September 23, 2011

Progress to a vaccine for acne

Sanofi-Pasteur, the world's biggest vaccine company, has signed a contract with the University of California, San Diego, to develop "an immunological approach to acne prevention and treatment".

Acne is no joke. "More than 85 per cent of teenagers and over 40 million people in the United States alone are suffering this disease" and many adults have it too, says Chun-Ming Huang, head of the lab at the centre of the deal.

A pre-clinical vaccine was developed by researchers at the University of California, San Diego.

One approach Huang's team plans to try is to develop monoclonal antibodies to CAMP that can be delivered locally, using microneedles, within the skin of people with acne. This would disrupt P. acnes-related inflammation without disturbing its better-behaved brethren elsewhere.

Bimetallic nanoantenna separates colors of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have built a very simple nanoantenna that directs red and blue colors in opposite directions, even though the antenna is smaller than the wavelength of light.

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have built a very simple nanoantenna that directs red and blue colours in opposite directions, even though the antenna is smaller than the wavelength of light. The findings – published in the online journal Nature Communications this week – can lead to optical nanosensors being able to detect very low concentrations of gases or biomolecules.

A structure that is smaller than the wavelength of visible light (390-770 nanometers) should not really be able to scatter light. But that is exactly what the new nanoantenna does. The trick employed by the Chalmers researchers is to build an antenna with an asymmetric material composition, creating optical phase shifts.

The antenna consists of two nanoparticles about 20 nanometers apart on a glass surface, one of silver and one of gold. Experiments show that the antenna scatters visible light so that red and blue colours are directed in opposite directions.

Caption: The nanoantenna acts as a router for red and blue light, due to the nanoparticles of gold and silver having different optical properties. Credit: Timur Shegai

NASA will fly laser communication that is 100 times faster than todays space communication

NASA has selected three proposals, including one from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., as Technology Demonstration Missions to transform space communications, deep space navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities. The projects will develop and fly a space solar sail, deep space atomic clock, and space-based optical communications system.

NASA will fly the Laser Communications Relay demonstration mission within 4 years. They will fly and validate a reliable, capable, and cost-effective optical communications technology. Optical communications technology provides data rates up to 100 times higher than today's systems, which will be needed for future human and robotic space missions. The technology is directly applicable to the next generation of NASA's space communications network. After the demonstration, the developed space and ground assets will be qualified for use by near-Earth and deep space missions requiring high bandwidth and a small ground station reception area.

Data rates 10-100 times more capable than current RF systems will allow greatly improved connectivity and enable a new generation of remote scientific investigations as well as provide the satellite communication’s industry with disruptive technology not available today. Space laser communications will enable missions to use bandwidth-hungry instruments, such as hyperspectral imagers, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), and other instruments with high definition in spectral, spatial, or temporal modes. Laser communication will also make it possible to establish a “virtual presence” at a remote planet or other solar system body, enabling the high-rate communications required by future explorers.

As an example, at the current limit of 6 Mbps for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), it takes approximately 90 minutes to transmit a single HiRISE high resolution image back to earth. In some instances, this bottleneck can limit science return. An equivalent MRO mission outfitted with an optical communications transmitter would have a capacity to transmit data back to earth at 100 Mbps or more, reducing the single image transmission time to on order of 5 minutes.

More Details on Holographic Radar

Here is a 20 page presentation Holographic radar brings a new dimension to sensing and instrumentation on T and E ranges Collision avoidance, wind farms and scoring

Holographic radar implements Skolnik’s vision of Ubiquitous Radar
* Holographic Radar looks continuously at a whole volume of space (rather than scanning).
* It acquires fully sampled amplitude and phase information from every object within the volume.
* It provides range, azimuth, elevation and Doppler information for every detected object.
* Tracking algorithms discriminate moving targets and clutter.
* Clutter is removed without loss of sensitivity.
* Practical holographic radar is possible in the modern day due to the availability of high-power processor devices at reasonable cost.

Wind farm infill radar

CH-InFill is a holographic radar located at or near a wind farm to generate local, high-resolution, 3D infill data

* Range up to 13km / 43,000ft
* Reporting rate 3-10Hz
* It sees through and around the turbines without disruption

Physicists Devise Perfect Magnetic Shield

Physicists and engineers had already demonstrated rudimentary invisibility cloaks that can hide objects from light, sound, and water waves. Now, they've devised an "antimagnet" cloak that can shield an object from a constant magnetic field without disturbing that field. If realized, such a cloak could have medical applications, researchers say.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of the cloak using computer simulations of a ten-layered cylindrical device cloaking a single small magnet.

Impressively, the researchers also showed that the cloak could take on other shapes and function when the cylinder was not fully enclosed, meaning that applications for pacemakers and cochlear implants are even more feasible, given that they require wires to connect to other parts of the body.

"We indeed believe, and hope, that some laboratories could start constructing an antimagnet soon. Of the two components, superconductors are readily available, for example in cylindrical shape, and the key point would be to make the magnetic layers with the desired properties. This may take a bit of work but in principle the ingredients are there," continued Professor Sanchez.

Shutting out a static magnetic field to protect an object isn't that hard. All a researcher needs to do is to encase the object in a container made of a "superconductor," a material that will carry electrical current without any resistance when it is cooled sufficiently close to absolute zero. If the container encounters a magnetic field, currents within the conductor will flow to generate a field that counteracts the applied field. In an ordinary conductor, the resistance of the metal quickly snuffs out those currents. In a superconductor, however, those currents just keep flowing, creating a magnetic field that exactly cancels the applied field and zeroing out the total field within the container.

But that doesn't make a superconducting can a magnetic cloak. That's because outside the can, the field produced by the superconductor will alter the applied field and reveal its presence. In a nutshell, the field can be thought of as a distribution of lines of force that vaguely resembles a weather map of winds. The superconducting shield pushes the magnetic field lines outward, creating a hole in the field. So the trick to making a cloak for static magnetic fields is to counteract that distortion. In 2007, Pendry and Ben Wood, also of Imperial College London, proposed that such a cloak could be made of a material that repels magnetic fields in one direction and attracts them in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, this self-contradicting material doesn't exist.

Hideaway. The magnetic cloak calls a truce on warring magnetic fields. On the left, the magnetic field of a lone cylinder-shaped magnet. In the middle, a second magnet, pointing the opposite way, disrupts its field. On the right, the second magnet's field is hidden in the cloak, which also allows the first magnet's field to extend as if the second weren't there at all.
Credit: (illustration) J. Prat-Camps; A. Sanchez, C. Navau, D.-X. Chen/Autonomous U. of Barcelona

New Journal of Physics - Antimagnets: controlling magnetic fields with superconductor–metamaterial hybrids

Scientists use brain imaging to reveal the movies in our mind and suggests a visual brain machine interface is feasible

Imagine tapping into the mind of a coma patient, or watching one’s own dream on YouTube. With a cutting-edge blend of brain imaging and computer simulation, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, are bringing these futuristic scenarios within reach.

Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and computational models, UC Berkeley researchers have succeeded in decoding and reconstructing people’s dynamic visual experiences – in this case, watching Hollywood movie trailers.

As yet, the technology can only reconstruct movie clips people have already viewed. However, the breakthrough paves the way for reproducing the movies inside our heads that no one else sees, such as dreams and memories, according to researchers.

