April 28, 2012

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 102


At Idaho
samizdat, Dan Yurman asks whether TVA can handle construction of a third reactor?

The development of a third nuclear reactor by 2020 at a TVA site, albeit a 180 MW SMR, is potentially headed for a squeeze play between two of its larger brethren. TVA’s board is already on record saying it wants just one reactor under construction at a time. The current construction project is the completion of Watts Bar 2, a 1,200 MW unit located in Spring City, Tenn. It is $2 billion over budget and won't be completed until 2015, three years late. Once it is finished, TVA’s next project is completion of the 1,200 MW Bellefonte unit located just across the Tennessee border near Scottsboro, Ala.

The problem for the SMR developer, Babcock & Wilcox, is that its agreement with TVA to cost share the licensing and construction of a 180 MW SMR seems to stand independent of the board policy. It is unclear whether this project is affected by the TVA board policy or if it is so small that it flies under the radar. At $5,000/Kw, the $0.9 billion project isn’t “small” by most definitions of capital construction

1. Atomic Insights - Rod Adams reports that the Australian Broadcasting System recently aired a documentary titled "I Can Change Your Mind About … Climate". It was an interesting premise, a committed climate change activist was paired against an avowed climate change skeptic. Both were allowed to pick 7 people that they wanted to visit to help convince the other to change their mind. The ABC would film the encounters and pick up the bill for the world wide travel involved.

Anna Rose is the young founder and chairman of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. Nick Minchin recently retired from an Australian political career that culminated with 18 years as a Conservative Party leader in the Australian senate.

Throughout the entire program, neither one acknowledge that nuclear energy is an emission free alternative to fossil fuels that is as economically efficient and as reliable as coal.

2. Canadian Energy Issues - Innovation, water, and energy: semi-conductors cannot
defeat physics

A recent PBS show on technological advances gives the impression that smarter tech design will make water easier to manage. An example is the Slingshot, a water purification/sterilization device that boils water, touted as an answer to Africa's potable water shortage. This gives the impression that the energy to boil the water is of secondary importance in the purification system. As Steve Aplin of Canadian Energy Issues points out, it’s not. Africa has a potable water problem because it lacks cheap, widely available electricity. Without ubiquitous electricity, the Slingshot will have little impact in Africa.

April 27, 2012

Scott Aaronson visited the offices of Quantum Computer company Dwave systems

Scott Aaronson, a D-Wave Skeptic, visited the offices of Adiabatic Quantum computer company Dwave Systems

He had three factual points :

Point #1: D-Wave now has a 128-(qu)bit machine that can output approximate solutions to a particular NP-hard minimization problem—namely, the problem of minimizing the energy of 90-100 Ising spins with pairwise interactions along a certain fixed graph (the “input” to the machine being the tunable interaction strengths). So I hereby retire my notorious comment from 2007, about the 16-bit machine that D-Wave used for its Sudoku demonstration being no more computationally-useful than a roast-beef sandwich. D-Wave does have something today that’s more computationally-useful than a roast-beef sandwich; the question is “merely” whether it’s ever more useful than your laptop. Geordie presented graphs that showed D-Wave’s quantum annealer solving its Ising spin problem “faster” than classical simulated annealing and tabu search (where “faster” means ignoring the time for cooling the annealer down, which seemed fair to me). Unfortunately, the data didn’t go up to large input sizes, while the data that did go up to large input sizes only compared against complete classical algorithms rather than heuristic ones.

In summary, while the observed speedup is certainly interesting, it remains unclear exactly what to make of it, and especially, whether or not quantum coherence is playing a role.

Guided Self-Assembly of Gold Nanoparticles into Device-Ready Thin films

Scientists with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have directed the first self-assembly of nanoparticles into device-ready materials. Through a relatively easy and inexpensive technique based on blending nanoparticles with block co-polymer supramolecules, the researchers produced multiple-layers of thin films from highly ordered one-, two- and three-dimensional arrays of gold nanoparticles. Thin films such as these have potential applications for a wide range of fields, including computer memory storage, energy harvesting, energy storage, remote-sensing, catalysis, light management and the emerging new field of plasmonics.

“We’ve demonstrated a simple yet versatile supramolecular approach to control the 3-D spatial organization of nanoparticles with single particle precision over macroscopic distances in thin films,” says polymer scientist Ting Xu, who led this research. “While the thin gold films we made were wafer-sized, the technique can easily produce much larger films, and it can be used on nanoparticles of many other materials besides gold.”

Berkeley Lab researchers have developed a relatively simple and inexpensive technique for directing the self-assembly of nanoparticles into device-ready thin films with microdomains of lamellar (left) or cylindrical morphologies. (courtesy of Ting Xu group)

Nano Letters - Nanoparticle Assemblies in Thin Films of Supramolecular Nanocomposites

Testing of the Skylon engine pre-cooler has begun

Reaction Engines has begun testing of the Pre-cooler for the Skylon spaceplane. It is now fully integrated into the B9 test stand with the Viper jet engine, has finally begun this month after a number of delays shaking down the system. The initial tests have gone very well and represent a good start to the test campaign which will last several months.

The flow thorough the Pre-cooler has been found to be aerodynamically stable without any significant structural deflection or vibration.

They have just successfully completed the first phase of the pre-cooler test program.

Pre-cooler installed at the B9 Test Area.

BBC News - The proposed Skylon vehicle would operate like an airliner, taking off and landing at a conventional runway.

Its major innovation is the Sabre engine, which can breathe air like a jet at lower speeds but switch to a rocket mode in the high atmosphere.

Reaction Engines Limited (REL) believes the test campaign will prove the readiness of Sabre's key elements.

This being so, the firm would then approach investors to raise the £250m needed to take the project into the final design phase.

They hope to have positive results from the testing by July, 2012.

Canadian regulators looking at two reactor designs for Darlington

Toronto Star- Ontario Power Generation, the owner of the Darlington nuclear plant, is looking to build up to four new reactors for an additional 4,800 MW of capacity.

It will be more than a year before a decision is made on which design to choose. The two designs reportedly in the running are the enhanced Candu 6 reactor made by Candu Energy Inc., a unit of SNC-Lavalin and Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor.

These discussions are about building two new reactors, each of about 1,000 megawatts, at Darlington.

New graphene-based material could revolutionise electronics industry

The most transparent, lightweight and flexible material ever for conducting electricity has been invented by a team from the University of Exeter.

Called GraphExeter, the material could revolutionise the creation of wearable electronic devices, such as clothing containing computers, phones and MP3 players.

GraphExeter could also be used for the creation of ‘smart’ mirrors or windows, with computerised interactive features. Since this material is also transparent over a wide light spectrum, it could enhance by more than 30% the efficiency of solar panels.

Adapted from graphene, GraphExeter is much more flexible than indium tin oxide (ITO), the main conductive material currently used in electronics. ITO is becoming increasingly expensive and is a finite resource, expected to run out in 2017.

Advanced Materials - Novel Highly Conductive and Transparent Graphene-Based Conductors

Simpler and more controlled method to place Nanoparticles on nanowires to enhance electrical and catalytic performance

Engineers at Stanford have found a novel method for “decorating” nanowires with chains of tiny particles to increase their electrical and catalytic performance. The new technique is simpler, faster and provides greater control than earlier methods and could lead to better batteries, solar cells and catalysts. The development, say the researchers, might someday lead to better lithium-ion batteries, more efficient thin-film solar cells and improved catalysts that yield new synthetic fuels.

