to 4,000 seconds at over 85% internal efficiency.

No other state-of-the-art ion or hall thrusters in Figure 2 are designed to span such a large Isp range at high efficiencies and high thrust-to-power ratios. For low-Isp, high thrust-to-power maneuvers, nanoFET would outperform arcjets by achieving greater thrust for the same power. At high Isp, nanoFET’s projected performance is comparable to field emission electric propulsion (FEEP) thrusters operating in ion mode. However, in the low-Isp regime, FEEP thrusters must operate in colloid mode, resulting in a dispersion in the specific charge distribution and less thrust controllability compared to nanoparticles with precise charge states.

The significance of such a wide Isp range at high efficiencies for nanoFET is that it provides mission designers with tremendous flexibility. Consider a robotic probe or a freighter vehicle to a planetary body. During interplanetary cruise, nanoFET would operate in a high-Isp mode to minimize the propellant cost. Once within the planetary body’s gravity well, nanoFET could switch to a low-Isp, high thrust-to-power mode to provide greater thrust capability. This flexibility also provides a wider margin for both robotic and crewed missions to accommodate offnominal and abort scenarios, adjust the flight time, and perform dynamic retasking to take advantage of in-flight opportunities. To achieve comparable capabilities with other EP systems across the entire Isp range, multiple engine types would have to be used, which tends to increase the mass of the propulsion system while complicating spacecraft integration and design

A patent from 2005 by Brian Gilcrist and others for Scalable flat-panel nano-particle MEMS/NEMS thruster.

July 08, 2009

A Synapse is a Memristor and Memcapacitors have no Resistance : New Era in AI and Electronics

Neuron cell architecture. (a) Despite having only four pins (discs), cell circuitry (b) can compute analog dot products of large numbers of input signals and synaptic weights, using summing amplifiers. Cell processing implements shunting dynamics. (c) Dendrites (horizontal nanowires) collect inputs from other neurons; axons (vertical nanowires) carry information to other neurons

New Scientist reports that Memristors could revolutionize artificial intelligence work. Other information and the pictures in this article are from a Scientific Discovery through Advanced computing article on a plan for a Memristor chip and a reference to an Arxiv article.

Williams and Snider have teamed up with Gail Carpenter and Stephen Grossberg at Boston University, who are pioneers in reducing neural behaviours to systems of differential equations, to create hybrid transitor-memristor chips designed to reproduce some of the brain's thought processes.

Di Ventra and his colleague Yuriy Pershin have gone further and built a memristive synapse that they claim behaves like the real thing [19 page pdf paper Experimental demonstration of associative memory with memristive neural networks

Leon Chua, who came up with the theory of memristors in 1971, has been busy extending his theory of fundamental circuit elements, asking what happens if you combine the properties of memristors with those of capacitors and inductors to produce compound devices called memcapacitors and meminductors, and then what happens if you combine those devices, and so on.

"Memcapacitors may be even more useful than memristors," says Chua, "because they don't have any resistance." In theory at least, a memcapacitor could store data without dissipating any energy at all. Mighty handy - whatever you want to do with them. Williams agrees. In fact, his team is already on the case, producing a first prototype memcapacitor earlier this year, a result that he aims to publish soon. "We haven't characterised it yet," he says. With so many fundamental breakthroughs to work on, he says, it's hard to decide what to do next.

Might a new era in artificial intelligence be at hand?

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency certainly thinks so. DARPA is a US Department of Defense outfit with a strong record in backing high-risk, high-pay-off projects - things like the internet. In April last year, it announced the Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics Program, SyNAPSE for short, to create "electronic neuromorphic machine technology that is scalable to biological levels".

Williams's team from Hewlett-Packard is heavily involved. Late last year, in an obscure US Department of Energy publication called SciDAC Review, his colleague Greg Snider set out how a memristor-based chip might be wired up to test more complex models of synapses. He points out that in the human cortex synapses are packed at a density of about 10^10 per square centimetre, whereas today's microprocessors only manage densities 10 times less. "That is one important reason intelligent machines are not yet walking around on the street," he says.

Snider's dream is of a field he calls "cortical computing" that harnesses the possibilities of memristors to mimic how the brain's neurons interact.

The cortical computing using memristor plan is described here at Scientific Discovery through Advanced computing.

connectivity is achieved by interleaving the neurons of different cortical layers in silicon while stacking with multiple levels of imprinted nanowires that interconnect them. Positive and negative feedback is rampant; in fact, it is necessary to implement cortical algorithms. Simulations show the architecture is very tolerant of device variation and defective components.

The basic idea is to emulate a laminar structure of the cortex by interleaving layers in CMOS. Neurons (gray boxes) are implemented in conventional CMOS; axons and dendrites (blue) in multiple layers of nanowires imprinted on top of the silicon; and synapses (yellow) in memristive (dynamical) junctions formed between selected adjacent layers of imprinted nanowires. CMOS neurons connect to the nanowires through metallic pads (black disks) on the top surface of the silicon. Nano vias (blue cylinders) allow neurons to connect to nanowires at several levels. Neurons in different cortical layers are represented by different shades of gray. Interconnections between and within cortical layers are accomplished with multiple levels of imprinted nanowires. Nanowires are rotated slightly relative to neuron edges to allow long-distance connections. Synaptic nanodevices are created wherever orthogonal nanowires, separated by memristive material, cross each other.

Although silicon neurons cannot be stacked as they are in a biological brain cortex, the same connectivity is achieved by interleaving the neurons of different cortical layers in silicon while stacking with multiple levels of imprinted nanowires that interconnect them.

Nano/CMOS architecture for laminar, cortical circuits (left panel). Neurons are implemented in CMOS (gray), axons and dendrites in nanowires (blue). Synapses are implemented at the junctions of crossing wires separated by memristive material (yellow). Top view (right panel) shows how slight rotation of nanowires allows neurons to communicate via synapses to a neighborhood of other neurons. The small size of memristive nanodevices allows for a large ratio of synapses to neurons, necessary for neuromorphic computation; densities greater than 10^10 devices/cm2 have already been achieved.

The potential applications of neuromorphic computing are stunning: intelligent adaptive control, pattern recognition, decision making, and intelligent-user interfaces with "common-sense" robotics. Because neuromorphic and digital computation have largely non-overlapping applications, future multi-core processors can be envisioned containing support for two cores. Digital cores would be used for number crunching and other conventional applications, and neuromorphic cores would be used for reasoning and adapting to a changing and uncertain world. Undoubtedly, cortical computing will require a series of many small, tentative steps and experiments, if it can be achieved at all in solid-state devices. However, if successful, the market for such intelligent, adaptive systems would be staggering

Rapamycin, an immunosuppressant, Enables Elderly Mice to live 9-13% Longer

P values were calculated by the log-rank test. Four per cent of the control mice and three per cent of rapamycin-assigned mice were removed from the experiment for technical reasons. Only five animals (three controls, two rapamycin) were removed after the start of rapamycin treatment at 600 days. Thus, there were no significant differences between groups in censoring.

