May 18, 2012

General Fusion targets prototype by 2015 and a working reactor by 2020

Canadian Manufacturing has an article covering General Fusion. General Fusion is creating a prototype and subsystems at full scale. They have made a full scale plasma injector that create the magnetized targets and individual full scale pistons. They have made a one meter diameter sphere with 14 pistons to demonstrate the symmetry of the compression.

They recently closed on another round of funding for $19.5 million

Magnetized Target Fusion is a fusion concept that first showed promise in the 1970s, but has gone mostly unexplored in recent years. General Fusion believes that a power plant based on its technology could be built at a much lower cost than using conventional magnetic and laser fusion approaches. Such a power plant would make fusion a commercially viable clean power source. This funding round comes on the heels of General Fusion achieving the first milestone in its Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) project, undertaken in collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Pentagon now estimates China J20 Stealth Jet will be operational sooner than 2018

Wired Danger Room - Last year Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the J-20 wouldn’t be ready until at least 2020. Now, the Pentagon’s top China official has now revised that estimate. The J-20, China’s first stealth jet, will be operationally ready “no sooner than 2018,” David Helvey, deputy secretary of defense for East Asia and Asia Pacific Security Affairs.

The new anticipated timetable for the J-20 hardly augurs the end of American military dominance. But it wasn’t the only Chinese military development that took the Pentagon by surprise last year.

According to the Pentagon’s new report on the Chinese military, China’s got three nuclear-powered submarines — an advance that Helvey conceded the U.S. military didn’t anticipate. China also fielded an “improved” amphibious assault vessel last year, while the U.S. Marine Corps is having trouble upgrading its own.

And that’s just the stuff that the Pentagon can see. Helvey speculated that the Chinese military keeps its research, foreign military acquisitions and nuclear modernization off its books. The report estimates that China’s declared $106 billion annual military budget is really more like $120 to $180 billion.

DoD Annual Report to Congress - Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2012 (52 pages)

Lightbridge Annular Fuel for Advanced Nuclear Power Reactor Uprates Update

Lightbridge is developing innovative, proprietary nuclear fuel technologies designed to significantly enhance the nuclear power industry’s economics and increase power output.

Lightbridge is developing two fuel product families for power uprates in existing and new build reactors:

* All-Uranium, seed-and-blanket fuel technology – up to 17% power uprate in existing PWRs;
* All-metal fuel technology – up to 30% power uprate in new build PWRs.

A recent investor presentation powerpoint pdf

Memristors in silicon promising for dense, fast memory

The first purely silicon oxide-based ‘Resistive RAM’ memory chip that can operate in ambient conditions – opening up the possibility of new super-fast memory - has been developed by researchers at UCL (University College of London)

Our ReRAM memory chips need just a thousandth of the energy and are around a hundred times faster than standard Flash memory chips. The fact that the device can operate in ambient conditions and has a continuously variable resistance opens up a huge range of potential applications.

“The potential for this material is huge. During proof of concept development we have shown we can programme the chips using the cycle between two or more states of conductivity. We’re very excited that our devices may be an important step towards new silicon memory chips”

BBC News - Researchers have revealed details of a promising way to make a fundamentally different kind of computer memory chip.

The device is a "memristor", a long-hypothesised but only recently demonstrated electronic component.

A memristor's electronic properties make it suitable for both for computing and for far faster, denser memory.

Researchers at the European Materials Research Society meeting now say it can be made much more cheaply, using current semiconductor techniques.

These are the first purely silicon oxide-based 'Resistive RAM' memory chip that can operate in ambient conditions – opening up the possibility of new super-fast memory - has been developed by researchers at UCL.

Resistive RAM (or 'ReRAM') memory chips are based on materials, most often oxides of metals, whose electrical resistance changes when a voltage is applied – and they "remember" this change even when the power is turned off.

ReRAM chips promise significantly greater memory storage than current technology, such as the Flash memory used on USB sticks, and require much less energy and space.

The researchers are already collaborating with a manufacturer on prototypes

Journal of Applied Physics - Resistive switching in silicon suboxide films

Return of the vacuum tube

Eurekalert - Vacuum tubes have been retro for decades. They almost completely disappeared from the electronics scene when consumers exchanged their old cathode ray tube monitors for flat screen TVs. Their replacement – the semiconductor – is generally the cheaper, lighter, more efficient, and easier to manufacture of the two technologies. But vacuum tubes are more robust in high-radiation environments such as outer space. And since electrons travel faster in a vacuum than through a semiconductor, vacuum tubes are an intrinsically better medium for electricity.

An international team of researchers from NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and the National Nanofab Center in Korea have combined the best traits of both technologies by making a tiny version of vacuum tubes that could be incorporated into circuits. Their prototype, a vacuum channel transistor, is just 150 nanometers long and was made using conventional semiconductor fabrication methods. Its small size allows it to operate at fewer than 10 volts, much less than a retro vacuum tube requires; with further work, the device could be made to use about 1 volt, which would make it competitive with modern semiconductor technology.

In a paper accepted to the American Institute of Physics' (AIP) journal Applied Physics Letters, the authors write that such a transistor could be useful for applications in hazardous chemical sensing, noninvasive medical diagnostics, and high-speed telecommunications, as well as in so-called "extreme environment" applications for military and space.

Article: "Vacuum nanoelectronics: back to the future? – gate insulated nanoscale vacuum channel transistor," is accepted to Applied Physics Letters.