The key to the Stanford team’s discovery was a flame. Engineers had long known that nanoparticles could be adhered to nanowires to increase surface area, but the methods for creating them were not very effective in forming the much-desired porous nanoparticle chain structures. These other methods proved too slow and resulted in a too-dense, thick layer of nanoparticles coating the wires, doing little to increase the surface area.

Zheng and her team wondered whether a quick burst of flame might work better, so they tried it.

Zheng dipped the nanowires in a solvent-based gel of metal and salt, then air-dried them before applying the flame. In her process the solvent burns away in a few seconds, allowing the all-important nanoparticles to crystalize into branch-like structures fanning out from the nanowires.

“We were a little surprised by how well it worked,” said Zheng. “It performed beautifully.”

Decoration with nanoparticles creates intricate surface patterns full of nooks and crannies, twists and turns that greatly improve surface area. Image courtesy of the Stanford Nanocharacterization Laboratory.

Nano Letters - Sol-Flame Synthesis: A General Strategy To Decorate Nanowires with Metal Oxide/Noble Metal Nanoparticles

20 nanometer, 14 nanometer chips and 3D ICs

EETimes - News from the GSA silicon summit.

* Next-generation 20 nm processes can support optimized versions for low power and high performance, according to an IBM expert.

* A variety of 3-D ICs (with through-silicon vias -TSVs) will hit the market in 2014 despite numerous challenges (cost and heat dissipation)

* CMOS scaling is slowing down but still viable through a 7 nm node.

* The follow-on 14 nm process using FinFETs will open up greater opportunities for a high performance version at up to 0.9 volts and a low power variant at down to 0.6 volts

* In addition, the 14 nm node could offer as much as twice the typical benefits of moving to a new node.

April 26, 2012

MIT's Media Lab demonstrates a system that lets driverless vehicles communicate with pedestrians.

Technology Review - You step off the curb, look to your left, and there is a car coming toward you without a driver—one of the many autonomous vehicles that seem to be appearing in trendy neighborhoods. It slows down and stops at the intersection.

Do you dare step out in front of it to cross the street? Does it know you are there? Or will it suddenly accelerate and break your legs? There’s no driver to make eye-contact with.

A group led by Kent Larsen at the Media Lab has a solution. The researchers have outfitted a prototype electric vehicle (it’s about the size of a desk) with lights that look like eyes and the sensors from an X-Box 360 Kinect. The lights swivel to look at you when the sensors detect you, and blue LEDs flash to indicate the car has seen you. Directional speakers swivel toward you, too, and the car tells you it’s safe to cross. The system can also flash bright white LEDs to get your attention.

A researcher puts his hand close to a sonar sensor, causing LEDs in a wheel to turn orange.

A new generation of ultra-small and high precision lasers emerges

Ultra fast, robust, stable, and high precision: these are some of the characteristics of a new laser developed by an international research team. This ultra-small laser paves the way for a new generation of highly powerful, ultra-stable integrated lasers.

“We advanced a new approach to develop a laser that boasts as yet unparalleled stability and precision, allowing us to conduct new experiments and open up new realms of research,” said Professor Morandotti, who was elected a fellow by the Optical Society of America and by the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). “Plus, a multitude of applications may be created in biology, medicine, materials processing, IT, high speed communications, and metrology.”

Flexible and effective, this ultra-small laser stands out for its mode of operation. The researchers developed a ring resonator (a key laser key component) that has the unique feature of playing a dual role by acting both as a filter and a non-linear element. This is the first time researchers have successfully integrated a resonator and a micro-ring in the laser component that makes it possible to better control the light source. It is manufactured using a special glass capable of harnessing the nonlinear optical properties central to laser operation.

For the first time, the researchers tested the filter-driven four-wave mixing method, which presents a number of advantages. Notably the method makes it possible to increase the laser’s stability and resistance to external disruptions, increase the amplitude of light pulses while reducing their duration, and emit extremely high quality, high-repetition-rate pulses of up to 200 gigahertz or more, while maintaining a very narrow spectral bandwidth.

(a) Schematic of the central component—a monolithically integrated 4-port high-Q (Q=1.2 million) microring resonator (fibre pigtails not shown) (b) High repetition rate laser based on filter-driven FWM: the microring resonator in (a) is embedded in a loop cavity containing a gain fibre (EDFA), band-pass filter with the main purpose of controlling the central wavelength λ0, a delay line to control the phase of the main cavity modes with respect to the ring modes, an isolator to force the pulse-circulating direction, and a polarization controller to act on the pulse polarization, as the ring resonator is birefringent. The waveform at the output of the amplifier is monitored with an autocorrelator to measure the pulse duration, and an optical spectrum analyser (OSA) and a photodiode connected to an oscilloscope to respectively measure the optical and radio frequency spectrum of the waveform. An OSA is also employed to monitor the optical spectrum at the output of the ring resonator. (c) SEM picture of the ring cross-section before depositing the upper cladding of SiO2. The waveguide core is made of high index (n=1.7) doped silica glass. The scale bar represents 1 μm. (d) Electric field modal distribution for a TM polarized beam calculated through vectorial mode-solving. The scale bar represents 1 μm.

Nature Communications - Demonstration of a stable ultrafast laser based on a nonlinear microcavity

Google Talking to car companies, suppliers and insurance companies about driverless car rollout

Detroit News - Search engine giant Google Inc. thinks self-driving cars can be on U.S. roads in the next few years and is in talks with automakers to roll out the technology. Google is also talk to insurance companies to insure the driverless cars.

"The most important thing computers can do in the next 10 years is drive a car," Google project manager Anthony Levandowski told a crowd of several hundred engineers Wednesday at the SAE World Congress in Detroit.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google could make an announcement as early as next year on when it might offer the self-driving technology, he said.

Honda will begin Public-road Testing a system to Prevent Traffic Jams

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. today announced the successful development of the world's first*1 technology to detect the potential for traffic congestion and determine whether the driving pattern of the vehicle is likely to create traffic jams. Honda developed this technology while recognizing that the acceleration and deceleration behavior of one vehicle influences the traffic pattern of trailing vehicles and can trigger the traffic congestion.

In conjunction with the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo, Honda conducted experimental testing of a system utilizing the technology to detect the potential for traffic congestion. The test results demonstrated that the system helped increase the average speed by approximately 23% and improved fuel efficiency by approximately 8% of trailing vehicles.

With the goal to bring this technology to market, Honda will begin the first public-road testing of the technology in Italy and Indonesia in May and July of this year, respectively, to verify the effectiveness of the technology in minimizing vehicle congestion.

Adaptive Cruise Control is designed to enhance the driving experience by reducing the burdens on the driver. ACC monitors vehicle speed and inter-vehicle distance using a millimeter-wave radar mounted in the front grille, which scans the road for other vehicles and calculates the distance from the vehicle directly in front. The system maintains the selected speed and distance (as designated by the driver) based on data supplied by the radar.

Additional 16% increase in the average speed of trailing vehicles and additional 5% improvement in fuel efficiency compared to the results of the experiment using the system without cloud and ACC.

The cloud computing version will improve average speed by 40% and improve fuel efficiency by 13%.