Palestinian UN statehood bid

telegraph UK has detailed coverage of the Palestinian UN statehood bid.

This bit of analysis from foreign correspondent Alex Spillius at the UN:

Tony Blair et al are right to say that a resolution at the UN won’t deliver a state to the Palestinians, but that sort of misses the point. The PLO is gambling that a vote at the UN – either in the Security Council or the General Assembly – will increase the pressure on Israel to negotiate the borders of a future Palestine based on lines Israel held before the 1967 war. It is a risk that could back fire if the US

Holographic radar has tracked supersonic 5 inch shells

Groundbreaking holographic radar pinpoints impact of rapid shell fire for US Department of Defense. Following just 14 months of development, Cambridge Consultants unveiled the industry’s first holographic radar scoring system, the Land and Surface Target Scorer (LSTS).

Cambridge Consultants, a leading technology design and development firm, has successfully carried out trials tracking 5 inch shells travelling at over 1,000 miles per hour for the US Department of Defense (DoD). The groundbreaking radar developed specifically for this task was able to measure the trajectory and burst points of shells fired from a naval gun at a rate of one every three seconds - the first time radar has been used this way.

Installed on high-speed land or sea-surface target vehicles, the system uses receiver array panels combined with high-speed signal processing to detect and track small projectiles in the presence of very large radar clutter, such as that experienced on moving land and sea surface targets. During trials at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren VA, the system successfully detected, tracked and located the point of impact of inert 5 inch projectiles, and was also able to plot the burst point of a high explosive round. Observers were able to see the results in near real-time on a laptop.

Cities and Megacities of 2030, 2050 and 2100

In 1800, just 3% of the world lived in urban areas. Today that figure has passed 50% and by 2050 it will likely reach 70%, with cities like New York, Mexico City, Moscow and Shanghai growing exponentially.

The 2011 annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative had a topic of the rapidly urbanizing world population and the megacities

Year  Urban Pop   World Pop  World Urbanization
1800      30 million    978 million   3%
1900     220 million   1650 million  13%
1950     732 million   2520 million  29%
2005    3200 million   6500 million  49%
2030e   4900 million   8300 million  60%
2050e   6500 million   9200 million  70%
2100e   8000 million  10000 million  80%   

Rapid Urbanization and Mega Cities: The Need for Spatial Information Management (91 pages)

China now has 120 cities with a population of more than one million, seeing its urban population skyrocket from 18 percent to 50 percent of the country. With 660 million already living in cities, China expects another 240 million to join them within the next two decades.

China AP1000 construction progress and Raw Uranium in Libya

1. Construction of the Sanmen Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear power plant has reached a milestone with the installation of the pressure vessel for the first reactor. On 19 September, Sanmen's second reactor had the third ring of the containment vessel put in place. The same work at unit 1 was carried out on 12 September 2010.

2. China may resume approvals for new nuclear power plant projects early next year when a nuclear safety plan is completed, the official China Securities Journal reported on Wednesday.

Possibilities around the faster than light CERN neutrino experiment

Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) say they have measured tiny subatomic particles traveling faster than light (about 1.000025 times faster or 299,799,953 m/s. instead of 299,792,458 m/s).

Quantum Diaries has a live blog for the CERN EP Seminar “New results from OPERA on neutrino properties“, presented by Dario Autiero.

Arxiv - Measurement of the neutrino velocity with the OPERA detector in the CNGS beam (24 pages)

The OPERA neutrino experiment at the underground Gran Sasso Laboratory has measured the velocity of neutrinos from the CERN CNGS beam over a baseline of about 730 km with much higher accuracy than previous studies conducted with accelerator neutrinos. The measurement is based on high-statistics data taken by OPERA in the years 2009, 2010 and 2011. Dedicated upgrades of the CNGS timing system and of the OPERA detector, as well as a high precision geodesy campaign for the measurement of the neutrino baseline, allowed reaching comparable systematic and statistical accuracies. An early arrival time of CNGS muon neutrinos with respect to the one computed assuming the speed of light in vacuum of (60.7 plus or minus 6.9 (stat.) plus or minus 7.4 (sys.)) ns was measured. This anomaly corresponds to a relative difference of the muon neutrino velocity with respect to the speed of light (v-c)/c = (2.48 plus or minus 0.28 (stat.) plus or minus 0.30 (sys.)) X 10^-5.

If other labs can reproduce the effect (and no systemic error is found), physicists envision one of two far-reaching outcomes.

1) the CERN team's results could bolster quantum theories of gravity – the last of nature's four fundamental forces scientists are trying to fit under the umbrella of quantum physics. Theories of quantum gravity suggest that at sufficiently high energies, particles can appear to travel faster than light because they traverse extra dimensions of space.

One example is string theory, which posits a universe of many more dimensions than the four humans experience.

"If you have a theory in which there is more than one way to get from A to B, maybe you can have a shortcut and have the appearance of traveling faster than the speed of light," says Stephen Parke, who heads the theoretical physics department at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill.

2) A pillar of modern physics – Einstein's theory of special relativity, in which the speed of light is a particle's absolute speed limit – could take its first serious hit. Perhaps not flat wrong, but only a piece of a more complete picture.

September 22, 2011

Upcoming Rossi Energy Catalyzer Tests and more product information

1. The 27 KW units that make up the 1 megawatt e-cat system have multiple core modules

Questions on the ecat discussion forum and Rossi's answers

The 27MW e-cats are single core or do they have multiple cores? Multiple

I was surprised by the weight (80kg) of the latest e-cats, did you increase the thickness of the lead shield? Yes

Mats Lewan says self sustained mode can last up to 30 min and then needs some 10 mins of input power to keep reaction going, is it exactly like that or can it last any longer? Longer

Stems cells are potential source of cancer-fighting T cells and a non-disease causing virus kills breast cancer cells

1. Adult stem cells from mice converted to antigen-specific T cells -- the immune cells that fight cancer tumor cells -- show promise in cancer immunotherapy and may lead to a simpler, more efficient way to use the body's immune system to fight cancer, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers.

By inserting DNA, researchers change the mouse iPS cells into immune cells and inject them into mice with tumors. After 50 days, 100 percent of the mice in the study were still alive, compared to 55 percent of control mice, which received tumor-reactive immune cells isolated from donors.

Researchers reported their results and were featured as the cover story in a recent issue of the journal Cancer Research.

A limitation of this potential therapy is that it currently takes at least six weeks for the iPS cells to develop into T cells in the body. In addition, potential side effects need to be considered. iPS cells may develop into other harmful cells in the body.

Researchers are now studying how to use the process in human cells.

Singularity Summit in NYC to Explore Historic Watson Victory

This Singularity Summit line-up this year features a mix of 25 speakers from numerous fields, with a central focus on robotics and artificial intelligence, in particular the victory of the IBM computer Watson in Jeopardy! this February. Inventor and award-winning author Ray Kurzweil will give the opening keynote on “From Eliza to Watson to Passing the Turing Test”. Registration for the Summit, which runs on October 15-16 at the 92Y in New York, is open to the public now.

Neutrinos Travel Faster Than Light, According to One Experiment at CERN

Neutrinos sent through the ground from Cern toward the Gran Sasso laboratory 732km away seemed to show up a tiny fraction of a second early.

"We tried to find all possible explanations for this," said report author Antonio Ereditato of the Opera collaboration.