MIT Technology Review reports of the first drug proven to extend the life of mammals.

Prior to this research, the only ways to increase rodents' life span were via genetic engineering or caloric restriction--a nutritionally complete but very low-calorie diet.

Rapamycin is an antifungal compound already approved by the FDA as an immunosuppressive therapy to help prevent organ rejection in transplant patients. It is currently being tested in clinical trials for potential anticancer effects.

researchers found that rapamycin given to mice as a food supplement starting at 20 months of age--the equivalent of 60 years in humans--extended average life span by 9 percent in males and 13 percent in females. "It's particularly exciting because it works so late in life to extend life span," says Sinclair. "The fact that you can give a drug after 20 months of age in a mouse and still see a life-span extension is striking."

The results were pooled from three independent studies--at Jackson Laboratory, in Bar Harbor, ME; the University of Texas Health Science Center, in San Antonio; and the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor--and coordinated by the National Institute of Aging's Interventions Testing Program (ITP). Rapamycin is the first success story to emerge from the ITP, which systematically evaluates anti-aging drug candidates for effectiveness in mice.

The Journal nature has the original research.

Abstract: Rapamycin fed late in life extends lifespan in genetically heterogeneous mice

Inhibition of the TOR signalling pathway by genetic or pharmacological intervention extends lifespan in invertebrates, including yeast, nematodes and fruitflies however, whether inhibition of mTOR signalling can extend lifespan in a mammalian species was unknown. Here we report that rapamycin, an inhibitor of the mTOR pathway, extends median and maximal lifespan of both male and female mice when fed beginning at 600 days of age. On the basis of age at 90% mortality, rapamycin led to an increase of 14% for females and 9% for males. The effect was seen at three independent test sites in genetically heterogeneous mice, chosen to avoid genotype-specific effects on disease susceptibility. Disease patterns of rapamycin-treated mice did not differ from those of control mice. In a separate study, rapamycin fed to mice beginning at 270 days of age also increased survival in both males and females, based on an interim analysis conducted near the median survival point. Rapamycin may extend lifespan by postponing death from cancer, by retarding mechanisms of ageing, or both. To our knowledge, these are the first results to demonstrate a role for mTOR signalling in the regulation of mammalian lifespan, as well as pharmacological extension of lifespan in both genders. These findings have implications for further development of interventions targeting mTOR for the treatment and prevention of age-related diseases.

A 10 page pdf with supplemental information

The authors caution that it's still not clear whether rapamycin will have similar life-span-enhancing effects in humans, and that because of its known toxicities, such as fungal infections and pneumonia, the drug should not be taken by the general population as a kind of universal fountain of youth.

A more realistic goal, says Kaeberlein, is to investigate whether it can treat specific age-related disorders--as in the several ongoing cancer trials, for example. Studies have also suggested that interfering with the TOR signaling pathway could slow the progression of Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes. "Realistically," says Kaeberlein, "I think what most of us are hoping for, and are somewhat optimistic about, is the idea that you may be able to get an extra decade--possibly an extra two decades--of relatively good health."

July 07, 2009

Carnival of Space 110

Various Ways to Avoid About One Billion tons of CO2

The Gigaton Throwdown is an initiative to encourage investors, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and policy makers to “think big” to massively scale clean energy during the next 10 years.

The USA avoids 700 million tons of CO2 from the 800 billion kwh of nuclear power that are generated from standard nuclear plants.

1. A program to accelerate the research and development of annular fuel [ultra-uprates] (MIT, Westinghouse) to allow for 50% power increase to existing nuclear reactors with ultra-uprates. (beyond the traditional power uprates of up to 20%. This could be achieved with research budget allocation and policy changes to ensure prompt deployment. Full deployment in the United States would be avoid about 300 million tons of CO2/year. (30% boost to boiler water reactors.) Full deployment worldwide would avoid 1 billion tons of CO2/year.

Annular fuel ultra uprate economics are discussed in this nextbigfuture article

The technical specifics of the MIT research on annular fuel are summarized in this nextbigfuture article

2. The USA needs to adopt the Idaho national lab plan for conventional nuclear reactors.
Speeding the build out of nuclear reactors. China is adding 77GW of new nuclear power from now to 2020. The US can accelerate the buildout of nuclear power plants (currently on track for 4-8 by 2020). Politically possible fast tracking would be about 10 nuclear reactors.

Stretch Goals:
1. Life extension of the current fleet beyond 60 years (e.g., what would it
take to extend all lives to ~80 years?); and
2. Strong, sustained expansion of ALWRs throughout this century (e.g., what
would it take to proceed uninterrupted from first new plant deployments in
~2015 to sustained build-rates approaching 10+/year?).

Achieving a build rate of 10 plants per year, which on a sustained basis equates to about 50 plants under construction at any point in time, will require substantial investment in workforce training and new or refurbished manufacturing capability.

3. Develop factor mass produced deep burn nuclear reactors

The Aim High program to make factory mass produced Liquid fluoride thorium reactors to replace coal power worldwide.

A list of eleven fusion and fission technologies to develop.

In terms of transportation:

4. Deploy electric bikes (free like Amsterdam) and also have electric buses/vans for ensuring that people and the free electric vehicles have optimal logistics

China makes and adds 20-30 million electric bikes and scooters each year. 100 million peddle bike sales worldwide. China has 450 million peddle bike users.

5. X prize program for the retrofitting of existing vehicles for fuel efficiency. Aerodynamic retrofit of existing vehicles can enable 30% reduction in highway driving fuel usage. Need to have prizes for figuring out deployment that makes economic sense that people will adopt.

Aeromodding cars for higher mileage

Researchers have achieved 15 to 18 percent reduction in drag by placing the actuators on the back surface of cars and trucks.

6. there is a computer system that works with cruise control (developed in the UK by Sentience) and GPS which allows for proper computer controlled/assisted acceleration and breaking for 5-24% more fuel efficiency. Basically computer assisted hypermiling.

Policy to force the aerodynamic and engine retrofits of high mileage vehicles likes cabs and other high mile fleet vehicles.