Spacex on Schedule for Saturday, May 19 launch

Spacex has a 33 page press kit
Spacex COTS 2 Mission Highlights
During the mission, Dragon must perform a series of complex tasks, each presenting significant technical challenges (timeline could change):
* Day 1/Launch Day: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launches a Dragon spacecraft into orbit from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
* Day 2: Dragon orbits Earth as it travels toward the International Space Station.
* Day 3: Dragon’s sensors and flight systems are subject to a series of complicated tests to determine if the vehicle is ready to berth with the space station; these tests include maneuvers and systems checks that see the vehicle come within 1.5 miles of the station.
* Day 4: NASA decides if Dragon is allowed to attempt to berth with the station. If so, Dragon approaches; it is captured by station’s robotic arm and attached to the station. This requires extreme precision even as both Dragon and station orbit the Earth every 90 minutes.
* Day 5 - TBD: Astronauts open Dragon’s hatch, unload supplies and fill Dragon with return cargo.
* TBD: After approximately two weeks, Dragon is detached from the station and returns to Earth, landing in the Pacific, hundred of miles west of Southern California.

Computing experts unveil ‘inexact’ chip that is 15 times more energy efficient

Researchers have unveiled an “inexact” computer chip that challenges the industry’s 50-year pursuit of accuracy. The design improves power and resource efficiency by allowing for occasional errors. Prototypes unveiled this week at the ACM International Conference on Computing Frontiers in Cagliari, Italy, are at least 15 times more efficient than today’s technology.

The research, which earned best-paper honors at the conference, was conducted by experts from Rice University in Houston, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Switzerland’s Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) and the University of California, Berkeley.

In terms of speed, energy consumption and size, inexact computer chips like this prototype, are about 15 times more efficient than today's microchips.

EU-funded food technology project to help alleviate poverty by preventing food losses

Millions of the world's poorest people in some of the most deprived regions could soon be helped by a new EU-funded food technology project that brings together researchers from Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

The 3-year project GRATITUDE ('Gains from losses of root and tuber crops') brings together 16 project partners from Ghana, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.

Led by scientists from the University of Greenwich's Natural Resources Institute in the United Kingdom, the project partners aim to find new ways of reducing waste during the production of food crops vital to families in parts of Africa and Asia. Another aim of the project is to develop new products such as snack foods from the crops, and seek new markets. The fact that the consortium is made up of partners from both academic and business will help meet this aim.

Cassava and yam are important food security crops for approximately 700 million people worldwide, and their post-harvest losses are significant. These losses can be physical or economic, through discounting or processing into low-value products, or can result from bio-wastes. By reducing such losses, the role these crops play in food and income security can be enhanced.

May 17, 2012

Reviewing nuclear reactors restarting and new nuclear reactors stating in 2012

We had listed the nuclear reactors that are expected to start or restart in 2012.

All 14 are on track for commercial operation in 2012.

14 Reactors in 2012
2012  India, NPCIL            Kaiga 4        PHWR        202 (operating)
2012  Iran, AEOI              Bushehr 1       PWR        950 (going up to full capacity starting May 23, 2012)
2012  Russia, Rosenergoatom   Kalinin 4       PWR        950 (commercial operation expected Sept, 2012)
2012  Korea, KHNP             Shin Kori 2     PWR       1000 (Jan)
2012  Korea, KHNP             Shin Wolsong 1  PWR       1000 (Jan)
2012  Canada, Bruce Pwr       Bruce A1        PHWR       769 (started generating power in April)
2012  Canada, Bruce Pwr       Bruce A2        PHWR       769 (on track for Sept)
2012  Canada, NB Power        Point Lepreau 1 PHWR       635 [fuel loaded]
2012  Argentina,              Atucha 2        PHWR       692 (Grid connect expected July 6, 2012, now in prestart)
2012  India, NPCIL            Kudankulam 1    PWR        950 end of May start expected
2012  India, NPCIL            Kudankulam 2    PWR        950 (IAEA expects July 31 grid connection)
2012  China, CNNC             Qinshan phase II-4 PWR     650 (operating)
2012  China, CGNPC            Hongyanhe 1     PWR       1080 (reaffirm 2012 start by Xu Yuming, the vice secretary general of the China Nuclear Energy Association for Hongyanhe 1 and  Ningde 1)
2012  China, CGNPC            Ningde 1        PWR       1080

NB Power has finished reloading fuel at the Point Lepreau nuclear generating station as part of the facility’s refurbishment.

Officials are calling the successful manual loading of 4,560 new fuel bundles a “milestone” and say they are on track to restart the reactor by the fall after three years of delays.

The next major return-to-service activity is a test of the primary heat transport (PHT) system to confirm the tightness and integrity of the components, according to officials.

Once confirmed, the next step will be to fill the PHT system with heavy water, which will flow through each fuel channel and pick up the heat released by the fission in the fuel.

Professor uses diamond to produce graphene quantum dots and nano-ribbons of controlled structure

Kansas State University researchers have come closer to solving an old challenge of producing graphene quantum dots of controlled shape and size at large densities, which could revolutionize electronics and optoelectronics.

Vikas Berry, William H. Honstead professor of chemical engineering, has developed a novel process that uses a diamond knife to cleave graphite into graphite nanoblocks, which are precursors for graphene quantum dots. These nanoblocks are then exfoliated to produce ultrasmall sheets of carbon atoms of controlled shape and size.

By controlling the size and shape, the researchers can control graphene’s properties over a wide range for varied applications, such as solar cells, electronics, optical dyes, biomarkers, composites and particulate systems.

Molecular dynamics snapshot of stretched graphene being nanotomed via a diamond knife.