Opera Collaboration website
The OPERA particle detector may have spotted neutrinos traveling faster than light, which would bring down the curtain on special relativity as an exact theory.
Credit: OPERA collaboration

"We wanted to find a mistake - trivial mistakes, more complicated mistakes, or nasty effects - and we didn't," he told BBC News.

"When you don't find anything, then you say 'Well, now I'm forced to go out and ask the community to scrutinise this.'"

Science Now - Neutrinos Travel Faster Than Light, According to One Experiment

The data come from a 1300-metric-ton particle detector named Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus (OPERA). Lurking in Italy's subterranean Gran Sasso National Laboratory, OPERA detects neutrinos that are fired through the earth from the European particle physics laboratory, CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland. As the particles hardly interact at all with other matter, they stream right through the ground, with only a very few striking the material in the detector and making a noticeable shower of particles.

Over 3 years, OPERA researchers timed the roughly 16,000 neutrinos that started at CERN and registered a hit in the detector. They found that, on average, the neutrinos made the 730-kilometer, 2.43-millisecond trip roughly 60 nanoseconds faster than expected if they were traveling at light speed. "It's a straightforward time-of-flight measurement," says Antonio Ereditato, a physicist at the University of Bern and spokesperson for the 160-member OPERA collaboration. "We measure the distance and we measure the time, and we take the ratio to get the velocity, just as you learned to do in high school." Ereditato says the uncertainty in the measurement is 10 nanoseconds.

Texas will get a 10 petaflop supercomputer from Dell and Intel in 2013

A new supercomputer new system, called Stampede, will be built by TACC (Texas Advanced Computing Center) in partnership with Dell and Intel to support for four years the nation's scientists in addressing the most challenging scientific and engineering problems. NSF is providing $27.5 million immediately and Stampede is expected to be up and running in January 2013. The estimated investment will be more than $50 million over four years; the Stampede project may be renewed in 2017, which would enable four additional years of open science research on a successor system. Stampede will have a peak performance of 10 petaflops, 272 terabytes (272,000 gigabytes) of total memory, and 14 petabytes (14 million gigabytes) of disk storage. The machine is scheduled to boot up in late 2012 and be ready for production in January 2013.

Stampede will comprise several thousand Dell "Zeus" servers with each server having dual 8-core processors from the forthcoming Intel® Xeon® Processor E5 Family (formerly codenamed "Sandy Bridge-EP") and each server with 32 gigabytes of memory. This production system will offer almost 2 petaflops of peak performance, which is double the current top system in XD, and the real performance of scientific applications will see an even greater performance boost due to the newer processor and interconnect technologies. The cluster will also include a new innovative capability: Intel® Many Integrated Core (MIC) co-processors codenamed "Knights Corner," providing an additional 8 petaflops of performance. Intel MIC co-processors are designed to process highly parallel workloads and provide the benefits of using the most popular x86 instruction set. This will greatly simplify the task of porting and optimizing applications on Stampede to utilize the performance of both the Intel Xeon processors and Intel MIC co-processors.

Researcher Points to Suppression of Evidence that Low Dose Radiation is Benign by 1946 Nobel Laureate

University of Massachusetts Amherst environmental toxicologist Edward Calabrese, whose career research shows that low doses of some chemicals and radiation are benign or even helpful, says he has uncovered evidence that one of the fathers of radiation genetics, Nobel Prize winner Hermann Muller, knowingly lied when he claimed in 1946 that there is no safe level of radiation exposure.

Calabrese’s interpretation of this history is supported by letters and other materials he has retrieved, many from formerly classified files. He published key excerpts this month in Archives of Toxicology and Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis.

Muller was awarded the 1946 Nobel Prize in medicine for his discovery that X-rays induce genetic mutations. This helped him call attention to his long-time concern over the dangers of atomic testing. Muller’s intentions were good, Calabrese points out, but his decision not to mention key scientific evidence against his position has had a far-reaching impact on our approach to regulating radiation and chemical exposure.

NOTE - The increase in cancer deaths for low level radiation is on the order of 0.001 to 0.1 percent (or slightly negative meaning cancer risk is reduced for the radiation hormesis theory), with a base rate of 27% (lifetime risk of cancer).

Men All invasive sites
Risk of developing cancer 44.29%
Risk of dying from cancer 23.20%

Women All invasive sites
Risk of developing cancer 37.76%
Risk of dying from cancer 19.58%

National Cancer Institute. SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975-2007. Lifetime Risk (Percent) of Being Diagnosed with Cancer by Site and Race/Ethnicity: Males, 17 SEER Areas, 2005-2007 (Table 1.15) and Females, 17 SEER Areas, 2005-2007 (Table 1.16). 2010. Accessed at on July 29, 2010.

National Cancer Institute. SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975-2007. Lifetime Risk (Percent) of Dying from Cancer by Site and Race/Ethnicity: Males, Total US, 2005-2007 (Table 1.18) and Females, Total US, 2005-2007 (Table 1.19). 2010. Accessed at on July 29, 2010.

Exoplanetsat and other things to do with Cubesats and Chipsats

Cubesats satellites are the size of one, two or three blocks (called U’s), each block being a 10cm x 10cm x 10cm cube [10 centimeters is 4 inches]. A satellite composed of three of these U’s in a row (a 3U CubeSat) is allowed to have a mass of at most 4 kg. At this scale, the satellites are just big enough to incorporate a relevant payload.

Exoplanetsats - Detecting transiting exoplanets using a low-cost CubeSat platform (15 pages)

Draper Laboratory and MIT have developed the Exoplanetsat satellite the size of a loaf of bread that will undertake one of the biggest tasks in astronomy: finding Earthlike planets beyond our solar system—or exoplanets—that could support life. It is scheduled to launch in 2012. Each nanosatellite will cost as little as $600,000 once in production—ExoPlanetSat cost approximately $5 million—and their estimated orbital lifetime is one to two years.

Nanosatellites, i.e. spacecraft that weigh between 1 and 10 kg, are drawing increasing interest as platforms for conducting on-orbit science. This trend is primarily driven by the ability to piggyback nanosatellites on the launch of large spacecraft and hence achieve orbit at greatly reduced cost. The CubeSat platform is a standardized nanosatellite configuration, consisting of one, two, or three 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm units (1, 2,or 3 “U”s) arranged in a row. We present a CubeSat-based concept for the discovery of transiting exoplanets around the nearest and brightest Sun-like stars. The spacecraft prototype—termed ExoplanetSat—is a 3U space telescope capable of monitoring a single target star from low Earth orbit. Given the volume limitations of the CubeSat form factor, designing a capable spacecraft requires overcoming significant challenges. This work presents the initial satellite configuration along with several subsystem-specific solutions to the aforementioned constraints. An optical design based on a modified commercial off-the-shelf camera lens is given. We also describe a novel two-stage attitude control architecture that combines 3-axis reaction wheels for coarse pointing with a piezoelectric translation stage at the focal plane for fine pointing. Modeling and simulation results are used to demonstrate feasibility by quantifying ExoplanetSat pointing precision, signal-to-noise ratio, guide star magnitude, and additional design parameters which determine system performance.
Baseline exoplanetsat. Not shown are the solar arrays, batteries, the light seal between the lens mount and focal plane array, and the CCD cooling strap.