China could maintain reasonable GDP growth of 5-8% while transitioning to a consumption driven economy

Ha Jiming, a managing director of investment banking at Goldman Sachs and former chief economist at China International Capital Corporation, said domestic consumption will be critical to China’s GDP growth during the 10-year period. Ha Jiming projects that China’s gross domestic product (GDP) will maintain a moderate growth of 5-8 percent in the next 10 years as the country shifts to a consumption-driven economy.

Domestic investment accounted for 50 percent of China’s GDP in 2010, compared with a 40 percent over the past 20 years, he said. He projected that the ratio will return to “a normal level” in the next few years. Local consumption will climb to about 60 percent of China’s GDP in the next decade, higher than the historic average of 56.5 percent, Ha forecast.

Ultra High Definition Televisions with glasses free 3D

Toshiba released the "REGZA 55X3" LCD panel with 3,840 × 2,160 resolution and naked eye 3D viewing resolution High Definition.

Now already available in Japan and Germany, TV is all set to hit US and will retail for just over $10,000. Toshiba demonstrated the latest version of the 55inch 4Kresolution auto stereoscopic (the glasses free) 3DTV in CES 2012. It has QuadHD playback at 2D (that equates to whopping 3,840by2,160 pixels) and standard-ish 720p resolution while viewing the 3D without specs.

Wikipedia on 4K resolution TVs.

YouTube is the only video hosting service that allows 4K videos to be uploaded as it allows a resolution of up to 4096 x 3072 (12.6 megapixels)

Examples of 4K cameras are the Dalsa Origin (released in 2006 as the first commercially available 4K camera and records images at 4096 × 2048), the Red One (released in 2007 and records images at 4096 × 2304), the Red Epic (released in early 2011), the Sony CineAlta F65 (announced in April 2011), the JVC GY-HMQ10 (released in 2012), and the Canon EOS-1D C DSLR (to be released in October 2012).

DisplaySearch projects that manufacturers will only sell about 5,000 4K TVs this year worldwide and won't sell more than a million per year until 2015.

Planetary Resources Arkyd 200 will be nodes of a Hypertelescope able to resolve down to one kilometer on exoplanets out to about 10 to 20 lightyears

Hypertelescopes are arrays of telescopes that are used together to increase their resolution and approximate a lens the size of their baseline (the distance between the farthest telescopes

Planetary resources with mass produced space telescopes is making the telescope nodes for a hypertelescope array. Assuming they get to Arkyd 200 (telescopes with propulsion) by about 2020 they will be able to use the hundreds of space telescopes at L2 to create a massive hypertelescope array to image exoplanets. Resolution could get to the kilometer level. They will be able to image neutron stars at 10 meter resolutions (more photons to gather from stars).

A proof of concept hypertelecope was set up in France in 2004

* a 100-pixel image of a planet twice the width of Earth some 16.3 light years away would require the elements making up a space telescope array to be more than 43 miles apart. Such pictures of exoplanets could make out details such as rings, clouds, oceans, continents, and perhaps even hints of forests or savannahs. Long-term monitoring could reveal seasonal shifts, volcanic events, and changes in cloud cover.


* visible “portraits” of exoplanets can be obtained in 30 minutes of exposure, using a 150 kilometer hypertelescope with 150 mirrors of 3 meters.

* 10 km resolution at 4.37 Light years. That's about what our satellite photos took back in the 1960's. Certainly high enough resolving power to image landforms, islands, forests, whatever else is going on. Thsi would require a hypertelescope array that is 1,500 miles across.

* To resolve 30 foot objects looking 4.37 light years away the elements making up a telescope array would have to cover a distance roughly 400,000 miles wide, or almost the Sun's radius. The area required to collect even one photon a year in light reflected off such a planet is some 60 miles wide. To determine motion of 2 feet per minute — and that the motion you’re seeing is not due to errors in observation — the area required to collect the needed photons would need to be some 1.8 million miles wide. [NOTE - I do not think there would be enough photons coming off of such a small object at light year distances. This is why the hypertelescope expert talks about massive telescope arrays to resolve neutron stars. They are small but are emitting enough photons for an image]

Planetary Resources could take megapixel images of exoplanet and makes billions by 2020 before mining anything

Planetary Resources will be putting up hundreds of inexpensive space telescopes with 9 inch mirrors, 2 meter resolution and sub-arcsecond pointing. The passive constellation method for boosting image resolution could achieve centimeter resolution. When Planetary Resources adds some fine station keeping capabilites, they will be able to create massive space telescope interferometers. They will add some starshade satellites and be able to image exoplanets. 1 kilometer resolution would be a hypertelescope array about 10,000 miles across. That would mean a 100 million pixel image of an exoplanet (planets in solar systems up to about 10 light years away). They would be able to look even further at somewhat lower resolution.

We have already made the case that super cheap space telescopes will capture a large part of the satellite imaging and space data industry. By using passive and then active arrays of space telescopes, the resolution will increase beyond the current best larger satellites. Planetary Resources will have a multi-billion business as they disrupt the satellite imaging and near earth satellite businesses. They will do this before they mine anything. I predict Planetary Resources will be a multi-billion company in value and revenue before 2020.

Passive telescope arrays with the Arkyd 100 Series
Efficient, Passively Orbiting Constellations for High Resolution Imaging of Geosynchronous Objects

Over the past several years, much progress has been made in the development of the Intensity Correlation Imaging approach to ultra-fine resolution imaging. In this paper, we consider the design of a LEO-based observatory of small telescopes using the Intensity Correlation Imaging technology to achieve 1 centimeter resolution imaging of objects in geosynchronous orbit. We formulate the system Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) and then seek to optimize u-v plane coverage by the design of passive, LEO orbits. An adaptive random search technique is used to find constellation designs that offer twice the rate of u-v coverage as earlier results.

SEMATECH Technologists Demonstrate Breakthrough Novel solutions for high mobility channel CMOS devices, FinFETs, RRAMs and technologies beyond CMOS devices

SEMATECH experts reported on innovative approaches to realize advanced CMOS logic and memory device technologies and 3D through-silicon via (TSV) manufacturing at the International VLSI Technology, System and Applications Symposium (VLSI-TSA) on April 23-25, 2012.

Today nearly all electronic devices are built on complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology. For over half a century, silicon-based materials have been the basic layers used in the manufacturing of CMOS transistors; however these staple materials, as well as materials derived from silicon such as insulators and contact metals, are reaching their limits as the industry looks to lower power dissipation in CMOS devices and as scaling approaches the physical limits of silicon transistors.

In a series of nine research papers, an international team of SEMATECH researchers reported on innovative materials and new transistor structures to address key aspects of transistor performance, power and cost. The papers, selected from hundreds of submissions, outlined leading-edge research in high-k/metal gate (HKMG) materials, resistive RAM (RRAM) memory and planar and non-planar CMOS technologies.

Rapamycin increases oxidative stress response gene expression in adult stem cells

Rapamycin increases oxidative stress response gene expression in adult stem cells

Balancing quiescence with proliferation is of paramount importance for adult stem cells in order to avoid hyperproliferation and cell depletion. In some models, stem cell exhaustion may be reversed with the drug rapamycin, which was shown can suppress cellular senescencein vitro and extend lifespan in animals. We hypothesized that rapamycin increases the expression of oxidative stress response genes in adult stem cells, and that these gene activities diminish with age. To test our hypothesis, we exposed mice to rapamycin and then examined the transcriptome of their spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). Gene expression microarray analysis revealed that numerous oxidative stress response genes were upregulated upon rapamycin treatment, including superoxide dismutase 1, glutathione reductase, and delta-aminolevulinate dehydratase. When we examined the expression of these genes in 55-week-old wild type SSCs, their levels were significantly reduced compared to 3-week-old SSCs, suggesting that their downregulation is coincident with the aging process in adult stem cells. We conclude that rapamycin-induced stimulation of oxidative stress response genes may promote cellular longevity in SSCs, while a decline in gene expression in aged stem cells could reflect the SSCs' diminished potential to alleviate oxidative stress, a hallmark of aging.