Nature Communications - Nanotomy-based production of transferable and dispersible graphene nanostructures of controlled shape and size

NASA's latest estimate is 4700 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids

Observations from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have led to the best assessment yet of our solar system's population of potentially hazardous asteroids. The results reveal new information about their total numbers, origins and the possible dangers they may pose. Potentially hazardous asteroids, or PHAs, are a subset of the larger group of near-Earth asteroids. The PHAs have the closest orbits to Earth's, coming within five million miles (about eight million kilometers), and they are big enough to survive passing through Earth's atmosphere and cause damage on a regional, or greater, scale. The new results come from the asteroid-hunting portion of the WISE mission, called NEOWISE. The project sampled 107 PHAs to make predictions about the entire population as a whole. Findings indicate there are roughly 4,700 PHAs, plus or minus 1,500, with diameters larger than 330 feet (about 100 meters). So far, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of these objects have been found. While previous estimates of PHAs predicted similar numbers, they were rough approximations. NEOWISE has generated a more credible estimate of the objects' total numbers and sizes.

Towards hybrid quantum systems

CORDIS - EU-funded scientists made advances in the development of a hybrid quantum system (HQS) by combining different quantum technologies. The ‘Hybrid quantum systems - integrating atomic/molecular and solid state quantum systems’ (HQS) project combined ultracold atoms with superconducting devices. Scientists considered that an ensemble of ultracold atoms could be coupled to a superconducting transmission line resonator and that the coupling strength could be enhanced by optically excited Rydberg states.

At the experimental level, a dilution refrigerator system was used to measure superconducting resonators which showed quality factors up to a million. In addition, the effect of light impinging on the resonator was tested and provided significant information for systems requiring light pulses.

The Atomchip project has the hybrid quantum system work.

Atom Chips (9 pages) are microfabricated, integrated devices in which electric, magnetic and optical fields can confine, control and manipulate cold atoms. Through miniaturization, atom chips offer a versatile new technology for implementing modern ideas in quantum optics, quantum measurement and quantum information processing. Over the last five years, there has been spectacular progress in preparing and manipulating the quantum states of atom clouds on chips. The next big challenge is manipulating single atoms, allowing them to have controlled collisions and coupling them to single photons in optical microcavities. This emerging technology will lead to new quantum devices and ultimately to quantum information processing on a chip.

China May Approve Nuclear Plan by the end of June

1. Bloomberg - China’s state council, or Cabinet, will probably hold a meeting before the end of June to approve safety and development plans for the nuclear industry, according to Xu Yuming, the vice secretary general of the China Nuclear Energy Association. The government can resume approval of new nuclear plants after the plans are passed.

China suspended new nuclear projects after last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant and prompted a global review of atomic energy plants. The policy has hurt China’s major nuclear power equipment makers, including Shanghai Electric Group Co., Dongfang Electric Corp. and Harbin Electric Co., which had long-term contracts frozen.

Construction hasn’t started on four nuclear reactors that were approved prior to the Fukushima disaster, according to Xu. The reactors are Yangjiang Nos. 4, 5 and 6, and Fuqing No. 4, he said. Two new reactors will begin operations by the end of the year, he said. The facilities at Hongyanhe and Ningde resumed construction after a nationwide safety inspection that started in April 2011.

Engine Could Boost Fuel Economy by Half

Technology Review - Delphi, a major parts supplier to automakers, is developing an engine technology that could improve the fuel economy of gas-powered cars by 50 percent, potentially rivaling the performance of hybrid vehicles while costing less. A test engine based on the technology is similar in some ways to a highly efficient diesel engine, but runs on gasoline.

The company has demonstrated the technology in a single-piston test engine under a wide range of operating conditions. It is beginning tests on a multicylinder engine that will more closely approximate a production engine. Its fuel economy estimates suggest that engines based on the technology could be far more efficient than even diesel engines. Those estimates are based on simulations of how a midsized vehicle would perform with a multicylinder version of the new engine.

The Delphi technology is the latest attempt by researchers to combine the best qualities of diesel and gasoline engines. Diesel engines are 40 to 45 percent efficient in using the energy in fuel to propel a vehicle, compared to roughly 30 percent efficiency for gasoline engines. But diesel engines are dirty and require expensive exhaust-treatment technology to meet emissions regulations.

For decades, researchers have attempted to run diesel-like engines on gasoline to achieve high efficiency with low emissions. Such engines might be cheaper than hybrid technology, since they don't require a large battery and electric motor.

Full-time Gasoline Direct-Injection Compression-Ignition (GDCI) for High Efficiency, Low NOx and Low Particulate Emissions (15 pages)

Trial run: Delphi researchers tested a new combustion strategy in this single-cylinder (hydra) test engine.
Mark Sellnau, Delphi

How complex is a mouse brain?

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science in 2003 with the aim of unlocking the secrets of the human brain. A human brain is 1,000 times as complex as a mouse brain. The neurons in a rat brain are in many respects functionally similar to those in a human brain. But given the daunting challenge of trying to understand something as complex as a human brain, brain researchers are starting with the more tractable issues involved in the operation of a mouse brain. The Allen institute is focusing its efforts on understanding how a mouse sees the world, in order to gain insights into how the brains mice and humans interpret vision. In an interview with Sander Olson for Next Big Future, Senior Scientific Director Dr. Hongkui Zeng explains why studying the brains of rodents may be the most effective method of discovering how the human brain operates.

Hongkui Zeng

Question: The Paul Allen institute has just launched three separate brain initiatives. What do these initiatives entail?

The three initiatives pertain to neural coding, cell types, and cell networks. I am overseeing the cell types program. The general goal of these programs is to attain a substantial understanding of the neural networks that operate in a human or mouse brain. Each program deals with a different level. the network level, the neuron level, and the intracellular level.