CubeSats have been confined to low Earth orbit because no propulsion system available at this scale can give the satellite the energy needed to go beyond. This may soon change, and with that change will come new missions and applications for CubeSats. What follows is a list of what I consider to be the 5 most interesting CubeSat-based missions. While the list is by no means exhaustive, it gives a good idea of the possibilities open to private researchers with relatively little cost.

1. Earth Observation
2. Multi-body reconfiguration experiments
3. Astronomy
4. Orbit the Moon
5. Deliver ChipSats to cool places

Jim Rogers, commodities and finance guru, says world is worse off than in 2008

Jim Rogers gave his opinion about the current world financial problems

* Rogers noted he would own the U.S. dollar, or the Swiss Franc, or agriculture.

* China is doing their best to cool things off … I expect them to continue to do it, and that is causing more slowdown around the world.

* “At least in 2008 there was the possibility that the governments could bail us out. Now, of course, the governments have gotten deep, deep, deep into debt themselves,” he added. “Everybody is in much worse shape.”

Barrons - Commodities investor Jim Rogers was on CNBC Wednesday arguing that the Swiss National Bank made ”a huge mistake” by deciding to limit the franc’s appreciation against the euro.

The Chinese yuan (CYB) is probably the best safe-haven currency now, he added. The dollar is probably also a good bet in the short-term, but the “absolute worse” over the longer-term, said Rogers.

Last month, he said that stocks weren’t a good play generally and that a “supercycle” in commodities will last longer than any previous bull market of its kind. He believes commodities have another 20-25 years of upside left to run.

Non-executive chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia says Greece will default

Business Week - Contagion from a potential Greek default isn't priced into financial markets, said Stephen Roach, non-executive chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia.

“Greece will default,” Roach said in an interview on CNBC today. While the risk of such an event is “pretty close” to being priced in by investors, he said the potential knock-on effects are “definitely not baked in.”

Great Convergence and IMF growth forecasts

1. The shift in economic power from West to East is accelerating, says John O’Sullivan. The “great divergence” (industrialization and mass production) between the West and the rest lasted for two centuries.

A “great convergence” in living standards is under way as poorer countries speedily adopt the technology, know-how and policies that made the West rich. China and India are the biggest and fastest-growing of the catch-up countries, but the emerging-market boom has spread to embrace Latin America and Africa, too.

By 2013 emerging markets (on the IMF’s definition) will produce more than half of global output, measured at purchasing-power parity (PPP).

According to the University of Pennsylvania, China's per capita PPP GDP in 2009 was $8500 to $9200. If Pennworld tables are correct then per capita GDP in 2011 is $10400 to $11300 in 2011 in China and will be $11300 to $12300 in 2012.

2. The International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for global growth to 4% and warned of "severe repercussions" to the global economy unless euro-zone nations strengthen their banking system and the U.S. gets its fiscal affairs in order.

Could laser propulsion open up space?

The concept of using laser propulsion to accelerate payloads into orbit has been around since the 1970s. Since the 1970s lasers have become substantially more efficient, and the concept has been refined. Now a company called LaserMotive is focused on using large numbers of diode lasers both to keep UAVs aloft and to propel spacecraft to orbit. LaserMotive recently won the NASA sponsored Power Beaming competition, which was one component of the space elevator games. In an interview with Sander Olson, LaserMotive cofounder and Chief Scientist Jordin Kare discusses how laser propulsion could not only transform the UAV industry but could eventually put payloads into orbit for as little a $20 per pound.

Jordin Kare

Question: The concept of laser propulsion has been around for decades. How has the concept changed since it was first proposed in the 1970s?

The idea originated in the early 1970s, when a pioneer named Arthur Kantrowitz proposed the idea of sending objects into orbit using laser beams. These early designs revolved around using ablative propellants and large single lasers. Since then, several things changed. In the late 1980’s, Arthur Kantrowitz and I came up with the "4 p" vehicle - payload, propellant, photons, period. The idea was to have payload on a block of propellant, with no tanks or nozzles.

September 21, 2011

Faster, smaller and more economical gallium nitride transistor technology

Researchers under ETH-Zurich professor Colombo Bolognesi are working on a new gallium nitride transistor technology using silicon(110) as a substrate. As the new combination of materials has many advantages, gallium nitride is poised to conquer the electronics market and help power the green revolution.

For the first time, researchers from CNRS France and ETH Zurich have succeeded in producing high-performance high-electron-mobility transistors (HEMTs) made of gallium nitride (GaN) on a silicon(110) wafer. This makes these transistors compatible with current complementary metal oxide semi-conductor (CMOS) chips based on silicon of the same crystal orientation. CMOS chips are generally produced on silicon wafers with the so-called (100) or (110) crystal orientation. GaN, on the other hand, could previously only be used on (111)-silicon until now. This new development makes it possible to construct hybrid electronic components that combine the computational power of the CMOS chip and the power handling capability of GaN transistors, which means power electronics can be made even more compact.

For the first time, researchers from CNRS France and ETH Zurich have succeeded in producing high-performance high-electron-mobility transistors (HEMTs) made of gallium nitride (GaN) on a silicon(110) wafer. (Photo: courtesy of C. Bolognesi / ETH Zürich)

Applied Physics Express - RF Performance of AlGaN/GaN High-Electron-Mobility Transistors Grown on Silicon (110)

We report the first microwave performance for AlGaN/GaN HEMT structures grown by molecular beam epitaxy on Si(110) high-resistivity substrates. Transistors were fabricated with gate lengths of 50, 75, and 100 nm, achieving short-circuit current cutoff frequencies as high as fT = 70 GHz and maximum oscillation frequencies of fMAX(U) = 93 GHz. Because complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) technology is compatible with (110) substrates, this demonstration establishes a foundation for the future integration of GaN devices into mainstream CMOS on a common Si(110) platform

Bionic bacteria with unnatural amino acids may help fight disease and global warming

Salk Institute researchers have built artificially enhanced bacteria capable of producing new kinds of synthetic chemicals.

A strain of genetically enhanced bacteria developed by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies may pave the way for new synthetic drugs and new ways of manufacturing medicines and biofuels, according to a paper published September 18 in Nature Chemical Biology.

For the first time, the scientists were able to create bacteria capable of effectively incorporating "unnatural" amino acids - artificial additions to the 20 naturally occurring amino acids used as biological building blocks - into proteins at multiple sites. This ability may provide a powerful new tool for the study of biological processes and for engineering bacteria that produce new types of synthetic chemicals.

Research towards superconducting direct-drive generator for wind turbines

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is working toward generating 20 percent of the nation's electricity supply from wind power by 2030. To help make this vision a reality, DOE recently awarded six projects to help develop next generation wind turbines and accelerate the deployment of advanced turbines for offshore wind energy in the United States.

Advanced Magnet Lab, located in Palm Bay, Florida, is leading one of these projects to develop the first fully superconducting direct-drive generator for large wind turbines with the goal of significantly reducing the cost of wind energy. DOE's Argonne National Laboratory is one of Advanced Magnet Lab's partners in this project.

"Direct-drive generators eliminate the need for a gearbox, which reduces weight, eliminates moving parts and reduces maintenance costs," said Jerry Nolen, an Argonne Distinguished Fellow and collaborator on the project. "Turbines based on superconducting technology will have a huge impact on how future electricity is generated by reducing costs and increasing reliability and efficiency."