Teijin Develops World's First Mass-production Aramid Nanofiber

Teijin Techno Products Limited, a Teijin group company producing advanced aramid fibers, announced today its development of the world's first mass-producible aramid nanofiber to offer reliable heat and oxidation resistance together with high quality. Until now, aramid nanofibers have been produced only in laboratories, so this first commercially viable product represents a significant step forward in the evolution of this promising new material.

Teijin Techno Products' nanofiber, which is uniformly sized with a diameter of just several hundred nanometers is based on Teijin's proprietary Teijinconex heat-resistant meta-aramid. It will be marketed in the form of nonwoven sheet for separators in lithium ion batteries (LIBs). Commercial production is targeted at 2014.

China Planning two hydro dams that each are twice as large the Three Gorges

China’s Global Quest for Resources and the Implications for the United States (99 pages, Jan 2012) U.S. – China Economic and Security Review Commission.

The scale of China's hydroelectric ambitions has regional and global political implications. India and others downstream have issues. China is using hydro power for clean electricity and for their own water security. The North is dryer and has more demand for water. They also use the dams to deepen rivers to allow 10,000 ton barges to go over more of the country. This is more efficient transportation of cargo from the coast and enables better and more even development of the interior. By enable the increase of per capita GDP in the inland areas it reduces the tension and reduces the economic gap between the rich cities and the interior cities. China can use the engineering to help solve power, water, farming, transportation, urban development, GDP growth and reduce income inequality. On the other end are the other countries India, Vietnam and others that also need water. Mishandling this situation and not finding a way to give equitable amounts of water to those downstream is a higher risk for conflict than the Taiwan situation. There is also the resource situation in the South China Sea.
Xiawan Dam

Yet, China has stepped up its reengineering of river flows in two ways: by portentously shifting its focus from internal rivers to international rivers; and by graduating from building large dams to building megadams.

For example, its newest dams on the Mekong River are the 4,200-megawatt Xiaowan — taller than Paris’s Eiffel Tower and producing more electricity than the installed hydropower-generating capacity of all of the lower Mekong countries together — and the 5,850-megawatt Nuozhadu, which when complete will be even bigger in storage volume but not in height.

In mid-2010, China’s state-run hydropower industry published a map of major new dams approved for construction, including one on the Brahmaputra River at Metog (or “Motuo” in Chinese) that is to be twice larger than the 18,300-megawatt Three Gorges Dam, which Beijing likes to trumpet as the greatest architectural feat since the Great Wall was built despite the dam’s increasingly damaging effects on the Yangtze River system. The Metog site is close to the disputed border with India.

Daduqia, almost on the border with India, has been officially identified as the site for another mega-dam to impound the Brahmaputra’s waters. Both Metog and Daduqia are to harness the force of a nearly 3,000-meter drop in the river’s height as it takes a sharp southerly turn from the Himalayan range into India. This area is in the Brahmaputra’s “Great Bend,” so called because the river there makes a hairpinstyle turn around Mount Namcha Barwa, forming the world’s longest and steepest canyon in the process. The Brahmaputra Canyon—twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the U.S.—holds Asia’s greatest untapped water reserves.

New Scientist - Already, China has completed a series of dams on tributaries of the Brahmaputra. The first on the river's main stem, the $1-billion Zangmu dam, will be completed in 2014. Next up could be the Tsangpo canyon dams: Motuo, which would deliver 38 gigawatts, and Daduqia, at 42 gigawatts. [Three Gorges is 18 gigawatts]

It is not just water flowing into India and Bangladesh that China has in its sights. Its other neighbours are also growing restive. The latest flashpoint is the Myitsone dam being built by China on the Irrawaddy in northern Burma. Burmese generals approved the scheme three years ago, even though 90 per cent of the electricity from the 6-gigawatt plant will go to China.

Nvidia boosts the speed of the Tegra 3 while the Tegra 4 is delayed

VR Zone- Nvidia will increase the speed of its Tegra 3 processor. The next generation Wayne Tegra 4 processor is delayed.

A faster Tegra 3 is likely to help Nvidia remain competitive in the frenetic mobile market as it staves off challenges from industry heavyweights such as Qualcomm and TI.

 Nvidia Tegra 3 clock speeds are set to be increased, with Nvidia targeting 1.7GHz (perhaps only single core clock speed?) for the high-end parts with the possibility of some slower 1.5GHz parts. GPU performance will also be boosted by approximately 25% in an effort to drive higher resolution displays as the market shifts towards full HD and beyond for high-end tablets and smartphones.

Wayne will be based on ARM's A15 architecture and we would expect an announcement around Computex time, as Nvidia's partners should be receiving samples about a month or so after Computex. That said, final devices based on the AP40 isn't expected to launch until the very end of the year due to the time it takes to engineer and certify mobile devices.

TG Daily - Wayne specs include:

* Quad ARM Cortex-A15 MPCore + low power companion core.
* Improved 24 (for the quad-core) and 32 to 64 (for the octa-core) GPU cores with support for DirectX 11+, OpenGL 4.X, and PhysX.
* 28 nm HPL.
* Approximately 10x faster than Tegra 2.

The new Tegra 3 would be about 6.2 times faster than a Tegra 2

Planetary Resources Early Revenue Options from data, images and space telescopes

Planetary Resources plans to put mass produced 20 kilogram space telescopes into low earth orbit starting at the end of 2013 Some have criticized Planetary Resources as something that will lose a lot of money. I contend that it will be highly profitable even before they mine anything.

It will use laser communication to transmit information back. The lens look like an 9 inch (22 centimeter) diameter telescope.

It uses star cameras for orientation

It uses reaction wheels to point itself. Use that basic stability and enhance it to subarc second pointing.

They can point to the earth and get 2 meter resolution of the ground.

Planetary Resources can choose to make themselves very profitable before any material is mined. Satellite imaging, space telescopes and space data sales are markets that will work.

The Arkyd 102 telescope in person (top) and in mocked-up artwork from Planetary Resources (bottom)

Google Earth and commercial satellite imagery

Some of the space telescopes could sell or provide updated imaging to Google Earth.
The Google founders are backers of Planetary Resources.

Google Earth is a virtual globe, map and geographical information program that was originally called EarthViewer 3D, and was created by Keyhole, Inc, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) funded company acquired by Google in 2004 (see In-Q-Tel). It maps the Earth by the superimposition of images obtained from satellite imagery, aerial photography and GIS 3D globe. It was available under three different licenses, two currently: Google Earth, a free version with limited function; Google Earth Plus (discontinued), which included additional features; and Google Earth Pro ($399 per year), which is intended for commercial use.

Google Earth Global: Generally 15 meter resolution (some areas, such as Antarctica, are in extremely low resolution), but this depends on the quality of the satellite/aerial photograph uploaded. United States has 1 meter resolution and there are other high resolution areas.