May 16, 2012

Lunar mining methods designed for the moon - suction extraction with pneumatic transport

Dr Leonhard Bernold is an Associate Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNSW (University of New South Wales. He describes using new mining technology that is adapted to mining on the moon. It is suction extraction with pneumatic transportation

Business analysts may poke fun at the “impossibly” expensive cost of mining nearby celestial bodies such as asteroids, or even the moon, but these pursuits are not beyond the realm of possibility.

Returning to the moon for the purposes of mining will require new technologies and new ways of thinking, and this extends to the conventional business model. We cannot write these pursuits off based on high cost alone, especially given the hidden treasures to be found.

I believe that after many years of experimental work in small laboratories I have come up with a mining technology that fits the lunar condition: suction extraction with pneumatic transportation.

This technology uses airflow, much like water, to transport material that is small enough it can be sucked by a Venturi process, into a pipe and transported from a high-pressure entry to a low pressure exit point.

I need to add a caveat here in that I have not tested this technology (yet) in the lunar environment. Still, it requires a minimal mass to be launched to the moon as it relies heavily on in-situ resource utilisation (ISRU).

So, rather than transporting pipes for moving minerals, my concept would use the readily available silicates and the solar heat energy available on the moon to manufacture and join glass pipes on site.

This is one cost-saving mechanism: relying on materials that are already available. It’s similar to how the First Fleet relied on fresh water, trees and stones to build houses, barracks and bridges in what would become Sydney.

A second critical feature of our mining process is that it’s a dust-free operation. Gene Cernan, a lunar astronaut on Apollo 17, highlighted my apprehension about creating dust when he said: “I think dust is probably one of our greatest inhibitors to a nominal operation on the moon.”
A pollution control device can be adapted to lunar mining the regolith

Wikipedia - Ejector venturi scrubber

Beyond the High-Speed Hard Drive: Topological Insulators Open a Path to Room-Temperature Spintronics

Strange new materials experimentally identified just a few years ago are now driving research in condensed-matter physics around the world. First theorized and then discovered by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and their colleagues in other institutions, these “strong 3-D topological insulators” – TIs for short – are seemingly mundane semiconductors with startling properties. For starters, picture a good insulator on the inside that’s a good conductor on its surface – something like a copper-coated bowling ball.

Electrons on the surface of a topological insulator can flow with little resistance. Their spin and direction are intimately related; the direction of the electron determines its spin and in turn is determined by it.

Physical Review Letters - Measurement of an Exceptionally Weak Electron-Phonon Coupling on the Surface of the Topological Insulator Bi2Se3 Using Angle-Resolved Photoemission Spectroscopy

Uranium production for 2011 was 53,494 tons

The World Nuclear Association reports 53,494 tons of uranium produced for 2011.

The WNA reference scenario projects world uranium demand as about 72,680 tU in 2015.

Some of the new mines expected to reach substantial production in the next few years are:
Vitimsky        Russia          2012
Four Mile       Australia       2013
Cigar Lake      Canada          2013
Imouraren       Niger           2014
Husab           Namibia         2014
Valencia        Namibia         2015
Omahola         Namibia         2015
Trekkopje       Namibia         2017
Morocco (phosphate by-product)  
                Morocco         2017
Dornod          Mongolia        2018

WNA expects 2012 production to be 52,221 tU. UxC predicts about 63,600 tU in 2012.

Prolonged low dose radiation study at 400 times background levels finds no DNA effect

A new study from MIT scientists suggests that the guidelines governments use to determine when to evacuate people following a nuclear accident may be too conservative.

The study, led by Bevin Engelward and Jacquelyn Yanch and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that when mice were exposed to radiation doses about 400 times greater than background levels for five weeks, no DNA damage could be detected

Environmental Health Perspectives - Integrated Molecular Analysis Indicates Undetectable DNA Damage in Mice after Continuous Irradiation at ~400-fold Natural Background Radiation

Nvidia launches GPU GeForce Cloud Gaming and in the Fall of 2012 Nividia will power 20 petaflop supercomputer at ORNL

May 15, 2012

North Dakota can reach and sustain for several years 2 million barrels of oil per day

Oil Production Potential of the North Dakota Bakken (James Mason, Feb 2012, 12 pages). Article accepted for publication in the Oil and Gas Journal

North Dakota can sustain 1.5 million to 2.0 million barrels of oil per day for many years depending upon how the Bakken oil reserve is chosen to be managed. Also, improvements in oil drilling and recovery technology could increase the amount of oil that is recovered and increase the peak level of oil production.

Areal extent and geologic stratification of the Bakken formation. Shaded areas are the Bakken formation. USGS map

The Bakken Formation lies within the Williston Basin, which is an ancient seabed, and extends over parts of North Dakota, Montana, and Saskatchewan, Canada, as shown above. A conservative estimate of the total oil-in-place in the Bakken Formation is 300 Bbbl, but it is locked in impermeable rock. Continental Resources places the quantity of recoverable oil in the U.S. Bakken at 24.3 Billion barrels. Horizontal drilling and hydro-fracturing makes commercial scale oil production possible. Horizontal wells are drilled into the Middle Bakken and the underlying Three Forks reservoirs, and hydro-fracturing creates pathways for the flow of oil from these reservoirs and possibly the Upper and Lower members of the Bakken Formation.

Based on an average well production profile for wells with a 500 Mbbl EUR, the number of wells to sustain 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0 million barrels per day of oil production rates for thirty years is 27,000 wells, 41,000 wells, and 55,000 wells respectively.