Greece labour unions representing half the workforce vow to oppose austerity measures

Greece's two biggest labour unions will jointly stage 24-hour strikes on Oct. 5 and Oct. 19 to protest new austerity measures which the government is expected to agree with its international lenders to meet its fiscal targets.

"We will fight to the end, to topple this policy," Ilias Iliopoulos, general Secretary of public sector union ADEDY, told Reuters on Wednesday. "The troika (EU and IMF) and the government must go."

ADEDY and GSEE represent about 2.5 million workers or half the country's workforce. They have staged repeated strikes since the country obtained last year a EU/IMF 110-billion euro bailout to avoid bankruptcy.

The new Greece austerity measures -

Greece decided Wednesday to slash pensions, tax low-income earners and place thousands of public workers in a special labor reserve this year.

Nouriel Roubini says mishandling the Sovereign debt problem will lead to a second great depression

Nouriel Roubini is an economist who is famous for predicting detailed aspects of the 2007 and 2008 financial crisis Nouriel Roubini is Chairman of Roubini Global Economics, Professor of Economics at the Stern School of Business, New York University, and co-author of the book Crisis Economics. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011

The latest economic data suggests that recession is returning to most advanced economies, with financial markets now reaching levels of stress unseen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.The risks of an economic and financial crisis even worse than the previous one – now involving not just the private sector, but also near-insolvent sovereigns – are significant. So, what can be done to minimize the fallout of another economic contraction and prevent a deeper depression and financial meltdown.

1. If countries in the eurozone’s periphery are forced to undertake fiscal austerity, countries able to provide short-term stimulus should do so and postpone their own austerity efforts.

2. The European Central Bank should reverse its mistaken decision to hike interest rates. More monetary and credit easing is also required for the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of England, and the Swiss National Bank. Inflation will soon be the last problem that central banks will fear.

Technology within 5 years for faster wireless, energy harvesting and wireless power transmission

Computerworld has the second half of a two-part series on technology breakthroughs that have the potential to change computing.

Leaps in access, power, control

1. Multi-gigabit Wi-Fi

New wireless communication standard WiGig can operate at up to 7Gbps. This is more than an order of magnitude faster than today's 802.11n Wi-Fi, which can operate at up to 600Mbps. WiGig's top speed has a range of only 45 feet. WiGig uses beam forming to create a focused beam of data for a direct link that has minimal interference. By 2013, WiGig devices could be in TVs, computers, phones, tablets and other electronics.

2. Self-powered electronics

Georgia Tech has designed tiny generators that can produce enough energy to power very small devices by harvesting vibration and motion energy. These high-output nanogenerators, HONGs for short, can produce between 2 and 10 volts from a flexible chip smaller than a fingernail. By 2013, Wang sees self-powered phones, digital music players and even a wireless keyboard powered by nothing more than the musician's keystrokes.

Purdue works to make skyscraper construction 10% faster

Purdue researchers are perfecting a new technique that could speed construction of skyscrapers while also providing enough stiffness and strength to withstand earthquakes and forces from high winds. The project aims to develop a new kind of "core wall," a vertical spine that runs through the center of skyscrapers.

"The intent of our project is to be able to construct the core wall system much faster than the traditional system," said Bowman, a professor of civil engineering. "If you were doing a 40- to 50-story building, you might save three to four months of construction time.

The normal construction time in the United States for a 50 story building is aboutabout 4 years. So 3-4 months cuts that down by about 10%.

China's Broad Group is working to develop factory mass produced skyscrapers that can be assembled on site in 6 days for 15 stories, two weeks for 30 stories and 30 days for 60 stories and 60 days for 120 stories and 120 days for 200 stories

Graphene-Based Supercapacitors with energy density of nickel hydride batteries

Professor Jie Tang, Group Leader of the 1D Nanomaterials Research Group of the Materials Processing Unit, Japan National Institute for Materials Science, and Mr. Qian Cheng, a doctoral student and NIMS Junior Researcher in the same Group, have succeeded in dramatically increasing the energy density of supercapacitors, which are used to store electrical energy. Supercapacitors can charge and discharge hundreds of times faster than batteries but have had lower energy densities. Supercapacitors with high energy densities would enable batteries to be replaced in many applications.

In order to achieve a revolutionary increase in density of energy storage, Professor Tang and her team, in collaboration with Professor Lu-Chang Qin of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the United States, have designed and developed a graphene-based composite structure, in which graphene is used as the base material of the capacitor electrodes and carbon nanotubes (CNT) are inserted between the graphene sheets. In this structure graphene offers a far larger specific surface area (2630 m2/g) than the conventional materials and the CNTs function as spacers as well as conducting paths to enable adsorption of a larger quantity of electrolyte ions on the graphene surface. With this graphene-CNT composite as the capacitor electrodes, Professor Tang has obtained a high energy density of 62.8 Wh/kg and output power density of 58.5 kW/kg using organic electrolyte. By using an ionic liquid as the electrolyte, they have achieved an energy density of 155.6 Wh/kg, which is comparable to that of nickel metal hydride batteries.

Will Cognitive enhancement increase or decrease dangers ?

Oxford University philosophers Julian Savulescu and Ingmar Persson worry that enabling people to become smarter via drugs, implants, and other biological (or genetic) interventions will speed up scientific and technological progress which in turn will increase the ability of smart evil people to make and deploy novel weapons of mass destruction.

The issue of advancing technology and the possibility of more powerful and dangerous weapons that can be developed and controlled by smaller groups of people has been discussed for decades.

The Oxford guys biggest fear is biological weapons.

They fear -
Genetic engineering of small pox could create a new strain which would wipe out all or most of humanity.

However, this is not a trend or technical development that would be greatly effected by near term cognitive enhancement.

Enhancement of intelligence with drugs or mind computer interfaces will have a limited impact on innovation and intellectual productivity.

Reason's Ronald Bailey makes the case that technological and economic progress has reduced murders and violent deaths

Implementing the Quantum von Neumann Architecture with Superconducting Circuits

Arxiv - Implementing the Quantum von Neumann Architecture with Superconducting Circuits (43 pages)

This paper is more detail for an article from September 1st about the connection of a quantum processor with quantum memory.

The von Neumann architecture for a classical computer comprises a central processing unit and a memory holding instructions and data. We demonstrate a quantum central processing unit that exchanges data with a quantum random-access memory integrated on a chip, with instructions stored on a classical computer. We test our quantum machine by executing codes that involve seven quantum elements: Two superconducting qubits coupled through a quantum bus, two quantum memories, and two zeroing registers. Two vital algorithms for quantum computing are demonstrated, the quantum Fourier transform, with 66% process fidelity, and the three-qubit Toffoli OR phase gate, with 98% phase fidelity. Our results, in combination especially with longer qubit coherence, illustrate a potentially viable approach to factoring numbers and implementing simple quantum error correction codes.

September 20, 2011

First controlled vertical flight of a biologically inspired microrobot

Bioinspiration and Biomimetics - First controlled vertical flight of a biologically inspired microrobot

In this paper, we present experimental results on altitude control of a flying microrobot. The problem is approached in two stages. In the first stage, system identification of two relevant subsystems composing the microrobot is performed, using a static flapping experimental setup. In the second stage, the information gathered through the static flapping experiments is employed to design the controller used in vertical flight. The design of the proposed controller relies on the idea of treating an exciting signal as a subsystem of the microrobot. The methods and results presented here are a key step toward achieving total autonomy of bio-inspired flying microrobots.