Most land areas are covered in satellite imagery with a resolution of about 15 m per pixel. This base imagery is 30m multispectral Landsat which is pansharpened with the 15m [panchromatic] Landsat imagery. However, Google is actively replacing this base imagery with 2.5 meter SPOTImage imagery and several higher resolution datasets mentioned below. Some population centers are also covered by aircraft imagery (orthophotography) with several pixels per meter. Oceans are covered at a much lower resolution, as are a number of islandss.

Most of the international urban image dates are from 2004 and have not been updated. However, most US images are kept current.

Planetary Resources would be able to provide a lot more fairly good resolution and frequently updated satellite imagery. This could be advertising supported based on the traffic.

Planetary Resources will also be able to provide updated and fairly good resolution Google Moon, Google Space and eventually Google Asteroid.

April 25, 2012

NIST Mini-sensor Measures Magnetic Activity in Human Brain

A miniature atom-based magnetic sensor developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has passed an important research milestone by successfully measuring human brain activity. Experiments reported this week* verify the sensor's potential for biomedical applications such as studying mental processes and advancing the understanding of neurological diseases.

NIST and German scientists used the NIST sensor to measure alpha waves in the brain associated with a person opening and closing their eyes as well as signals resulting from stimulation of the hand. The measurements were verified by comparing them with signals recorded by a SQUID (superconducting quantum interference device). SQUIDs are the world's most sensitive commercially available magnetometers and are considered the "gold standard" for such experiments. The NIST mini-sensor is slightly less sensitive now but has the potential for comparable performance while offering potential advantages in size, portability and cost.

NIST's atom-based magnetic sensor, about the size of a sugar cube, can measure human brain activity. Inside the sensor head is a container of 100 billion rubidium atoms (not seen), packaged with micro-optics (a prism and a lens are visible in the center cutout). The light from a low-power infrared laser interacts with the atoms and is transmitted through the grey fiber-optic cable to register the magnetic field strength. The black and white wires are electrical connections.
Credit: Knappe/NIST

NIST Physicists Benchmark Quantum Simulator with Hundreds of Qubits

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have built a quantum simulator that can engineer interactions among hundreds of quantum bits (qubits)—10 times more than previous devices. As described in the April 26 issue of Nature*, the simulator has passed a series of important benchmarking tests and scientists are poised to study problems in material science that are impossible to model on conventional computers.

Many important problems in physics—especially low-temperature physics—remain poorly understood because the underlying quantum mechanics is vastly complex. Conventional computers—even supercomputers—are inadequate for simulating quantum systems with as few as 30 particles. Better computational tools are needed to understand and rationally design materials, such as high-temperature superconductors, whose properties are believed to depend on the collective quantum behavior of hundreds of particles.

The NIST quantum simulator permits study of quantum systems that are difficult to study in the laboratory and impossible to model with a supercomputer. The heart of the simulator is a two-dimensional crystal of beryllium ions (blue spheres in the graphic); the outermost electron of each ion is a quantum bit (qubit, red arrows). The ions are confined by a large magnetic field in a device called a Penning trap (not shown). Inside the trap the crystal rotates clockwise.
Credit: Britton/NIST

Nature - Engineered two-dimensional Ising interactions in a trapped-ion quantum simulator with hundreds of spins

Israel Military Chief Gantz believes Iran will stop short of building a nuclear bomb

Washington Post - Israel’s military chief Major General Benny Gantz said in an interview published Wednesday that he believes Iran will choose not to build a nuclear bomb, an assessment that contrasted with the gloomier statements of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pointed to differences over the Iran issue at the top levels of Israeli leadership.

The comments by Maj. Gen Benny Gantz, who said international sanctions have begun to show results, could relieve pressure on the Obama administration and undercut efforts by Israeli political leaders to urge the United States to get as tough as possible on Iran.

Gantz described Iranian leaders as “very rational people” who are still mulling whether to “go the extra mile” and produce nuclear weapons.

“I believe he would be making an enormous mistake, and I don’t think he will want to go the extra mile,” Gantz said of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. While Gantz cautioned that Khamenei could still change his mind, the supreme leader has said repeatedly that Iran does not intend to build a nuclear weapon, and that its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes.

Although striking in its bluntness, Gantz’s assessment of Iran’s nuclear intentions did not differ dramatically from comments made publicly and privately by other current and former Israeli officials in recent months. Others have also concluded, for example, that Iran intends to achieve nuclear weapons capability but would stop short of assembling and testing a bomb, steps that would almost certainly incur a military response from Israel and perhaps the United States.

Thin-film process boosts bulk alloy's thermoelectric performance

Eurekalert - A team of Boston College and MIT researchers report developing a novel, nanotech design that boosts the thermoelectric performance of a bulk alloy semiconductor by 30 to 40 percent above its previously achieved figure of merit, the measuring stick of conversion efficiency in thermoelectrics. The optimally doped matrix and could already compete with the state-of-the-art n-type Si80Ge20P2 thermoelectric bulk materials with a much lower materials cost. To further improve the modulation-doping approach, using a thin spacer layer to minimize the diffusion would be expected to further improve the measured performance.

The alloy in question, Silicon Germanium, has been valued for its performance in high-temperature thermoelectric applications, including its use in radioisotope thermoelectric generators on NASA flight missions. But broader applications have been limited because of its low thermoelectric performance and the high cost of Germanium.

Boston College Professor of Physics Zhifeng Ren and graduate researcher Bo Yu, and MIT Professors Gang Chen and Mildred S. Dresselhause and post-doctoral researcher Mona Zebarjadi, report in the journal Nano Letters that altering the design of bulk SiGe with a process borrowed from the thin-film semiconductor industry helped produce a more than 50 percent increase in electrical conductivity.

While long valued for high-temperature applications, the bulk alloy semiconductor SiGe hasn't lent itself to broader adoption because of its low thermoelectric performance and the high cost of Germanium. A novel nanotechnology design created by researchers from Boston College and MIT has shown a 30 to 40 percent increase in thermoelectric performance and reduced the amount of costly Germanium. Credit: Nano Letters

Nanoletters - Enhancement of Thermoelectric Properties by Modulation-Doping in Silicon Germanium Alloy Nanocomposites (6 pages)

Falcon 9 and Planetary Resources Arkyd Space telescopes

The Planetary Resources Arkyd 100 series space telescopes only weight 20 kg. Launching five include extra weight for some deployment mechanism should be about 200-400kg. This could be put onto small rockets in the $5 to 10 million price range or they could be placed as secondary payload on scheduled launches that are not at full capacity.

The Arkyd 102 telescope in person (top) and in mocked-up artwork from Planetary Resources (bottom)

The Spacex Falcon 9 launches are priced at $54 million and can put 10,450 kg into low earth orbit and 4,540 kg into Geosynchronous orbit.

A Spacex Falcon 9 full of Planetary Resources Arkyd 100 series space telescopes could launch about 100 into geosynchronous orbit and 250 into low earth orbit.

The first two phases of Planetary Resources plans
1. Put up many small space telescopes without propulsion
2. Add small propulsion to escape earth orbit and intercept asteroids

All look very affordable for $10-50 million per year.

There are several developments that could lower the cost of small payload launches.

Lab on a chip for genetic testing

A metal cube the size of a toaster, created at the University of Alberta, is capable of performing the same genetic tests as most fully equipped modern laboratories—and in a fraction of the time.

At its core is a small plastic chip developed with nanotechnology that holds the key to determining whether a patient is resistant to cancer drugs or has diseases like malaria. The chip can also pinpoint infectious diseases in a herd of cattle.