Telomerase Gene Therapy increase mice lifespan by 24% without increasing cancer

CNIO (Spain) Scientist successfully test the first gene therapy against aging associated decline

• The first anti-­aging therapy potentially applicable in humans that acts directly on the genes

• The research provides a “proof-­‐of-­‐principle” that this “feasible and safe” approach can effectively “improve healthspan”

Mouse lifespan extended up to 24% with a single treatment.

EMBO Molecular Medicine - Telomerase gene therapy in adult and old mice delays aging and increases longevity without increasing cancer

A major goal in aging research is to improve health during aging. In the case of mice, genetic manipulations that shorten or lengthen telomeres result, respectively, in decreased or increased longevity. Based on this, we have tested the effects of a telomerase gene therapy in adult (1 year of age) and old (2 years of age) mice. Treatment of 1- and 2-year old mice with an adeno associated virus (AAV) of wide tropism expressing mouse TERT had remarkable beneficial effects on health and fitness, including insulin sensitivity, osteoporosis, neuromuscular coordination and several molecular biomarkers of aging. Importantly, telomerase-treated mice did not develop more cancer than their control littermates, suggesting that the known tumorigenic activity of telomerase is severely decreased when expressed in adult or old organisms using AAV vectors. Finally, telomerase-treated mice, both at 1-year and at 2-year of age, had an increase in median lifespan of 24 and 13%, respectively. These beneficial effects were not observed with a catalytically inactive TERT, demonstrating that they require telomerase activity. Together, these results constitute a proof-of-principle of a role of TERT in delaying physiological aging and extending longevity in normal mice through a telomerase-based treatment, and demonstrate the feasibility of anti-aging gene therapy.

Some commercial products that claim to lengthen telomeres

Most diseases have some correlation to short telomeres. Telomeres are the tips or ends of chromosomes.

When we are conceived we have 15000 bases in our telomeres, when we are born we have 10,000 teleomeres when we get down to 5000 bases in our telomeres we seem to get a lot of cell disfunction and disease.

FightAging has coverage

TA65 is a product that claims to lengthen telomeres
Stem Cell 100 also claims to lengthen telomeres
ProductV from Isogenics and T -Activator 100 (from telomere biosciences) also claim to lengthen telomeres

Zettaflops Will Happen Says HPC Analyst

While Thomas Sterling’s interview about the impossibility of reaching zettaflops made a lot of sense, the history of making negative predictions about technology is often an embarrassing one.

Note - Thomas Sterling left himself an out that entirely new architectures could achieve zettaflops. So John Barr and Thomas Sterling are in general agreement.

HPCWire - John Barr of Research Director High Performance Computing at 451 Research believes that Zettaflop supercomputers will be achieved.

If we wind back the clock to the days of megaflops, there were no commodity microprocessors (i.e,. the killer micros that put paid to many proprietary architectures), there were no multicore processor. Indeed the Cray-1 was a single processor machine. There was no OpenMP, no MPI and compute accelerators were the size of a fridge and cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Who would have thought that today’s HPC systems would use compute accelerators the size of a paperback book that were millions of times more powerful and cost a small fraction of the price? And I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been told that the next generation of microprocessors will be the last major advance as the photolithography techniques used to manufacture chips had reached a limit, beyond which decreasing the size of devices was impossible. The industry has achieved the impossible before, and will do so again.

Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors placed on an integrated circuit would double every two years, is often understood to mean that performance will double every two years (some say 18 months). What started life as an observation, has become the target that marketing men guarantee and engineering budgets are set against. And the straight line graphs that technologists use to predict the future suggest that zettaflops systems will be built around the year 2030.

Professor Sterling pioneered the use of compute clusters and is a Gordon Bell Prize winner. He has excellent credentials in HPC, and I can’t refute a single fact that he put forward in his interview -- indeed, I am generally in full agreement with insights on the issues the industry faces -- but I am certain that he is wrong in his conclusion.

IMEC to detail memristor progress at VLSI Symposia

EETimes - IMEC (Leuven, Belgium), claims RRAM will be ready for reliable mass production below 20 nanometers, will describe its cross-bar architecture. IMEC claims the architecture is denser, faster and lower-power than flash, but suitable to replace any memory type, including DRAMs.

IMEC and other research groups backing variations of the memristor claim that, in the future, a single universal memory technology will replace flash memory and all vintages of random-access memories. The memristor was invented by by professor Leon Chua at the University of California-Berkeley and has been championed by Hewlett-Packard Co.

"HP is using the term memristor to describe a device which has certain I-V characteristics," said Malgorzata Jurczak, program manager memory devices at IMEC. "But such I-V characteristics are typical to any RRAM cell using oxygen vacancy migration in transition metal oxide."

IMEC is saying that memristors are just a type of RRAM.

IMEC's resistive random access memory (RRAM) sandwiches hafnium-oxide memristive material between metal electrodes.

North Dakota produces 575,490 bpd of oil in March, second highest oil producing state after Texas

North Dakota produced 575,490 barrels of oil per day in March, 2012. This is second most for a state, behind Texas This was a 17,245 bpd increase over the prior month.

UDPATE- An analysis of the rate of drilling that is needed for North Dakota to get to 1.5 to 2.0 million barrels of oil per day.

North Dakota produced an average of 575,490 barrels of crude oil every day in March, another record, according to Lynn Helms, director of the state’s Department of Mineral Resources. The crude is coming from a record 6,636 wells. In February, the state produced 558,255 barrels and had 6,450 wells.