Harvard Harvard Micro Air Vehicles web page

Proton-based transistor could let machines communicate with living things and in the future could enable better cybernetics and implants

Human bodies and all other living things send signals and perform work using ions or protons. Applications in the next decade or so, Rolandi said, would likely be for direct sensing of cells in a laboratory. The current prototype has a silicon base and could not be used in a human body. Longer term, however, a biocompatible version could be implanted directly in living things to monitor, or even control, certain biological processes directly.

Devices that connect with the human body’s processes are being explored for biological sensing or for prosthetics, but they typically communicate using electrons, which are negatively charged particles, rather than protons, which are positively charged hydrogen atoms, or ions, which are atoms with positive or negative charge.

“So there’s always this issue, a challenge, at the interface – how does an electronic signal translate into an ionic signal, or vice versa?” said lead author Marco Rolandi, a UW assistant professor of materials science and engineering. “We found a biomaterial that is very good at conducting protons, and allows the potential to interface with living systems.”
On the left is a colored photo of the UW device overlaid on a graphic of the other components. On the right is a magnified image of the chitosan fibers. The white scale bar is 200 nanometers. Marco Rolandi UW.

Nature Communications - A polysaccharide bioprotonic field-effect transistor

In nature, electrical signalling occurs with ions and protons, rather than electrons. Artificial devices that can control and monitor ionic and protonic currents are thus an ideal means for interfacing with biological systems. Here we report the first demonstration of a biopolymer protonic field-effect transistor with proton-transparent PdHx contacts. In maleic-chitosan nanofibres, the flow of protonic current is turned on or off by an electrostatic potential applied to a gate electrode. The protons move along the hydrated maleic–chitosan hydrogen-bond network with a mobility of ~4.9×10^−3 cm2 V^−1 s^−1. This study introduces a new class of biocompatible solid-state devices, which can control and monitor the flow of protonic current. This represents a step towards bionanoprotonics.

Thermoelectric materials produced via microwave in minutes instead of days

Rapid Microwave Synthesis of Indium Filled Skutterudites: An energy efficient route to high performance thermoelectric materials

Filled skutterudites are promising thermoelectric materials due to reduced thermal conductivity upon inserting a guest atom or 'rattler' into the CoSb₃ structure. By using an indium rattler dimensionless Figure of Merit (ZT) values over 1 at 650 K have been reported. The conventional synthesis of these compounds typically takes several days (~ 3 days) to obtain the final well-sintered material for property measurements. We report here a microwave-assisted synthesis method that reduces the initial calcination time from two days to two minutes. This route significantly reduces the time needed to produce materials suitable for property and device testing.

Most people are aware you’re not supposed to put metal foil into a microwave, because it will spark. But powdered metals are different, and OSU scientists are tapping into that basic phenomenon to heat materials to 1,800 degrees in just a few minutes – on purpose, and with hugely useful results.

Terrell Owens and Peyton Manning are undergoing separate stem cell procedures and other stem cells news

1. BioTime has entered into an exclusive license agreement with Cornell University for the worldwide development and commercialization of technology developed at Weill Cornell Medical College for the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into vascular endothelial cells. Published last year in Nature Biotechnology, the methods provide an improved means of generating these cells on an industrial scale, and will be utilized by BioTime in diverse products including those under development at BioTime’s subsidiaries ReCyte Therapeutics, Inc. targeting age-related vascular disease, and at OncoCyte Corporation to deliver a toxic payload to cancerous tumors.

Nvidia Tegra 3 Kalel chip will have a fifth CPU core for lower power usage

Nvidia - Variable SMP – A Multi-Core CPU Architecture for Low Power and High Performance (16 pages)

Project Kal-El (Tegra 3) works with a new Variable Symmetric Multiprocessing technology, also known as vSMP. As NVIDIA notes today for the first time, vSMP includes a fifth CPU core called the “Companion” core that’s built using a “special low power silicone process” which works on tasks at a low frequency – this works well for active standby mode, music playback, and video playback. The other main four cores are made in a more standard silicone process which is able to reach much higher frequencies. Each of these five cores is an identical ARM Cortex A9 CPU that’s individually enabled and disabled based on work load.

Scott Aaronson on free will, quantum mechanics and retrocausality

Retrocausality has been a topic of interest for James Woodward (one of the main people working on Mach effect propulsion) and Jack Sarfatti

Wikipedia -Retrocausality (also called retro-causation, retro-chronal causation, backward causation, and similar terms) is any of several hypothetical phenomena or processes that reverse causality, allowing an effect to occur before its cause.

Retrocausality is primarily a thought experiment in philosophy of science based on elements of physics, addressing the question: Can the future affect the present, and can the present affect the past? Philosophical considerations of time travel often address the same issues as retrocausality, as do treatments of the subject in fiction, although the two terms are not universally synonymous.

A few legitimate physical theories have sometimes been interpreted as leading to retrocausality. This is not considered part of science, since the distinction between cause and effect in physics is not made at the most fundamental level

Scott Aaronson (noted critic of superconducting quantum computer company Dwave Systems) has some new articles about free will, retrocausaliity and quantum effects

Scott Aaronson's free will powerpoint slides are here. A Scientifically-Supportable Notion of Free Will In ONLY SIX Controversial Steps: The Looniest Talk I’ve Ever Given In My Life (26 pages)

Grafold - folded graphene can take 5 to 12 times more compression

Nanotechnology journal - Mechanical properties of grafold: a demonstration of strengthened graphene

In this paper, the mechanical properties of grafold, an architecture of folded graphene nanoribbon, are investigated via molecular dynamics simulations and
intriguing features are discovered. In contrast to graphene, grafold is found to develop large deformations upon both tensile and compressive loading along the longitudinal direction. The tensile deformation is plastic, whereas the compressive deformation is elastic and reversible within the strain range investigated. The calculated Young’s modulus, tensile strength, and fracture strain are comparable to those of graphene, while the compressive strength and strain are much higher than those of graphene. The length, width, and folding number of grafold have distinctive impacts on the mechanical performance. These unique behaviors render grafold a promising material for advanced mechanical applications

Researchers’ simulations showed that grafold is “harder” than graphene and can withstand much larger amounts of compression (10-25 GPa depending on the structure of grafold compared with less than 2 GPa for graphene). While its compressive strength is significantly higher than that of graphene, grafold’s tensile strength approaches that of graphene. The Young’s modulus (a measure of elasticity) and fracture strain of grafold are a little lower than those of graphene. The scientists noted that several other materials can withstand greater compression than grafold, including carbon nanotubes, which can be both elongated and squeezed like grafold.

a) Schematic configuration of a grafold system, GRA70 L60 2folds, double folded. The width and length are 70 °A and 60 A° , respectively. The tensile or compressive deformations will be loaded along the longitudinal direction (z-axis). (b) Illustration of the semi-CNT-like region and the semi-graphene-like region.

Inexpensive way to obtain graphene in large quantities using edge-functionalized graphite

ACS Nano - Large-Area Graphene Films by Simple Solution Casting of Edge-Selectively Functionalized Graphite Researchers have demonstrated an inexpensive way to obtain graphene in large quantities using edge-functionalized graphite.