7. Carbon sequestering in cities by using carbon absorbing cement.

8. Previous list of major CO2 mitigation methods.

Biochar sequestering, Regular Carbon Sequestering, CO2 Capture from the Air - for Fuel or Storage

Gigaton Throwdown
The Gigaton Throwdown, a project by Sunil Paul. Mr. Paul started the project under the auspices of the Clinton Global Initiative on Stabilizing the Climate. He organized a fairly large group of venture capital companies, some from the renewable energy sector, and some academic and think tank policy analysts, all concerned about climate change and the need for dramatic action to mitigate such change.

The Gigaton Throwdown defined, briefly:

"The Gigaton Throwdown, launched in 2007 at the Clinton Global Initiative by Sunil Paul, is a project to encourage entrepreneurs, investors and policy makers to plan to grow companies to a scale that they change the climate. The project is evaluating a portfolio of cleantech pathways that could lead to 1 gigaton per year of CO2-equivalent reduction by 2020, and the implications for capital, policy, and industry. The pathways currently in analysis are solar PV, solar thermal, wind, biofuels, nuclear, geothermal, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and buildings."

The Gigaton Throwdown report was released June 24, 2009 in Washington DC.

For more background data and analyses behind the final report.

For more background on the Clinton Global Initiative at which the Gigaton Throwdown was launched.

You will note that Dr. John Holdren, Science Advisor to President Obama, was a lead participant in this particular Clinton Global Initiative meeting.

McKinsey consulting had a plan and an analysis of ways to avoid CO2.

1. Energy efficiency in buildings and appliances (710-870 megatons of carbon)
2. More fuel efficient vehicles (340-660 megatons of carbon)
3. Industrial efficiency (620-770 megatons)
4. Bigger carbon sinks (like more forest) (440-580 megatons)
5. Less carbon intensive power generation (800-1570 megatons)
This last one is more nuclear power and renewables and cleaning up coal.

Singularity University Open to the Public Event: Thursday, July 9, 7-9pm

Singularity University is pleased to invite the public to a panel discussion with leading experts on “Humanity’s Grandest Challenges,” on Thursday, July 9 at 7pm PT. Exponentially accelerating “grand challenges” will take political power, significant investments, and necessitate the development of equally accelerating technologies to affect the large numbers of people required to make a real difference – locally and globally.

Join some of the world’s leading experts in public health, climate change, energy, and others as they discuss the “grand challenges” in water, health, the environment, and energy, and identify some of the technical and political issues associated with making significant progress in finding immediate and long-term sustainable solutions that can positively affect at least one billion people in the next 10 years.

Moderator: Mr. Vijay Vaitheeswaran, Writer for The Economist, Author of "Zoom"
Global Public Health: Dr. Larry Brilliant, Skoll Foundation
Climate: Dr. Chris Field, Carnegie/Stanford, U.S. Rep to the International Panel on Climate Change, co-author of the IPCC report that won the Nobel Prize with Al Gore
Water: Ms. Meena Palaniappan, Pacific Institute, Director of their Water Initiative
Climate: Dr. Bill Collins, Head of the Climate Science Department, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Thursday, July 9, Singularity University is organizing a top level panel about "Humanity's Grand Challenges" from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm in its campus at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View. This is a public event and you and your friends in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area are very welcome to participate, but please register for the panel here:


“Humanity’s Grand Challenges” is the second in a series of weekly Singularity University presentations open to the public during the course of the 9-week Graduate Summer Program. Visit SU's blog - www.singularityu.org/blog - for upcoming presentations. Following the presentation, videos will be available at: www.singularityu.org/videos.

Directions to the presentation can be found here - http://naccenter.arc.nasa.gov/directions.html#nacc Please note that a valid government issued identification (like a driver's license) is required for access to NASA Ames Research Park.

The first three days of the Singularity University are covered at hplus magazine.

Earthquake cloak: Adapting Optical Invisibility Techniques for Earthquake Shockwave Resistant Buildings

Correcting article: There are several papers on cloaking buildings from earthquake waves. Thanks to Sebastien Guenneau for providing clarification.

There is a paper by M. Farhat, S. Guenneau and S. Enoch, which has nothing to do with flexural waves. The paper shows that the design works for only 10 rings with 6 different elastic materials.

M. Farhat, S. Enoch, S. Guenneau and A.B. Movchan, Controlling surface waves through artificial transversely isotropic fluid, Physical Review Letters, vol. 101, 1345011, 2008. This research is for protecting against Tsunamis.

There is another paper by M. Brun, S. Guenneau and A.B. Movchan.

This rewritten article was mostly referring to the Brun, Guenneau and Movchan article but had mixed in some references to the Farhat, Guenneau and Enoch article.

Sebastien Guenneau has about 35 research papers from 2007 - 2009.

A New Scientist article discusses what one of the papers. It borrows from the physics of invisibility cloaks could make it possible to hide buildings from the devastating effects of earthquakes.

For a ten meter building, you need a one meter thick foundation with a diameter of 20 meters.

This is something that would only make economic sense for nuclear power plants and high value military or other complexes or if as a society we decided to make key
infrastructure robust. (Like hospitals).

From the American Physical Society and Arxiv a paper by Brun, Guenneau and Movchan. Theoretical work on creating an earthquake cloak (pdf, 9 page)

A derivation of the elastic properties of a cylindrical cloak for in-plane coupled shear and pressure waves. The cloak is characterized by a rank 4 elasticity tensor with 16 spatially varying entries which are deduced from a geometric transform.

The seismic waves of an earthquake fall into two main groups: body waves that propagate through the Earth, and surface waves that travel only across the surface.

The research team [Michele Brun, Sebastien Guenneau and Sasha Movchan] have calculated that controlling body waves would be too complex, controlling surface waves is within the ability of conventional engineering, they say. Fortunately, it is surface waves that are more destructive, says team member Sebastien Guenneau at the University of Liverpool in the UK.

The new theoretical cloak comprises a number of large, concentric rings made of plastic fixed to the Earth's surface. The stiffness and elasticity of the rings must be precisely controlled to ensure that any surface waves pass smoothly into the material, rather than reflecting or scattering at the material's surface.

When waves travel through the cloak they are compressed into tiny fluctuations in pressure and density that travel along the fastest path available. By tuning the cloak's properties, that path can be made to be an arc that directs surface waves away from an area inside the cloak. When the waves exit the cloak, they return to their previous, larger size.

Unlike some of the optical invisibility cloaks that have been studied in physics labs in recent years, the new cloak is "broadband", meaning that it can divert waves across a range of frequencies.