The number of rigs drilling in the state was at 208 on Monday, about where it has been for eight months, including a record 212 drilling for a day or two earlier this month. North Dakota’s new record output of crude surpassed the steadily declining output of Alaska, which saw its production fall to 567,481 barrels per day in March, down nearly 15,000 barrels per day from February, said Stephen McMains of the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Monday.

Meanwhile, Texas’ production has been rising steadily by 12 percent since September, to 1.72 million barrels per day in February, the latest figures available from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which tracks state and federal crude oil production. Meg Coleman, a geologist with the EIA, said preliminary figures make it appear Texas’ production increased in March.

Texas is also rapidly increasing its oil production using horizontal drilling into Eagle Ford and the Permian Basin.

By the end of 2012, North Dakota should be over 700,000 bpd and could be over 800,000 bpd. Texas should be over 2 million bpd.

North Dakota monthly oil statistics

May 14, 2012

Correcting the numbers on Build the Enterprise

Crowlspace corrects various errors with Build the enterprise

Build the Enterprise, hit the news because of the author’s rather quixotic call to build a real interplanetary version of that most famous fictional starship lineage

I was directly emailed about the site but held off on a posting.

1. I suspected there were some significant calculation problems
2. The idea of spending a trillion over twenty years for this is not something I endorse. I think the trillion dollar estimate is low and justifying because we wasted over a $100 to 200 billion on each of the space station and on the space shuttle is not a good plan. I would rather put money into bootstrapping into space and focusing on lowering costs. Get a fully reusable Space or Blue Origin system and work on fuel depots and other systems for lowering costs. I would also put money into non-space goals like SENS life extension, molecular nanotechnology and various approaches to nuclear fusion, deep burn fission and LENR

Numbers in Build the Enterprise

Running the numbers, the figures are wrong, wrong, wrong.

Here’s a preliminary list.

(1) Wet mass is quoted as 84,822 tons. Propellant load is 12,474 tons. Yet elsewhere, in pounds, it’s 187 million/55 million. Inexplicably the propellant mass has been halved. To get to Mars in 90 days with the quoted mass-ratio, (187/(187-55))= 1.42, means a very high exhaust velocity is required. Exhaust velocity and jet-power are inextricably related by:

P = 1/2.T.v

where P is the jet-power, T the thrust and v the exhaust velocity. To get to Mars in 90 days requires a high delta-vee (dv) – enough to travel to Mars on a short trajectory, against the Sun’s gravity, then matching to Mars’ orbital velocity. With a VASIMR that low mass-ratio might get it to Mars in 90 days – with a dry tank. The 0.002 gee acceleration quoted however is IMPOSSIBLE. Thrust, T = M.a i.e. mass (84,822,000 kg) times 0.0196 m/s^2 = 1,662,511 newtons thrust. With a bit of algebra we find that with a 1.5 GW jet-power the exhaust velocity is an impossibly low 1,262 m/s. A reasonable exhaust velocity (high-thrust VASIMR mode) is 15,000 m/s – meaning a maximum acceleration of ~0.00024 gee or a jet-power of nearly 25 gigawatts.

However a lot more propellant will be needed if the vehicle thrusts all the way at that exhaust velocity, so on a typical trip to Mars a VASIMR steadily builds up the exhaust velocity to a maximum 300 km/s at the half-way point, then a steady decline as the vehicle slows down for Mars arrival.

Often people will say VASIMR can get to Mars in 39 days. They don’t often say what power and fuel that requires. To reach Mars in 39 days also required that particular VASIMR option to aerobrake into orbit around Mars – something not recommended for a large vehicle like “Enterprise”. The required propellant mass would be 230,000 tons, and the power source would mass 48,285 tons, while delivering 96.6 GW of electrical power to the engines. A 90 day mission is far less challenging in technological terms.

Wearable brain scanner could give computers insight into how hard you're thinking

Technology Review - researchers at MIT and Tufts are experimenting with a way for computers to gain a little insight into our inner world.

Their system, called Brainput, is designed to recognize when a person's workload is excessive and then automatically modify a computer interface to make it easier. The researchers used a lightweight, portable brain monitoring technology, called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), that determines when a person is multitasking. Analysis of the brain scan data was then fed into a system that adjusted the user's workload at those times. A computing system with Brainput could, in other words, learn to give you a break.

Mental load: A user tries the Brainput system. Erin Treacy Solovey

China targets increasing Managers, Professionals and skilled workers from 120 million to 180 million

China Daily - China had 120 million managerial, professional and skilled workers at the end of 2010, up by 7.8 million from 2008. They accounted for 11.1 percent of the country's labor force, according to statistics released on Monday.

Among the talent pool are nearly 30 million business management personnel, 55.5 million technical professionals, 28.6 million highly skilled personnel and around 10.5 million rural staff with practical skills.

The investment in human capital was equivalent to 12 percent of GDP in 2010.

Such investment includes spending in education, health, and research and development, according to the latest figures.

One-eighth of the working-age population has received higher education, up from less than one in 10 in 2008.

China plans to enlarge its talent pool to 180 million by 2020, which would account for 16 percent of the labor force, according to the country's talent development plan for 2010-2020.

The plan also forecasts that one-fifth of its population of working age would have received higher education by that time.

Graphene and Carbon nanotubes faster computers and better mobile phones

Graphene and carbon nanotubes could improve the electronics used in computers and mobile phones, reveals new research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Carbon nanotubes and graphene are both made up of carbon and have unique properties. Graphene comprises an atom-thick layer of carbon atoms, while carbon nanotubes can be likened to a graphene sheet that has been rolled up to form a tube.

"If you stretch a graphene sheet from end to end the thin layer can oscillate at a basic frequency of getting on for a billion times a second," says researcher Anders Nordenfelt. "This is the same frequency range used by radios, mobile phones and computers."