Dubbed the Domino, the technology—developed by a U of A research team—has the potential to revolutionize point-of-care medicine. The innovation has also earned Aquila Diagnostic Systems, the Edmonton-based nano startup that licensed the technology, a shot at $175,000 as a finalist for the TEC NanoVenturePrize award.

“We’re basically replacing millions of dollars of equipment that would be in a conventional, consolidated lab with something that costs pennies to produce and is field portable so you can take it where needed. That’s where this technology shines,” said Jason Acker, an associate professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at the U of A and chief technology officer with Aquila.

The Domino employs polymerase chain reaction technology used to amplify and detect targeted sequences of DNA, but in a miniaturized form that fits on a plastic chip the size of two postage stamps. The chip contains 20 gel posts—each the size of a pinhead—capable of identifying sequences of DNA with a single drop of blood.

The Domino technology uses a plastic chip that can perform 20 genetic tests from a single drop of blood.

US produces 6.113 million barrels of crude per day which is the most since 1999

US daily crude oil production was 6.113 million barrels per day for the week ending April 20, 2012 This is a level not reached since 1999. This is a 503,000 barrel per day increase from the same time last year. If the level of crude oil production is increased by another 500,000 barrels per day would increase crude oil production back to the level in 1994 at about 6.6 million barrel per day.

In terms of other non-crude oil liquid production almost all of the increase from last year (387,000 barrels per day) was from an increase of 354,000 barrels per day from natural gas liquids.

Here is the level of US crude production back in 1998 and 1999.

DARPA and partners look to accelerate development beyond CMOS and highly complex systems that are more than the sum of parts

The Focus Center Research Program ("FCRP"), a consortium of industrial participants and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ("DARPA"), (the "Consortium")solicits white papers from U.S. universities for collaborative, multidisciplinary, multi-university research in selected areas of principal interest.

The goal of this collaborative effort between the Department of Defense and the industrial participants is to increase substantially the unprecedented multi-decade record of uninterrupted performance improvement in information processing power and storage capacity of integrated circuits and related systems.

They want to improve faster than Moore's law.

The Consortium seeks to address emerging challenges in semiconductor and systems technologies by concentrating resources on high-risk, high-payoff, long-range innovative research to accelerate the productivity growth and performance enhancement of semiconductor integrated circuits and multi-scale systems.

The Consortium seeks proposals addressing one or more of the following seven focus technology areas which are organized into two major thrusts:

NEXT: Highly Complex Systems

Technology Areas for NEXT - The mission of the NEXT thrust area is to enable highly complex systems with capabilities well beyond those available today, i.e., to augment beyond the "sum of the parts."

Artificial nanopores for early disease detection

A University of Texas at Arlington multi-disciplinary team has received a $360,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to build artificial nanopores made of silicon that can detect “bad molecules” as a very early indication of cancer and other diseases.

Nanopores are tiny openings about 1,000 times smaller than a human pore on the skin or a human hair, made in very thin silicon chips. The silicon chips are the same material in computer processors and memories.

Iqbal’s team will run human blood-derived samples through these artificially created nanopores in a silicon chip and record how the composition may change as a function of disease

An Atomic Force Microscope image of a 100 nm nanopore in silicon. Green is the molecule of interest in sample that will be run through the nanopore in the lab.

April 24, 2012

Intel releases 22 nanometer featured chips and is on track for 2014 with 14 nanometer features

Technology Review - Intel releases 22 nanometer chips this week and Intel is already working on manufacturing processes for a version of the three-dimensional transistors with 14-nanometer features, scheduled for production in 2014.

The chips are the first to become available from any company with features as small as 22 nanometers (the finest details on today's chips are 32 nanometers), allowing transistors to be smaller and packed more densely. Ivy Bridge chips offer 37 percent more processing speed than the previous generation of chips, and can match their performance while using just half the energy.

Transistors on an Ivy Bridge processor are packed roughly twice as densely as in the most recent line of Intel chips, with 1.4 billion on a 160-millimeters-squared die instead of 1.16 billion on a 212-millimeters-squared die.

Intel's three-dimensional transistors will debut in the company's Atom line of mobile processors in 2013. Intel wants those to be used in smart phones and tablets, and has signed deals with Lenovo and Motorola to do so.

Canada Oil and Gas projection to 2025

Google Drive challenges Dropbox, Apple and the PC and will tightly integrate with smartphones and gmail

Google announces Google Drive a new cloud storage service.

Today, we’re introducing Google Drive—a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff. Whether you’re working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiancé or tracking a budget with roommates, you can do it in Drive. You can upload and access all of your files, including videos, photos, Google Docs, PDFs and beyond.

Computer World - With the launch of Google Drive, the new cloud storage service unveiled today by Google, mainstream tech users will soon find themselves engaging in cloud storage and file synchronization among mobile, laptop and desktop systems.

Planetary Resources infographic, video and picture of the Arkyd 102 space telescope

Space.com coverage of the Planetary Resources announcement. (H/T Alfin)

Venture Beat had their coverage of the press conference.

The Arkyd 102 telescope in person (top) and in mocked-up artwork from Planetary Resources (bottom)

Cytograft tissue engineers blood vessels and they have been used on three human patients

Cytograft has developed novel technologies that utilize the cell's own biological processes to produce versatile tissues with remarkable mechanical strength that are free from synthetic scaffolds or exogenous biomaterials.

These robust biogenic tissues can be used as building blocks to support the construction of complex three-dimensional structures to restore function to diseased tissues and organs.

Science Daily - Cytograft, which L'Heureux and Todd McAllister co-founded in 2000, has indeed developed blood vessels that are "completely biological, completely human and living, which is the Cadillac of treatments … and it seems to work really well," L'Heureux says.

First the team created blood vessels from patients' own skin cells. Then, in June, the company announced that three dialysis patients had received the world's first lab-grown blood vessels made from skin cells from donors, which eliminates the long lead time needed for making vessels from a patient's own cells. And now Cytograft has developed a new technique for making human textiles that promises to reduce the production cost of these vessels by half.

Robotic, retractable sails proposed for cargo ships to save 30% of fuel

Diginfo - The aim of the Wind Challenger Project is to substantially reduce fuel consumption by large merchant vessels. Under development by a group including members from the University of Tokyo, the idea is to utilize giant retractable sails, 20m wide by 50m high, to make maximal use of wind energy. The group has done simulations for shipping routes such as Yokohama-Seattle. The results indicate that hybrid ships with sails and engines could reduce annual fuel consumption by about 30% on average.

"Using today's technology, it's possible to make big sails, and to control them automatically," UT professor Kiyoshi Uzawa told DigInfo. "Also, navigation technology includes networked maritime information and weather forecasting, so ships like this can travel safely. Using wind energy, as in old-fashioned sailing ships, is actually feasible."

"The sails have a curved surface, and they need to be hollow, so they can expand and contract. So they don't use canvas, like conventional sails. Instead, they use aluminum and Fibre-reinforced plastic, which makes them rigid. In other words, with this concept, a ship has wings, like an aircraft."

"These sails cost about US$2.5 million each, but they can reduce fuel consumption by over 25%. In that case, the cost of these sails can be recovered in 5-10 years. We've finished our basic research, so over the next two years, we'd like to build a half-size prototype, to check that this structure is practical. Ultimately, we're aiming for a sea voyage from 2016 onward."