Achieving control of in-plane elastic waves: Applied Physics Letters

We derive the elastic properties of a cylindrical cloak for in-plane coupled shear and pressure waves. The cloak is characterized by a rank 4 elasticity tensor with spatially varying entries, which are deduced from a geometric transform. Remarkably, the Navier equations retain their form under this transform, which is generally untrue [G. W. Milton et al., N. J. Phys. 8, 248 (2006)]. The validity of our approach is confirmed by comparison of the analytic Green's function in homogeneous isotropic elastic space against full-wave finite element computations in a heterogeneous anisotropic elastic region surrounded by perfectly matched layers

Cloaking bending waves propagating in thin elastic plates by Mohamed Farhat, Sebastien Guenneau, Stefan Enoch, and Alexander B. Movchan

We introduce a cylindrical cloak to control the bending waves propagating in thin plates. This is achieved through radially dependent isotropic mass density and radially dependent and orthotropic flexural rigidity deduced from a coordinate transformation for the biharmonic propagation equation in the spirit of the paper of Pendry et al. [Science 312, 1780 (2006)]. We analyze the response of the cloak surrounding a clamped obstacle in the presence of a cylindrical excitation. We note that whereas the studied bending waves are of different physical and mathematical nature, they are cloaked in many ways as their electromagnetic and acoustic counterparts; e.g., when the source lies inside the coating, it seems to radiate from a shifted location (mirage effect).

July 06, 2009

DARPA working on Chip-Scale High Energy Atomic Beams and 19 Other Top Projects

1. From Wired, DARPA working on Chip-Scale High Energy Atomic Beams

Chip-scale integration offers precise, micro actuators and high electric field generation at modest power levels that will enable several order of magnitude decreases in the volume needed to accelerate the ions. Furthermore, thermal isolation techniques will enable high efficiency beam to power converters, perhaps making chipscale self-sustained fusion possible.

The Chip-Scale High Energy Atomic Beams project had a budget of just $3 million, and rather shorter timescales; the plans for fiscal year 2009 include: “Develop 0.5 MeV [mega electron-volt] proton beams and collide onto microscale B-11 target with a fusion Q (energy ratio) > 20, possibly leading to self-sustained fusion.” The energy ratio is the amount of power you get out compared to how much you put in. ITER has a design Q of 10, producing its output with a fifty megawatt input. The Darpa scheme would be twice as efficient.

NOTE: there does not seem to be follow up funding in 2010. However, the 2009 funded work is probably not finished yet. It is not clear what is the result of the work.

The 50 page PDF of DARPA spending plans has some other interesting projects in the 2009 budget and the 471 page pdf 2010 budget.

2. The Low Power Micro Cryogenic Coolers program will attain superior performance in micro-scale devices (e.g. Low Noise Amplifier (LNA’s) IR detectors, RF front-ends, superconducting circuits) by cooling selected portions to cryogenic temperatures. The key approach in this program that should allow orders of magnitude power savings is to selectively cool only the needed volume/device via MEMS-enabled isolation technologies. Such an approach will benefit a large number of applications where performance is determined predominately by only a few devices in a system, e.g., communications where the front-end filter and LNA often set the noise figure; and sensors, where the transducer and input transistor in the sense amplifier often set the resolution. MEMS technology will also be instrumental for achieving micro-scale mechanical pumps, valves, heat exchangers, and compressors, all needed to realize a complete cryogenic refrigeration system on a chip. Transition of this technology is anticipated through industry, who will incorporate elements of the technology in current and future weapon system designs.

Program Plans:
FY 2007 Accomplishments:
− Demonstrated thermal isolation of >10,000 kilowatt (K/W) in a silicon micromachining process.
− Demonstrated on-chip cooling to 77 kelvin (K) using a photonic fiber heat exchanger.
− Demonstrated new localized on-chip cooler approaches using integrated thermoelectric coolers and photonic heat exchangers.
FY 2008 Plans:
− Demonstrate micro-scale coolers capable of providing the needed cryogenic temperature while still fitting into a miniature size, with
sufficient efficiency for low power operation.
− Demonstrate heat exchangers, Joule-Thompson plugs, valves, pumps, all needed for cryo-cooler implementation.
FY 2009 Plans:
− Integrate micro cooler components together with sufficiently isolated devices to-be-cooled to yield a single chip system consuming very little power.

3. Microsystem Integrated Navigation Technology

The Microsystem Integrated Navigation Technology (MINT) program is developing technology for precision inertial navigation coupled with micro navigation aiding sensors. The MINT program will develop universally reconfigurable microsensors (e.g., for magnetic fields, temperature, pressure) with unmatched resolution and sensitivity. These devices will use the latest in MEMS and photonic technologies to harness perturbations in atomic transitions as the sensing and measuring mechanisms for various parameters. Program transition will occur through industrial performers into future DoD platforms.
(U) Program Plans:
FY 2007 Accomplishments:
− Developed a tunable microwave local oscillator to excite and select different hyperfine transitions.
FY 2008 Plans:
− Develop technology to dramatically reduce bias drifts in Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS)-integrated MEMS
accelerometers and gyros.
− Develop CMOS-MEMS sensors for precision navigation aids such as velocity ranging and zero-velocity updating.
FY 2009 Plans:
− Reduce power and volume requirements.
− Develop technologies to harvest power through energy scavenging.

4. Nano-Electro-Mechanical Computers (NEMS)

The goal of the Nano-Electro-Mechanical Computers (NEMS) program is to develop nanoscale mechanical switches and gain elements integrated intimately with complementary metal-oxide semiconductor switches. One mechanical switch per transistor will enable the transistor to operate at near zero leakage powers, enabling pico or femtowatt standby operation. The program will also develop mechanical gain elements using physical effects such as giant magnetoresistance, buckling, electromechanical phase transitions, van der Waals forces, and Casimir forces to enable very low-noise, high-frequency amplifiers for low-power, low-noise analog signal processing. Possibilities of using mechanical power supplies and mechanical vibrating clocks could enable electronics that are less susceptible to electromagnetic pulse attacks. Enabling of nanomechanical elements in direct bandgap materials will circumvent problems of gate oxide stability, allowing fast logic with optics functionality. This program will transition into DoD systems via industrial program performers.

Program Plans:
FY 2007 Accomplishments:
− Developed nanomechanical switch-based logic in semiconductors, metals and insulators.
FY 2008 Plans:
− Develop mechanical gain elements for analog amplification using effects such as buckling and electromechnical phase changes.
FY 2009 Plans:
− Develop NEMS switches in direct bandgap materials to enable optical functionality with switches.
FY 2010 Plans:
- Demonstrate NEMS devices and technologies for microcontroller building blocks - adders, counters, memories, that can operate at very high temperatures.