Self Oscillations and Cooling of Carbon Based NEMS Devices (73 page thesis)

Dense Plasma Focus Fusion the road to net gain and then to commercialization

Getting to net gain over the next year or two

Focus Fusion Forum - Feasibility to become a net power producer fusing pB11 aneutronic fuel…. as outlined by Eric Lerner in the May 1st 2012 Agrion Webinar.

To gain higher yield and to attain “feasibility” the following steps are being done over the course of the next year (2012):

1) The “teeth that chew the sheath” tungsten crown to regularize the filaments - 10-100x yield
2) Full power output of Capacitors and to ‘Imitate’ the heavier mixture of pB11 by using Deuterium/Nitrogen.
3) Shorter Electrodes, slower run down, more fill gas.
4) New Raytheon switches for more Current from capacitors - 10x yield.
5) Switch to pB11 (incrementally higher percentage from the D/N mix) - 15x yield.
Goal: 30 kJ* gross fusion energy per shot proves feasibility of a positive net power output Generator using aneutronic fuel!
*A 5MW production reactor would have about 66 kJ gross fusion yield per shot*

From another comment about the Raytheon Switches (point 4)

FoFu-1 has been hampered by switch problems since its inception. The Raytheon switches, if they are the one I know of, will improve reliability dramatically. They are used on a 1 MA pulse power system that fires at 1 Hz and holds off 200 kV. Look up the linear transformer driver if you want to know more. I’m guessing these are the little brothers but they are good switches. They are talked about at many conferences. A few folks I know use them and they frequently comment on the high quality of the switches.

To my knowledge only a few groups operate their PF device at more than 1 Hz. The SRL group operated a PF using solid state up to 80 Hz at 260 kA. The NTU/NIE group in Singapore can operate two devices at up to 10 Hz. A few others operate at 1 Hz and above (~80 kA and ~300 kA) but they are rare. I’ve heard rumors of an Italian PF at 1 MA and 1 Hz but I haven’t come across any data. They were interested in radioisotope production so they would publish in journals I don’t frequent. I haven’t run across any talks at meetings I usually attend. The group I work in is using thyratron switches for 10 Hz, 60 kA and a type of spark gap for 0.25 MA, 1 Hz. Very few people have interests above ~10 Hz. The beauty of the PF and Z-pinches for most folks is the strong non-linear scaling in yield with current.

Technical Details and Applications about Dense Plasma Focus Fusion (2011)

After the net gain is proven the 100 person engineering problem ($30 million to solve three problems), (from 4:00 minutes to 10 minutes in the video)
1. How to get the waste heat out of the 5 MW device
2. Need 80% efficiency in the ion beam converter
3. Need high efficiency in the x-ray converter

Cannot go to thermal heat cycle. 80% of the costs for thermal are for the turbines etc.. So even if there was a free burner then by using the heat cycle you cannot get costs below 80%. Efficiency of conversion goes way down and it might make it impossible to reach breakeven.

The electrode gets the most wear and tear. They hope the electrode will last a month and get replace in a two hour maintenance procedure. The machine would last indefinitely and all of the parts are replaceable. The 5 megawatt size has great advantages to place it right next to the load. Put it at the substations.

Creating distribution infrastructure is cheaper than transmission structure.

What world per capita energy demands mean for energy infrastructure

3,000 kWhr per person per year is just to have what we consider a decent life, this means the world must produce over 30 trillion kWhrs per year just to eradicate global poverty, war and terrorism.

The 3000 kilowatt hour per person per year plan is less than half of the energy used by European countries and one quarter of what is used by the United States. If the rest of the world catches up to current levels of developed world wealth then this level of per capita energy use is a lower end expectation and does not allow for people to achieve greater wealth. Two to three times the per capita energy is a better plan for the mid 21st century.

Nationmaster has the energy consumption per capita by nation.

# 11 United States: 12,747 kWh per capita (2008)
# 23 Japan: 7,701 kWh per capita (2006)
# 28 France: 7,328 kWh per capita (2006)
# 37 Germany: 6,642 kWh per capita (2007)
# 72 Poland: 3,357 kWh per capita (2007)
# 82 Turkey: 2,755 kWh per capita (2008)
# 86 China: 2,585 kWh per capita (2008)

Without a more sustainable and balanced energy mix, the increase in fossil fuels will be appalling and costly, and the environmental effects devastating. To counter this future dystopia, we propose a ⅓-⅓-⅓: a third fossil fuel, a third renewable and a third nuclear. To achieve this will require heroic efforts and infrastructure construction on a scale this planet has never seen:

a. Replacement of all existing coal with a combination of combined cycle gas and fluidized bed coal reactors which are somewhat cleaner,

b. 3 trillion kWhrs/year from hydroelectric

c. 1,700 new nuclear reactors to produce electricity totaling 10 trillion kWhrs/year from GenIII and GenIV designs including small modulars (China, alone, is planning about 400 new reactors)

d. Over two million 3+ MW wind turbines or equivalent totaling 3 trillion kWhrs/year

e. Concentrated, ordinary and distributed solar arrays totaling 3 trillion kWhrs/year

f. 100 bbl/yr of biofuels from algae, cellulosics and high-efficiency biomass, not ethanol

g. Over a trillion kWhrs/year from other alternatives such as wave, tidal and biogas.

The cost to implement and operate this mix will be about $65 trillion over 50 years, about $30 trillion of that in construction alone.