Heartland Robotics

MIT has a bit of new information about Heartland Robotics

Heartland Robotics is in a converted warehouse in South Boston’s Innovation District. Venture capitalists have already gambled $32 million on the premise that whatever it is they produce, it’s going to set a whole new direction in the field.

Brooks’ latest concept for next-generation robots could, he thinks, revolutionize manufacturing. Instead of huge machines that need to be kept inside protective cages so they won’t injure nearby workers, he envisions smaller, nimbler, more responsive robots that could work alongside people, helping them with tasks. The new robots, he says, will compare to today’s lumbering industrial robots in much the way that an iPhone compares to an earlier, room-sized mainframe computer.

Brooks isn’t revealing anything yet about what his new robots will look like, or what they’ll be capable of doing. But based on his comments at MIT, don’t expect them to look much like people. “If you make them too humanlike, people’s expectations go up, and they’re easily disappointed,” he said. “You don’t want to make it look like Einstein!”

Increasing the efficiency of making Titanium powder by ten times

A Nevada-based start-up company that's commercializing technology developed at Ames Lab is one of 14 companies in the Department of Energy's "America's Next Top Energy Innovator" contest. Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies (IPAT) is using gas atomization technology developed at Ames Laboratory to make titanium powder with processes that are ten times more efficient than traditional powder-making methods significantly lowering the cost of the powder to manufacturers. The powder form of titanium is easier to work with than having to cast the metal where manufacturers melt and pour liquid metal into molds particularly given titanium’s tendency to react with the materials used to form molds. Titanium’s strength, light weight, biocompatibility and resistance to corrosion make it ideal for use in a variety of parts from components for artificial limbs -- like those used by wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan -- to military vehicle components, biomedical implants, aerospace fasteners and chemical plant valves.

Polarized radial fibre laser

Nature Photonics - Microfluidic directional emission control of an azimuthally polarized radial fibre laser

Lasers with cylindrically symmetric polarization states are predominantly based on whispering-gallery modes characterized by high angular momentum and dominated by azimuthal emission. Here, a zero-angular-momentum laser with purely radial emission is demonstrated. An axially invariant, cylindrical photonic-bandgap fibre cavity8 filled with a microfluidic gain medium plug is axially pumped, resulting in a unique radiating field pattern characterized by cylindrical symmetry and a fixed polarization pointed in the azimuthal direction. Encircling the fibre core is an array of electrically contacted and independently addressable liquid-crystal microchannels embedded in the fibre cladding. These channels modulate the polarized wavefront emanating from the fibre core, leading to a laser with a dynamically controlled intensity distribution spanning the full azimuthal angular range. This new capability, implemented monolithically within a single fibre, presents opportunities ranging from flexible multidirectional displays to minimally invasive directed light delivery systems for medical applications.

Comparison of radial and whispering-gallery modes. Schematic drawing of the radially emitting fibre laser structure and energy density plot for a high-Q TE0n fibre cavity laser mode. The outgoing, radially directed red arrows denote the direction of laser emission

Microfluidic laser system.

Improving on the amazing: Ames Laboratory scientists seek new conductors for metamaterials

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have designed a method to evaluate different conductors for use in metamaterial structures, which are engineered to exhibit properties not possible in natural materials.

Cloaking devices that hide planes from RADAR, microscopes that can see inside a single cell, and miniature antennae that measure only a few millimeters all sound like parts of a science fiction movie. But, within the span of the decade since they began their work, Ames Laboratory physicist Costas Soukoulis and his research team have moved these and other innovations from the realm of fiction closer to reality.

“Metamaterials have a few fundamentally new properties that may allow for many new applications,” said Soukoulis. For instance, natural materials refract light to the opposite side of the incidence normal, while metamaterials can refract light to the same side (left-handed materials), allowing imaging with a flat lens. Metamaterials are also capable of absorbing all light that hits them, reflecting none of it, creating perfect absorbers. The materials can even slow light. And what makes these properties even more interesting is that they can be adjusted to the needs of particular technologies.

A model of a three-dimensional metamaterial. Ames Laboratory scientists developed a method to evaluate different conductors for use in metamaterial structures.

Nature Photonics - A comparison of graphene, superconductors and metals as conductors for metamaterials and plasmonics

World’s Largest Digital Camera Project Passes Critical Milestone

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory - A 3.2 billion-pixel digital camera designed by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is now one step closer to reality. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope camera, which will capture the widest, fastest and deepest view of the night sky ever observed, has received “Critical Decision 1” approval by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to move into the next stage of the project.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will survey the entire visible sky every week, creating an unprecedented public archive of data – about 6 million gigabytes per year, the equivalent of shooting roughly 800,000 images with a regular eight-megapixel digital camera every night, but of much higher quality and scientific value. Its deep and frequent cosmic vistas will help answer critical questions about the nature of dark energy and dark matter and aid studies of near-Earth asteroids, Kuiper belt objects, the structure of our galaxy and many other areas of astronomy and fundamental physics.

An artistic rendering of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, with a man standing beside for perspective of the camera's size. (Image courtesy LSST Project)

Roundup of Planetary Resources articles

1. Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, has a writeup at Discover Magazine

I asked Lewicki specifically about how this will make money. Some asteroids may be rich in precious metals — some may hold tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars in platinum-group metals — but it will cost billions and take many years, most likely, to mine them before any samples can be returned. Why not just do it here on Earth? In other words, what’s the incentive for profit for the investors? This is probably the idea over which most people are skeptical, including several people I know active in the asteroid science community.

I have to admit, Lewicki’s answer surprised me. “The investors aren’t making decisions based on a business plan or a return on investment,” he told me. “They’re basing their decisions on our vision.”

On further reflection, I realized this made sense. Not every wealthy investor pumps money into a project in order to make more… at least right away. Elon Musk, for example, has spent hundreds of millions of his own fortune on his company Space X. Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos is doing likewise for his own space company, Blue Origin. Examples abound. And it’ll be years before either turns a respectable profit, but that’s not what motivates Musk and Bezos to do this. They want to explore space.

The vision of Planetary Resources is in their name: they want to make sure there are available resources in place to ensure a permanent future in space. And it’s not just physical resources with which they’re concerned. Their missions will support not just mining asteroids for volatiles and metals, but also to extend our understanding of asteroids and hopefully increase our ability to deflect one should it be headed our way.

This again was a topic I discussed with Lewicki specifically. He agreed with my proposition that all three topics — science, deflection, and resource use — are tied together. After all, we need to understand asteroids scientifically if we want to use them or prevent them from hitting us. We can use them for depots to establish better exploration of them, and sometime in the future we may need to deflect one to prevent all this from being a moot point anyway.

2. Technology Review - Asteroids Could Be Mined for Fuel, Says Company

Each of the first Arkyd 100 series space telescopes will only weigh 20 kilograms

Liveblogging the Planetary Resources Conference Part 2

The Planetary Resources website is now live too

Destiny is a thing to be achieved

Chris Lewicki
President and Chief Engineer

Wants to get costs down to tens of millions and then down to single digit millions for space access

We will take and accept risk where appropriate

The moon program started with robotic exploration and surveyers. Ranger and lunar orbiter.

Our first series of prospecting space craft are the Arkyd series.

Working on the Arkyd 101 Low earth orbit as a commercial telescope.

Already have the Arkyd 102 designed and the model is on stage.

Arc second resolution.
Demo the communication platform.
Usable by academics and even school children

Take a once rare tool into a personal tool for everyone.