5. Chip Scale Autopilot for UAVs

The Chip-Scale Auto Pilot program will develop a new chip-scale subsystem for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which will provide on-board autonomous capabilities for collision avoidance and maneuvering support. The system will use data from miniature inertial sensors, imagers, and other sensors, and a data-fusion algorithm to produce control signals for the facilities on an existing UAV, such as the Wireless Application Service Provider (WASP). The goal is to allow operators of UAVs in dense urban environments to focus on high-level objectives, and to leave responsibility for survival and maneuvering to the UAV.
(U) Program Plans:
FY 2009 Plans:
− Develop mm-scale navigation system merging signals from Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), Vision, GPS, and Timing.
− Fuse data from complimentary systems for on-board, autonomous collision avoidance and basic navigation functions

6. Microtechnologies for Air-Cooled Exchangers
The Microtechnologies for Air-Cooled Exchangers (MACE) Heat Sink Enhancement program will explore emerging concepts for enhancement of the performance of heat rejection systems throughout the DoD. Specific program goals include the reduction of the thermal resistance by a factor of 4x and reducing the power consumption of the cooling system by 3x. Successful projects will apply MACE technologies to a customer-specified application.

FY 2009 Plans:
− Demonstrate models, measurements, and Single-Fin device.
− Establish functional full-scale heat sink 4”x4”x1” with 4x reduction in thermal resistance and 3x improvement in coefficient of performance.
FY 2010 Plans:
- Fabricate and test a ‘single-fin’ heat sink device.
- Scale up prototype air-cooled exchangers to a large, full-format heat sink.

7. Maskless Direct-Write Nanolithography for Defense Applications
The Maskless Direct-Write Nanolithography for Defense Applications program will develop a maskless, direct-write lithography tool that will address both the DoD’s need for affordable, high performance, low volume Integrated Circuits (ICs) and the commercial market’s need for highly customized, application-specific ICs. In addition, this program will provide a cost effective manufacturing technology for low volume nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) and nanophotonics initiatives within the DoD. Transition will be achieved by maskless lithography tools, installed in the Trusted Foundry and in commercial foundries, which will enable incorporation of state-of-the-art semiconductor devices in new military systems, and allow for the cost-effective upgrade of legacy military systems.

Program Plans:
FY 2007 Accomplishments:
− Completed and delivered End-to-End System Error Budget and throughput model.
FY 2008 Plans:
− Design, build and integrate a demagnification optics system and wafer adapter, and achieve a patterning resolution on the wafer of
about 1 micron.
− Characterize prototype Reflection Electron Branch Lithography (REBL) system to validate simulation results.

FY 2009 Plans:
− Demonstrate rotary stage at 10 meters per second.
− Demonstrate static imaging on prototype REBL system.
− Demonstrate dynamic imaging on prototype REBL system.

FY 2010 Plans:
- Demonstrate System Level Lithography Performance on a Linear Stage Demonstrator System.
- Design, build, and test a rotary stage.
- Integrate electron beam column and rotary stage demonstrator platform.
- Design, build, and characterize an enhanced electron beam column for system alpha prototype experiments.

8. Disruptive Manufacturing Technologies

The goal of the Disruptive Manufacturing Technologies (DMT) program is to achieve significant and pervasive cost savings, and/or decreases in cycle time, for existing or planned procurements. There has been a long-standing desire to replace traveling wave tube amplifiers (TWTAs), which are pervasive in nearly all electronic warfare (EW), information warfare (IW), radar, and communication systems, with lower cost solid-state components. The DMT program will merge Polystrata™ and GaN technologies to eliminate the need for monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs). The direct product replacement transition candidate for this program is the TWT power amplifier output stage in the AN/ALE-55, Fiber Optic Towed Decoy for the Navy’s new F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, and the Air Force B1-B and F-15 platforms. It will be replaced with solid-state hybrid microwave integrate circuit (HyMIC) modules developed by merging Polystrata™ and gallium nitride (GaN) technologies. The result will be a 10x reduction in TWTA cost, equaling >$150M for the Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasures (IDECM) program, a joint Navy-Air Force program. Beyond developing a replacement for TWTAs, HyMIC technology promises to increase adoption of high performance MMW systems employing mature III-V technologies as well as advance earlier adoption of those using nascent III-V technologies.

FY 2007 Accomplishments:
− Demonstrated integration of GaN transistors and passive elements with Polystrata™ waveguides.
FY 2008 Plans:
− Demonstrate flip chip mounting on Polystrata™ structures.
− Complete proof-of-concept GaN 20 watts module implemented with Polystrata™ technology, along with a passive element library to enable development of the 57 W GaN building block.
FY 2009 Plans:
− Demonstrate a form-fit-function 160 W GaN amplifier ready for insertion into the IDECM decoy module.
FY 2010 Plans:
- Demonstrate 57 W GaN HyMIC building block.

9. Tip-Based Nanofabrication (TBN)
The Tip-Based Nanofabrication (TBN) program will develop the capability to use Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) cantilevers and tips to controllably manufacture nano-scale structures such as nanowires, nanotubes, and quantum dots for selected defense applications such as optical and biological sensors, diode lasers, light emitting diodes, infrared sensors, high-density interconnects, and quantum computing.
FY 2008 Accomplishments:
- Selected initial fabrication materials, mechanisms, and processes for optimal properties.
- Completed preliminary design of specialized processing equipment.
FY 2009 Plans:
- Demonstrate nanofabrication process using a single-tip structure and associated tooling.
FY 2010 Plans:
- Fabricate a multi-tip array (5 tips) for parallel manufacturing.
- Demonstrate a repeatable tip-based process and manufacturing capability.

10. Programmable Matter

The Programmable Matter program will develop a new functional form of matter, constructed from mesoscale particles that assemble into complex 3-Dimensional (3-D) objects upon external command. These objects will exhibit all of the functionality of their conventional counterparts and ultimately have the ability to reverse back to the original components.
FY 2009 Plans:
- Build a mathematical model that theoretically confirms a viable procedure for constructing macroscopic
3-D solid objects with functional properties that have real world use.
- Demonstrate externally-directed assembly of distinct macroscopic 3-D solids.
- Demonstrate interlocking/adhesion of mesoscale particles to create bulk matter.
- Demonstrate reversibility.
FY 2010 Plans:
- Optimize Programmable Matter properties.
- Demonstrate Programmable Matter for selected applications.

A previous Nextbigfuture article on DARPA's programmable matter project with pictures.