Besides being a very convenient way to produce graphene from pristine graphite, the technique could be tailored to specific applications. For example, Baek and his co-workers have already created nitrogen-doped graphene films that display excellent electrocatalytic activity for the oxygen reduction reaction in hydrogen fuel cells. "The EFG approach could be extended to application-specific purposes such as energy conversion and storage as well as nanoscale reinforcing materials," says Baek.

We report edge-selective functionalization of graphite (EFG) for the production of large-area uniform graphene films by simply solution-casting EFG dispersions in dichloromethane on silicon oxide substrates, followed by annealing. The resultant graphene films show ambipolar transport properties with sheet resistances of 0.52–3.11 kΩ/sq at 63–90% optical transmittance. EFG allows solution processing methods for the scalable production of electrically conductive, optically transparent, and mechanically robust flexible graphene films for use in practice.

J B Baek publications web page

EIA projects world energy use to increase 53 percent by 2035; China and India account for half of the total growth

The International Energy Outlook 2011 (IEO2011) was released today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) presents updated projections for world energy markets through 2035.

Worldwide energy consumption grows by 53 percent between 2008 and 2035 in the Reference case, with much of the increase driven by strong economic growth in the developing nations especially China and India. "China and India account for half of the projected increase in world energy use over the next 25 years. China alone, which only recently became the world's top energy consumer, is projected to use 68 percent more energy than the United States by 2035." said Acting EIA Administrator Howard Gruenspecht.

In 2008, China and India combined accounted for 21 percent of total world energy consumption. With strong economic growth in both countries over the projection period, their combined energy use more than doubles by 2035, when they account for 31 percent of world energy use in the IEO2011 Reference case. In 2035, China's energy demand is 68 percent higher than U.S. energy demand.

Carnival of Space 215

September 19, 2011

Probability of default for Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy

The probability that Greece will default on its $345 billion in debt is near 100% according to credit default swap markets

After Greece, investors bet that Portugal would be the next member of the European Union to fall, with a default probability of 66%. For Ireland, that figure slips to 51%; the chances of Spain and Italy defaulting are 33% and 28% respectively, according to Markit.

These probabilities are calculated based on the current cost of buying protection over a period of years, typically five, versus the expected recovery rate.

Graphene bubbles could make better lenses

Physics World - A tiny bubble of graphene could be used to make an optical lens with an adjustable focal length. That is the claim of physicists in the UK, who have shown that the curvature of such bubbles can be controlled by applying an external voltage. Devices based on the discovery could find use in adaptive-focus systems that try to mimic how the human eye works.

Graphene is a sheet of carbon just one atom thick and has a host of unique mechanical and electronic properties. It is extremely elastic and can be stretched by up to 20%, which means that bubbles of various shapes can be "blown" from the material. This, combined with the fact that graphene is transparent to light yet impermeable to most liquids and gases, could make the material ideal for creating adaptive-focus optical lenses.

An atomic-force-microscope image of a graphene bubble. The bubble is about 3 µm in diameter. (Courtesy: Applied Physics Letters)

Applied Physics Letters - Graphene bubbles with controllable curvature

Raised above the substrate and elastically deformed areas of graphene in the form of bubbles are found on different substrates. They come in a variety of shapes, including those which allow strong modification of the electronic properties of graphene. We show that the shape of the bubble can be controlled by an external electric field. This effect can be used to make graphene-based adaptive focus lenses.

Scaling up action against noncommunicable diseases will cost about $1.20 per person per year

World Health Organization - Noncommunicable diseases - or NCDs - like heart attacks and strokes, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease account for over 63% of deaths in the world today. Every year, NCDs kill 9 million people under 60.

The WHO's list of recommendations includes measures that target whole populations, such as excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol, legislating for smoke-free indoor workplaces and public places, as well as campaigns to reduce levels of salt and trans fats in foods, and public awareness programs about improving diets and increasing physical activity.

Other steps include screening, counseling and drugs for people at risk of heart disease, cervical cancer screening and hepatitis B immunization to prevent liver cancer.

Implementing them would save literally millions of lives over the next 15 year.

Scaling up action against noncommunicable diseases: How much will it cost? (51 pages)

New ceramic chip antennas offer better performance and reliability for wireless applications using unlicensed spectrum

Wireless devices such as mobile phones rely on the radio spectrum to send and receive data. There is growing interest in using a worldwide unlicensed spectrum around 60 gigahertz for future wireless applications, but conventional ceramic chip antennas have limited performance at this frequency. Junfeng Xu and Xianming Qing at the A*STAR Institute for Infocomm Research and co-workers1 have now developed a ceramic chip antenna that exhibits stable performance in this spectrum. The antenna has a relatively wide bandwidth of 17.1% and a gain of up to 22.1 decibels.

IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation - Bandwidth Enhancement for a 60 GHz Substrate Integrated Waveguide Fed Cavity Array Antenna on LTCC

Airbus sees demand for over 27,800 aircraft in the next 20 years

In the midst of troubled financial markets, Airbus foresees strong ongoing demand for commercial aircraft. According to its latest Global Market Forecast (GMF), by 2030 some 27,800 new aircraft will be required to satisfy future robust market demand. The combined value of the over 26,900 passenger aircraft (above 100 seats) and more than 900 new factory built freighters forecast by the GMF is US$3.5 trillion.

As a result, by 2030 the global passenger fleet will more than double from today’s 15,000 aircraft to 31,500. This will include some 27,800 new aircraft deliveries of which 10,500 will be needed for replacing older less fuel efficient aircraft. The trend towards larger aircraft will continue, in order for the aviation sector to keep pace with future growth in demand.

IBM to report 2-GHz graphene IC

EETimes - Researchers from IBM are due to report on the fabrication of a 2-GHz frequency doubler

IBM document - 2.2, 2-GHz Graphene Integrated Circuit--IBM from the International Electron Device Meeting, due to be held in Washington DC, Dec. 5 to 7.

IBM's paper is set to move that on towards a manufacturable technology based on CMOS-compatible fabrication on 200-mm diameter wafers, according the abstract released by the organizers.

Cross-sectional scanning electron microscope micrograph of the post-CMP wafer showing the inverted-T gate structure described in the paper.

Robots are coming to aircraft assembly

Fraunhofer researchers have come up with a flexible assembly-line concept that features robots working in the same way they do in automotive production. The developers are presenting their new manufacturing approach at the Composites Europe trade fair in Stuttgart in Hall 4, Booth D03. One of this future assembly line’s first elements can also be seen there: a versatile component gripper made of lightweight CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic).

Aircraft parts are simply enormous. Individual fuselage segments alone can measure ten meters or more. But they need to be fitted together with the utmost precision. The maximum deviation from plan that aircraft manufacturers can tolerate is 0.2 millimeters – on components that weigh several metric tons. To position the giant parts accurately, manufacturers rely on massive production facilities known as assembly cells. These are huge gantries that move along the fuselage like container cranes on steel rails and massive concrete foundations, for instance bolting aluminum parts together. It takes a lot of money and effort to build this kind of assembly cell – and they need to be built from scratch for each new kind of aircraft, which pushes their production and construction costs even higher.