The 200 series will be moveable telescopes that will move out of low earth orbit.
A swarm of half a dozen telescopes with work together to characterize targets in detail.
They will leverage cloud computing and AI.

The 300 series will extract.

With swarm we will have safety in numbers. We will live with risk and learn from failure.
If failure is not an option then success becomes very expensive.

John Lewis is on the team. This has been his life work. He is on the advisory board.

Here is a summary of a presentation by John Lewis on the value of near earth asteroids and details of a NASA study on space mining

There are about 500,000 to one million asteroids over 50 meter in size.

433 Eros is an example

The first unambiguous rubble pile asteroid to be photographed is 25143 Itokawa, which has no obvious impact craters and is thus almost certainly a coalescence of shattered fragments.

The rubble pile asteroids we can just make a vacuum like machine to gather and filter resources.

Planetary Resources Liveblogging the Conference Part 1

The Planetary Resources website is now live too

Diamandis talk

- Scarcity is contextual
- If pluck all of the low hanging fruit then if there is no low hanging fruit then fruit could be scarce
but if I have a ladder and can reach the higher fruit then again fruit is abundant

Exponential technologies will create abundance

smart money investing in one of the largest opportunities ever.

Yes it is difficult but the returns are extraordinary

We will create access to near earth resources

Shell and deep sea oil drilling is investing $5 to 50 billion for each major deep sea platform and build robotic cities on the sea floor. In that context, near earth space mining is achievable.

Eric Anderson and Diamandis have been partners for 16 years on Space Adventures. Eric has personally sold $500 million in space tourism trips.

Eric believes that many will follow and that it will expand commercial space by 2 orders of magnitude.

Planetary Resources Live Press Conference

The Planetary Resources website is now live too

Streaming Live by Ustream

The Leo Space Telescope is Planetary Resources’ first Arkyd Series 100 product. It will provide the company with the core spacecraft technologies necessary for asteroid prospecting while creating the first space telescope within reach of the private citizen. Leo contains the critical structures, avionics, attitude determination and control, and instrumentation that enable low-cost asteroid exploration.

The Leo Space Telescope provides spectacular views of the Earth’s surface and deep space, including the rich, virtually unexplored areas between our planet and the Sun. Central to its configuration and functionality is a precision imaging system. With arc-second resolution, the Leo spacecraft camera will provide detailed celestial and Earth observations where you want them, and when you want them. Leo is capable of surveying for near-Earth asteroids during one orbit, then be retasked for rain forest observation on the next. The possibilities for utility and engagement are only limited by the imagination of the user.

New DARPA Projects target medicine on demand, making materials with ultrahigh pressure solid characteristics without the high pressure

1. Biologically-derived Medicines on Demand

The Bio-MOD program seeks to develop devices and techniques to produce multiple protein biologics in response to specific battlefield threats and medical needs. This will be achieved by investing in

(1) novel, flexible methodologies for genetic engineering/modification of microbial strains, eukaryotic strains, and/or cell-free systems to synthesize multiple protein-based therapeutics; and

(2) flexible and portable device platforms for manufacturing multiple biologics with high purity, efficacy and potency at the point-of-care, in short timeframes, when the specific need arises.

Consequently, Bio-MOD will provide a battlefield medical supply for military medics at the front lines of support that is responsive to far-forward emergency settings and emergent in-theater needs.

Universal schematic for the Phase 1 Bio-MOD system that incorporates a novel, flexible engineering approach to genetically manipulate single strains of prokaryotic cells, eukaryotic cells, or cell-free systems to produce multiple protein therapeutics in a bench-top platform. Diagram does not indicate a preferred design, but rather illustrates the overall vision of the Bio-MOD program.

47 page detailed solicitation

Some Existing US Dams just need hydroelectric equipment to start generating 12 Gigawatts of power

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers found that 54,000 dams not currently used to generate power have the capacity to generate more than 12 gigawatts, enough to power more than 4 million homes. The 100 dams with the highest energy potential could generate 8 gigawatts of power. The top 10 power-generating dams are along the Ohio, Mississippi, Alabama, Tombigbee, Arkansas and Red rivers. Equipping existing dams with power-generating plants avoids additional environmental impacts because the dams are already operating. Additionally, installing hydropower won't change the timing of flows released from the dams.

ORNL found that hydropower energy is available in areas that are not rich in solar power, such as the Ohio River Valley and the Southeast.

DOE EERE - An Assessment of Energy
Potential at Non-Powered Dams in the United States (44 pages)

Hydroelectricity is one of the lowest cost energy sources and these should be even lower cost because the dam has already been built. It is just the generating equipment and the grid connection that is needed.

ORNL, Yale take steps toward fast, low-cost DNA sequencing device

Oak Ridge National Lab - Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Yale University have developed a new concept for use in a high-speed genomic sequencing device that may have the potential to substantially drive down costs.

"The low cost--if it can be achieved--would enable genomic sequencing to be used in everyday clinical practice for medical treatments and preventions," said Predrag Krstic, project director and former ORNL physicist now at the University of Tennessee-ORNL Joint Institute for Computational Sciences.

ORNL and Yale University researchers have created nanopores, or extremely narrow channels of water, with a radio-frequency electric field capable of trapping segments of DNA and other biomolecules.

Small journal - Tunable Aqueous Virtual Micropore

April 23, 2012

Planetary Resources will mine platinum group metals for earth and water for Space fuel

Space.com - Two of the resources that Planetary Resources plans to mine are platinum-group metals and water.

Platinum-group metals — ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum — are found in low concentrations on Earth and can be tough to access, which is why they're so expensive. In fact, Anderson said, they don't occur naturally in Earth's crust, having been deposited on our planet over the eons by asteroid impacts.

"We're going to go to the source," Anderson said. "The platinum-group metals are many orders of magnitude easier to access in the high-concentration platinum asteroids than they are in the Earth's crust."

And there are a lot of precious metals up there waiting to be mined. A single platinum-rich space rock 1,650 feet (500 meters) wide contains the equivalent of all the platinum-group metals ever mined throughout human history, company officials said.

"When the availability of these metals increase[s], the cost will reduce on everything including defibrillators, hand-held devices, TV and computer monitors, catalysts," Planetary Resources co-founder and co-chairman Peter Diamandis said in a statement. "And with the abundance of these metals, we’ll be able to use them in mass production, like in automotive fuel cells.

Planetary Resources Asteroid Mining Video

ABC News - Mining asteroids may sound like one of those ideas guaranteed not to get off the ground anytime soon, but Anderson and his comrades say they have detailed plans, and deep pockets as well.

"Everything we hold of value on Earth -- metals, minerals, energy, water, real estate -- are literally in near-infinite quantities in space," said Diamandis.

Eventually, Anderson said he could picture fleets of robotic "droids" closing in on asteroids, scouring their surfaces for minerals and either bringing them back to Earth or to supply depots in space. The company says there are more than 1,500 asteroids that pass close to Earth, and, since they don't have much gravitational pull, it would take less fuel to land on them than on the moon.

Anderson said the idea is to start small, with a telescope in Earth orbit to look for asteroids that pass close to us and have the right mix of minerals. He claimed the launch could happen soon -- in as little as 18 months to two years.

To keep the cost down, it might share a booster rocket with another satellite. Who might make the booster? The Russians, or a private American company, he said -- anyone who can do it for an affordable price.

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