11. Quantum OptoMechanics Integrated on a Chip
The objective of this program is to leverage advances in Photonics and Micro fabrication to develop integrated chips capable of exploiting quantum optomechanical applications. Although light is usually thought of as carrying energy but relatively little momentum, light confined to a high-finesse cavity can exert significant force on the cavity mirrors. When the mirror is allowed to vibrate by coupling it to a
mechanical (spring-like) system, energy can be transferred between coupled optomechanical resonators. Depending on the detuning of the cavity, one can obtain either damping (cooling) or amplification (heating) of the mirror motion. Notable achievements in this field are the demonstration of mirror cooling (damping of the internal degree of motion) to sub-Kelvin (6 mK) temperatures and demonstration of radiation driven high-Q, high-frequency (1 GHz) oscillators. With sufficiently high cavity finesse and Q’s of the mechanical system, it is possible to reach a regime in which the mirror motion is no longer thermally limited. Instead, it becomes limited by the quantum mechanical radiation pressure force. Once this limit is reached, it
is possible to take advantage of quantum mechanical effects without having to cool the system. It is anticipated this will result in a new generation of mass-sensing devices and ultra high-Q, high-frequency resonators controlled by light. In optical systems, it will be possible to efficiently squeeze light beyond the standard shot-noise limit producing light sources for infrared detection and quantum information

FY 2010 Plans:
- Demonstrate resonant frequency of 10 megahertz (MHz).
- Demonstrate Mechanical Q of 1x10^6.

12. Nanoscale/Biomolecular and MetaMaterials
The research in this thrust area exploits advances in nanoscale and bio-molecular materials, including computationally based materials science, in order to develop unique microstructures and material properties. This area also includes efforts to develop the underlying physics for the behavior of materials whose properties have been engineered at the nanoscale level (metamaterials) and materials exhibiting a permanent electric charge (charged matter).
FY 2008 Accomplishments:
- Developed efficient computational methods that correctly predict the properties of excited electronic states in high intensity laser.
- Achieved mid-wave infrared optical transmission comparable to that of spinel and worked toward achieving a composite material with mechanical properties comparable to those of sapphire in yttriamagnesia nanocomposite material.
- Achieved first-ever optical model for nanomaterials of interest and transitioned it to the research community.
- Achieved yttria, nano silicon carbide optical ceramics with required strength of sapphire and worked toward optical properties of spinel.
FY 2009 Plans:
- Demonstrate automated laser beam front diagnostic and adaptive beam correction.
- Demonstrate simultaneously infrared optical transmission comparable to spinel and mechanical properties comparable to sapphire in 75mm discs.
- Develop new materials with both optical properties and strength into 75mm flat discs.
- Characterize the material properties of 75mm discs through testing in relevant environments.
- Demonstrate the ability to provide surface strengthening through compressive materials.
- Investigate new methods of altering diatom structures and adapting diatom materials to facilitate new sensors and devices.
FY 2010 Plans:
- Initiate development of new materials into hemispherical domes with decreased optical scatter, doubled mechanical strength, and doubled thermal shock capabilities over single crystal sapphire.
- Characterize the material properties of hemispherical domes through testing in relevant military environments.
- Characterize the material properties of non-hemispherical domes.
- Develop inexpensive processing techniques to create customized diatom derived sensors and devices.
- Ion: demonstrate ability to affect airflow around the surface of an airfoil using ions accelerated across multiple points to generate an airstream on the surface of the airfoil.
- Radiometer: demonstrate ability to produce significant forces on aerofoil-shaped surfaces.
- Establish the material science of charged matter by developing underlying technology and defining range of applicability.
- Demonstrate in a laboratory environment charged matter properties including superadhesion, frictionless surfaces, and resistance to electrostatic charging.

12. Atomic Scale Materials and Devices
This thrust examines the fundamental physics of materials at the atomic scale in order to develop new devices and capabilities. A major emphasis of this thrust is to provide the theoretical and experimental underpinnings of a new class of semiconductor electronics based on spin degree of freedom of the electron, in addition to (or in place of) the charge. A new all optical switch capability will also be investigated. It includes a new, non-invasive method to directly hyperpolarize biological tissues, leading to novel quantitative neurodiagnostics. In addition, this thrust will examine other novel classes of materials and phenomena such as plasmons or Bose-Einstein Condensates (BEC) that have the potential to provide new capabilities in the quantum regime, for example, GPS-independent navigation via atom interferometry as well as the potential to generate significant heat from deuterated palladium.

FY 2010 Plans:
- Develop cooling and precision thermometry techniques for fermionic atoms in optical lattice.
- Develop quantum gas microscope with sufficient resolution to image individual atomic sites in 2-D optical lattice; verify by imaging atomic gas trapped in lattice.
- Emulate XXZ quantum spin model using ion crystal array in less than twelve hours that confirms theoretical calculations.
- Develop the core materials fabrication techniques that will enable extremely low-power, extremely high density, all-oxide, transistor-like switches with a ferroelectric gate and a high density, 2-D interfacial oxide electron gas exhibiting metal-insulator transition in response to an applied gate voltage.
- Model how these transistor-like devices will support corresponding device architecture for advanced reconfigurable logic and memory.
- Design broadband, frequency comb spectroscopy system with sensitivity better than ten parts per billion acetylene at 1.5 microns.
- Evaluate performance improvements from, and system configuration changes needed to, shift comb central wavelength from 1.5 microns to 3 microns.
- Quantify the effects of impurities in palladium substrate material on the capability to generate excess heat. composition and microstructure required to achieve high levels of deuterium loading and tolerate the high stresses associated with these conditions.
- Establish the effects of surface area and crystal orientation on degree of deuterium loading and the loading/relaxation dynamics and correlate these effects with increases in excess heat generated.
- Demonstrate all-optical switch (or equivalent device) based on optically-induced absorption.
- Demonstrate total energy dissipation for an optical switch (or equivalent device) of less than 1 femtojoules per operation, and signal loss of less than 0.1 dB, excluding waveguide losses before and after device.
- Demonstrate soft X-rays with specific states of orbital angular momentum.
- Initiate a series of experiments using the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) facility to study ionospheric and trans-ionospheric phenomena, including optimization of high frequency to very low frequency conversion efficiency, generation and propagation and characterization

13. Casimir Effect Enhancement (CEE)
This program’s goal is to manipulate materials properties and geometries in order to enable repulsive Casimir forces at interfaces. This can lead to increased reliability in Micro Electrical Mechanical Systems (MEMS) devices by eliminating stiction, reduced drag and increased fuel efficiency in all military systems (boats, airplanes, etc.), or enhancing any system where attractive forces hinder overall performance.
FY 2010 Plans:
- Model potential systems where Casimir forces can be manipulated.
- Experiment to confirm ability to reduce Casimir force.
- Demonstrate nanomechanical device with observable, repeatable ten percent reduction in adhesive forces.

14. Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) Nets
The goal of the Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) Nets program is to develop a near-term counter RPG net system that has performance at least equivalent to bar or slat armor but that is lighter and easier to deploy; and a mid-term net-based system with active elements that has greatly improved performance. Development of these systems will be supported by modeling to enhance understanding of the net interactions and with extensive live fire testing against RPGs. Successful candidates will be installed on vehicles for evaluation in an operational context.

FY 2010 Plans:
- Begin user evaluation of active net system.

15. High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS)
The goal of the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) program is to develop a high-energy laser weapon system (150 kW) with an order of magnitude reduction in weight compared to existing laser systems. With a weight goal of <5 kg/kW, HELLADS will enable high-energy lasers (HELs) to be integrated onto tactical aircraft and will significantly increase engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems. The HELLADS program has completed the design and demonstration of a revolutionary prototype unit cell laser module that has demonstrated power output and optical wavefront performance that supports the goal of a lightweight and compact 150 kW high energy laser weapon system with near-diffraction limited beam quality. An objective unit cell laser module with integrated power and thermal management is being designed and fabricated by two competing laser suppliers and will demonstrate an output power of >34 kW. Based on the results of the unit cell demonstration, additional laser modules will be fabricated to produce a 150 kW laser that will be demonstrated in a laboratory environment. The 150 kW laser will then be integrated with beam control, power, heat exchange, safety, and command and control subsystems that are based upon existing technologies to produce a laser weapon system demonstrator. The capability to shoot down tactical targets such as surface-to-air missiles and rockets and the capability to perform ultra-precise offensive engagements will be demonstrated in a realistic ground test environment. The HELLADS laser will then be transitioned to the Air Force for aircraft integration and flight testing.

FY 2010 Plans:
- Initiate fabrication of additional unit cell laser modules to complete the 150 kW laser.
- Complete the fabrication and laboratory testing of the 150 kW laser.
- Complete fabrication of the demonstrator laser weapon system.
- Complete demonstrator laser weapon system component and subsystem testing.
- Initiate integration of the 150 kW laser with the laser weapon system.

16. Revolution in Fiber Lasers (RIFL)
The goal of the Revolution in Fiber Lasers (RIFL) program is to develop multi-kilowatt, singlemode, narrow line fiber laser amplifiers using efficient, high brightness laser diode pump arrays. These narrowline fiber laser amplifiers can then be coherently combined to develop ultra-high power electronically steerable optical phased arrays. In Phase 1 of this program, a 1 kW narrowline, single mode, single
polarization fiber laser amplifier will be developed with 15% electrical efficiency and a beam quality of better than 1.4x diffraction limited. In Phase 2 of this program, a 3 kW narrowline, single mode, single polarization fiber laser amplifier will be developed with 30% overall electrical efficiency and better than 1.4x diffraction limited beam quality. Coherent arrays of these high power fiber laser amplifiers will then be developed as part of the DARPA Adaptive Photonic Phase-Locked Elements (APPLE) program (PE0603739E, Project MT-15) to achieve the requisite power and coherence for future multi-kilowatt high power laser weapons.

FY 2008 Accomplishments:
- Performed final engineering designs of a 1 kW coherently combinable fiber amplifier (single mode, single polarization, narrow line) that will support development of a high power fiber laser optical phased array and that will provide >15% electrical efficiency and near-diffraction-limited beam quality (M2 < 1.4).
FY 2009 Plans:
- Initiate construction of 1 kW coherently combinable fiber amplifiers (single mode, single polarization, narrow line) that will support development of a high power fiber laser optical phased array and that will provide >15% electrical efficiency and near-diffraction-limited beam quality (M2 < 1.4).
- Complete final engineering design of a 3kW, 30% efficient, near-diffraction-limited coherently combinable fiber laser amplifier (single mode, single polarization, narrow line) that will support development of high power fiber laser optical phased arrays for laser weapon applications.
FY 2010 Plans:
- Demonstrate and test 15% efficient, single mode, single polarization, coherently combinable fiber laser amplifiers with near diffraction-limited beam quality at 1kW power level.

17. Maintaining Combat Performance
The Maintaining Combat Performance thrust utilizes breakthroughs in biology and physiology to sustain the peak physical and cognitive performance of warfighters operating in extreme conditions. Today, warfighters must accomplish their missions despite extraordinary physiologic stress. Examples of these stressors include extremes of temperature (-20 degrees F to 125 degrees F), oxygen deficiency in mountains, personal loads in excess of 100 lbs, dehydration, psychological stress, and even performance of life-sustaining maneuvers following combat injury. Not only must troops maintain optimum physical performance, but also peak cognitive performance, which includes the entire spectrum from personal navigation and target recognition, to complex command and control decisions, and intelligence synthesis. The Maintaining Combat Performance thrust leverages breakthroughs in diverse scientific fields in order to mitigate the effects of harsh combat environments. For example, understanding the natural mechanisms for core body temperature regulation in hibernating mammals has led to a novel, practical approach for soldier cooling, which is now being evaluated by troops in the far forward combat areas. Other examples include fundamental research elucidating the biological mechanisms of adaptation to extreme altitude, the molecular correlates of muscle fatigue and psychological stress, and natural resistance to disease through dietary nutrients.

FY 2008 Accomplishments:
- Identified genetic indicators of acute mountain sickness and developed approaches to improve cardiopulmonary function at high altitude.
- Demonstrated greater than forty percent improvement from preconditioning prior to high altitude exposure in murine model.

FY 2009 Plans:
- Identify mechanisms to alleviate high altitude illness.
- Investigate mechanisms to speed natural acclimatization at high altitudes.
- Demonstrate the following in-vitro: mechanisms to increase pulmonary blood flow; methods to increase number of red blood cells; and mechanisms to increase oxygen delivery to muscles.
- Position product for use in an FDA Phase I clinical trial by the end of first program phase.
FY 2010 Plans:
- Increase speed acclimatization by providing high altitude cues prior to ascent.
- Identify physical adaptation strategies of altitude-adapted people.
- Demonstrate high altitude illness prevention in mammals using adaptation strategies of altitude-adapted people.

18. Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE)
The Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) program will develop a brain inspired electronic “chip” that mimics the function, capacity, size, and power consumption of a biological cortex. If successful, the program will provide the foundations for functional machines to supplement humans in many of the most demanding situations faced by warfighters today. In particular, the objective of the program is to process video images for information abstraction (e.g. annotation) and task initiation. The two main technical challenges to achieving this vision are developing an artificial electronic synapse and developing a neural algorithm-architecture that exploits these synapses.

FY 2010 Plans:
- Develop a brain-inspired neuromorphic architectural design and specification capability.
- Develop software tools to translate neuromorphic designs into electronic implementations using hybrid CMOS and high-density electronic synapse components.
- Develop capability to simulate the performance of neuromorphic electronics systems using very large scale computation.
- Develop virtual reality environments intended for training and evaluating electronic neuromorphic systems and their corresponding computer simulations.
- Develop standard testing protocols for assessing the performance of large neuromorphic electronic systems.

19. Vulcan
The goal of the Vulcan demonstration program, previously funded from PE 0602702E, Project TT-07 (HiSTED Program), is to design, build and ground test an engine capable of accelerating a full scale hypersonic vehicle from rest to Mach 4+. Constant Volume Combustion (CVC) engines have been under development for more than a decade. Considerable progress has been made and the technology is believed mature enough to enable a dramatic new propulsion system capability. CVC engines, when combined with turbine engines, offer the ability to design a new class of Mach 4+ air breathing engines. The Vulcan engine will consist of a CVC engine, a full-scale turbine engine, an inlet and a nozzle. CVC engine architectures could include Pulsed Detonation Engines (PDE’s), Continuous Detonation Engines (CDE’s) or other unsteady CVC engine architectures. The CVC engine would operate from below the upper Mach limit of the turbine engine to Mach 4+. The turbine engine will be a current production engine capable of operating above Mach 2. Key objectives of the program are to integrate the turbine engine into the Vulcan engine with minimal modification to the turbine engine; to operate the turbine engine from rest to its upper Mach limit; and to cocoon the turbine engine when it is not in use. The Vulcan engine will enable full-scale hypersonic cruise vehicles for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), strike or other critical national missions.
FY 2010 Plans:
- Complete designs and simulations of critical components.
- Conduct risk reduction demonstrations of the combustor rig, fuel system, material rig, valve rig, initiator rig, seal rig, inlet rig, nozzle rig, and thermal management system rig components.
- Complete CVC engine preliminary design review.
- Initiate detailed design of subsystems.

20. Ultradense Nanophotonic Intrachip Communication (UNIC)
The goal of the Ultradense Nanophotonic Intrachip Communication (UNIC) program is to demonstrate nanophotonic technology for access to on-chip ultra-dense systems and Input/Output (I/O) to/from a chip containing such ultra-dense systems. Technical challenges that must be met include: high precision, low loss nanophotonic circuit fabrication; low cost fabrication methods; high performance nanoscale modulators; detectors, multiplexers and demultiplexers; architecture for addressing ultra-dense systems; and techniques for efficient high capacity/bandwidth I/O of data to and from the chip. This technology will transition via industrial performers developing faster and more complex processing such as real-time pattern matching, target recognition, image processing and Terahertz (THz) class command-and-control networks.
FY 2010 Plans:
- Demonstrate integrated arrays of 4-wavelength silicon photonic transmitters and receivers operating at 10 gigabytes per second (Gbps).
- Demonstrate feasibility of 1.5 per Joule/bit interconnect link energy budget for silicon photonic optical data link, based upon fabricated arrays.
- Demonstrate wavelength division multiplexed routing through 2 physical layers at 10 Gbps and less than one part in a trillion bit error rate (1E-12 bit error rate).

Research links Nitrates Levels Contribute as Cause of Alzheimers, Diabetes and Parkinson and 5 Cups of Coffee Can Protect Against Alzheimers

1. A new study by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital have found a substantial link between increased levels of nitrates in our environment and food with increased deaths from diseases, including Alzheimer's, diabetes mellitus and Parkinson's. The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

The researchers graphed and analyzed mortality rates, and compared them with increasing age for each disease. They then studied United States population growth, annual use and consumption of nitrite-containing fertilizers, annual sales at popular fast food chains, and sales for a major meat processing company, as well as consumption of grain and consumption of watermelon and cantaloupe (the melons were used as a control since they are not typically associated with nitrate or nitrite exposure).

The findings indicate that while nitrogen-containing fertilizer consumption increased by 230 percent between 1955 and 2005, its usage doubled between 1960 and 1980, which just precedes the insulin-resistant epidemics the researchers found. They also found that sales from the fast food chain and the meat processing company increased more than 8-fold from 1970 to 2005, and grain consumption increased 5-fold.

The authors state that the time course of the increased prevalence rates of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes cannot be explained on the basis of gene mutations. They instead mirror the classical trends of exposure-related disease. Because nitrosamines produce biochemical changes within cells and tissues, it is conceivable that chronic exposure to low levels of nitrites and nitrosamines through processed foods, water and fertilizers is responsible for the current epidemics of these diseases and the increasing mortality rates associated with them.

De la Monte states, "If this hypothesis is correct, potential solutions include eliminating the use of nitrites and nitrates in food processing, preservation and agriculture; taking steps to prevent the formation of nitrosamines and employing safe and effective measures to detoxify food and water before human consumption."

2. When aged mice bred to develop symptoms of Alzheimer's disease were given caffeine - the equivalent of five cups of coffee a day - their memory impairment was reversed, report University of South Florida researchers at the Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center

The just-published Florida ADRC study included 55 mice genetically altered to develop memory problems mimicking Alzheimer's disease as they aged. After behavioral tests confirmed the mice were exhibiting signs of memory impairment at age 18 to 19 months - about age 70 in human years - the researchers gave half the mice caffeine in their drinking water. The other half got plain water. The Alzheimer's mice received the equivalent of five 8-oz. cups of regular coffee a day. That's the same amount of caffeine - 500 milligrams -- as contained in two cups of specialty coffees like Starbucks, or 14 cups of tea, or 20 soft drinks.

At the end of the two-month study, the caffeinated mice performed much better on tests measuring their memory and thinking skills. In fact, their memories were identical to normal aged mice without dementia. The Alzheimer's mice drinking plain water continued to do poorly on the tests.

In addition, the brains of the caffeinated mice showed nearly a 50-percent reduction in levels of beta amyloid, a substance forming the sticky clumps of plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. Other experiments by the same investigators indicate that caffeine appears to restore memory by reducing both enzymes needed to produce beta amyloid. The researchers also suggest that caffeine suppresses inflammatory changes in the brain that lead to an overabundance of beta amyloid.

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