This modular, lightweight, carbon fiber reinforced plastic gripper is able to flexibly grasp and handle aircraft components. It was developed by the Fraunhofer Project Group Joining and Assembly FFM. (© Fraunhofer IFAM)

Is Strontium Valley the follow up to Silicon Valley ?

Researchers have invented a tiny Etch-A-Sketch® that draws infinitesimally small “wires” on a surface, then erases them. The device works by switching an oxide crystal between insulating and conducting states. The interface between these two materials can be switched between an insulating and metallic state using a sharp conducting probe. Electronic circuits can be “written” and “erased” at scales approaching the distance between atoms (two nanometers). The device, less than four nanometers wide, enables photonic interaction with objects as small as single molecules or quantum dots.

Beyond being just plain cool, this device could be the basis of an entirely new kind of transistor.

Transistors in a computer are the on/off switches that enable the efficient implementation of complex computational systems. And for the last half century, they’ve been getting smaller and smaller, according to (Intel founder Gordon) “Moore’s law”: The number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. At some point, though, this trend has to stop. Materials start acting “weird” when they are made too small. The useful properties of silicon, for example, are believed to break down at distances smaller than 10 nanometers.

“The question is, once you’ve pushed silicon to its limit, is there going to be another system to do computation?” asks Levy. That’s really what we’ve been granted funding to explore. We’re trying to break down the major barriers that are potential show-stoppers that would otherwise make it difficult to turn these new types of devices into real, useful things.”

Nature Nanotechnology - Sketched oxide single-electron transistor

SketchSET schematic and transport characteristics.

Nanowires are a step towards photonic chip

Australian researchers have engineered one of the world’s smallest ever nanowires for the next generation of telecommunication technology, bringing them one step closer to the holy grail of optics – the creation of a ‘photonic chip’ which would lead to a faster, more sustainable internet.

This is a significant step towards the realisation of the photonic chip.

Nano Letters - Generation of λ/12 Nanowires in Chalcogenide Glasses

September 18, 2011

Altered T cells reduces the amount of HIV virus in infected people

Sangamo BioSciences of Richmond, California, says it has found a way to protect the T cells that HIV attacks first, so they can live to fight another day. The approach entails temporarily stopping a patient's antiretroviral therapy and removing T cells carrying the CD4 receptor. This surface protein is the doorway by which the virus gains entry into the cell. The collected T cells are exposed to zinc finger nuclease, an enzyme designed to remove the gene for a coreceptor of CD4 called CCR5. The cells are then reinfused into the patient. Once they're back in the body, the new study shows, the cells persist and travel in the body just like normal T cells.

Sangamo's approach is based on the observation that some people have a naturally occurring mutation in the CCR5 gene that protects them against HIV. Ordinarily, humans have two copies of every gene. It turns out that individuals with a mutation in both copies of the CCR5 gene cannot be infected by the most common HIV strains. In people with the so-called Delta-32 mutation in just one copy of the gene, infection rarely progresses to AIDS. In the U.S., about 1 percent of the population is thought to carry the helpful mutation, which some researchers believe arose as protection against the Black Death.

Previous evidence existed showing that CCR5-negative cells could help AIDS patients. In 2007, an American man with AIDS and lymphoma received, as treatment for the cancer, a bone-marrow transplant from a person with the CCR5 mutation. The marrow recipient has been free of both AIDS and cancer since then. Sangamo's method treats a patient's own cells, with less risk than a marrow transplant.

Molecule-based memory devices edge closer with the development of supramolecular structures that act as tiny magnets

In a step towards realizing ultrahigh-density storage devices based on individual molecules behaving as magnets, researchers in Japan have developed a candidate building block1—a supramolecular ferromagnet, which is a caged molecule with magnetic properties. The research team was led by Takuzo Aida at the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute, Wako, and Kentaro Tashiro at the National Institute for Materials Science, Tsukuba.

The researchers’ supramolecular magnet is based on a metallofullerene dubbed La@C82—a lanthanum ion trapped within an 82-carbon spherical cage. La@C82 has well-known paramagnetic properties: it becomes magnetized in the presence of an external magnetic field. However, like all paramagnets, La@C82 loses its magnetization once the external field is removed, rendering it useless for data storage.

Journal of the American Chemical Society - Ferromagnetic Spin Coupling between Endohedral Metallofullerene La@C82 and a Cyclodimeric Copper Porphyrin upon Inclusion

Forces Within Molecules Can Strengthen Extra-long Carbon-carbon Bonds

Stanford Linear Accelerator Lab - The strength of a chemical bond between atoms is the fundamental basis for a molecule’s stability and reactivity. Tuning the strength and accessibility of the bond can dramatically change a molecule’s properties. For example, a bond’s strength is directly related to its length: stretching a bond beyond its normal length makes it weaker.

But new research by a team from two European universities and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory shows that attractive forces between other parts of a molecule can make a stretched bond joining two carbon atoms much more stable than expected. This result should lead to improvements in how scientists design new molecules, materials and catalysts.

A team of European and SLAC scientists joined two tiny diamond-like “diamondoid” structures to create the longest carbon-carbon bond (highlighted in this image by the star) ever seen in... (Image by Peter R. Schreiner, Justus-Liebig University, Germany.)

Nature - Overcoming lability of extremely long alkane carbon–carbon bonds through dispersion forces

Fingertip-size microscope has huge potential for studying the brain and its diseases, say Stanford researchers

A tiny portable microscope – so small it can fit on a fingertip – has been built by Stanford University researchers. The miniature device can be used in the lab or in the field for biological research and potentially for medical screening for diseases. The microscopes, built using existing technologies, could be inexpensively mass-produced.

A readily portable miniature microscope weighing less than 2 grams and tiny enough to balance on your fingertip has been developed by Stanford University researchers.

The scope is designed to see fluorescent markers, such as dyes, commonly used by medical and biological researchers studying the brains of mice.

The new device has no moving parts that would require realignment if the scope gets jostled and, aside from the outer lens, it is sealed against dust, making it well suited for use outside the lab. Up to now, such work typically had to be done in a laboratory, using desktop microscopes.

Researcher Mark Schnitzer demonstrates the microscope's tiny size and weight.

Fujitsu Laboratories Develops Compact Silicon Photonics Light Source for High-Bandwidth CPU Interconnects

Fujitsu Laboratories Limited today announced the development of a compact silicon photonics light source for use in optical transceivers required for optical interconnects capable of carrying large volumes of data at high speeds between CPUs. This will ermits smaller transmitters in optical transceivers, obviates need for thermal control mechanism, marking a step towards high-bandwidth optical interconnects. This technology enables compact, low-power optical transceivers to be mounted directly in CPU packaging. Through its application to optical interconnects between CPUs for exaflops-class supercomputers and high-end servers, the technology paves the way for super-high-speed computers.

In the past, when the silicon photonics light sources built into optical transceivers, and the optical modulators that encode data into the light emitted from the light source experienced thermal fluctuations, a mismatch between the lasing wavelength of the light source and the operating wavelength of the modulator could arise, causing concern that the light would not carry information. This is why thermal control has become indispensable as a way to maintain operating wavelengths that consistently match. By introducing a mechanism that automatically keeps the light source's wavelength and the modulator's operating wavelength in sync, Fujitsu Laboratories has obviated the need for a thermal control mechanism, allowing for the device to be smaller and more energy efficient.
Figure 1. High-capacity interconnect technologies

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