A business-as-usual mix of two-thirds fossil fuel would cost about the same to provide 30 trillion kWhrs/yr, with slightly less capital costs but more fuel and O&M costs.) About 2% of global GDP will be needed annually to provide for either of these futures

Electricity Generated from Viruses

Berkeley Lab has a new approach that is a promising first step toward the development of tiny devices that harvest electrical energy from everyday tasks.

Imagine charging your phone as you walk, thanks to a paper-thin generator embedded in the sole of your shoe. This futuristic scenario is now a little closer to reality. Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a way to generate power using harmless viruses that convert mechanical energy into electricity.

The scientists tested their approach by creating a generator that produces enough current to operate a small liquid-crystal display. It works by tapping a finger on a postage stamp-sized electrode coated with specially engineered viruses. The viruses convert the force of the tap into an electric charge.

Their generator is the first to produce electricity by harnessing the piezoelectric properties of a biological material. Piezoelectricity is the accumulation of a charge in a solid in response to mechanical stress.

Systematic Approach to find Topological Insulators Using a Master List of 2000 Ingredients to Screen Materials

Physics World - First predicted in 2005 and confirmed in the lab in 2007, topological insulators (TI) are perhaps the hottest material in condensed-matter physics these days. As well as constituting a new phase of quantum matter that should keep physicists busy for some time, the material has recently been shown to harbour quasiparticles resembling Majorana fermions. First predicted by the Italian physicist Ettore Majorana in 1937, such particles could be used to store and transmit quantum information without being perturbed by the outside world. As such, they could find use in the quantum computers of the future.

Researchers at Duke University in the US believe that, until now, discoveries have been based on trial and error.

To encourage a more systematic approach, Stefano Curtarolo and colleagues have created a “master ingredient list” that describes the properties of more than 2000 compounds that could be combined to make TIs. The clever bit of the work is a mathematical formulation that helps database users search for potential TIs that are predicted to have certain desirable properties.

The system is based on Duke’s Materials Genome Repository, which has already been used to develop both scintillating and thermoelectric materials.

According to Curtarolo, the system gives practical advice about the expected properties of a candidate material – for example, whether it will be extremely fragile or robust.

Commenting on the fragile materials, Curtarolo says “We can rule those combinations out because what good is a new type of crystal if it would be too difficult to grow, or if grown, would not likely survive?”

Nature Materials - A search model for topological insulators with high-throughput robustness descriptors

Microcavity-Integrated Graphene Photodetector

Nano Letters - Microcavity-Integrated Graphene Photodetector

There is an increasing interest in using graphene for optoelectronic applications. However, because graphene is an inherently weak optical absorber (only ≈2.3% absorption), novel concepts need to be developed to increase the absorption and take full advantage of its unique optical properties. We demonstrate that by monolithically integrating graphene with a Fabry-Pérot microcavity, the optical absorption is 26-fold enhanced, reaching values greater than 60%. We present a graphene-based microcavity photodetector with responsivity of 21 mA/W. Our approach can be applied to a variety of other graphene devices, such as electro-absorption modulators, variable optical attenuators, or light emitters, and provides a new route to graphene photonics with the potential for applications in communications, security, sensing and spectroscopy.

Microcavity-Integrated Graphene Photodetector

In 2010, IBM demonstrated graphene photodetectors at 40 gbps

Carnival of Space 249

The Carnival of Space 249 is up at Riding with Robots

Examiner - Is Newt Gingrich's Moon Colony Idea Dead? Not Yet

Despite the derision the moon colony idea received in some quarters, Gingrich’s vision did have resonance.

Writing in Bloomberg, for example, Jeffrey Goldberg uttered the plea, “Let Space Shuttle Demise Awaken Gingrich Dream,” suggesting that America needs a space vision to replace the shuttle and that Gingrich’s moon base fits the bill.

Centauri Dreams - Richard Gott believes we may be as close to the end of the space program as to its beginning. Centauri Dreams looks at Gott's views and ponders his emphasis on a Mars colony as a way of ensuring species survival and continued expansion into the cosmos.

China's Broad Group Factory Mass Produced High Quality Construction

Financial Post - Prefabrication has long been studied but not widely implemented in commercial buildings, says Steven Moore, professor of sustainable design at the University of Texas.

But despite an image of assembly-line flimsiness, “prefabrication can contribute to higher-quality construction, which in turn improves efficiency with less energy consumption,” Moore said.

“What I find interesting about what they’re doing is that they’re now becoming almost like automobile makers,” by adapting prefab techniques to construction, Moore said in an interview.

Broad’s use of non-electric chillers powered by natural gas and waste heat is a significant step for greater energy efficiency.

“It’s very easy to learn the construction — all the workers need to do is fasten the bolts,” said Liu Zhijian, a 23-year-old site worker from the nearby city of Loudi.

“There’s no welding, no dust, no water,” he said. “It’s not at all like traditional construction, which is all about bricks and concrete.”

The process keeps costs down as well, about 4,000 yuan (US$635) per square metre. At 4,500 square metres, the cafeteria comes to 18 million yuan (US$2.8-million). Broad says that is up to 30% cheaper than conventional buildings.

A combination photo shows the progress (from top to bottom) of constructing the three-storey D3 cafeteria by the Broad Group in Yueyang, Hunan province between April 24 to May 7, 2012.

New Computer Optimization Indicates Antimatter beamed core propulsion could achieve 69% of light speed instead of 33%

Arxiv - Beamed Core Antimatter Propulsion: Engine Design and Optimization (18 pages)

A conceptual design for beamed core antimatter propulsion is reported, where electrically charged annihilation products directly generate thrust after being deflected and collimated by a magnetic nozzle. Simulations were carried out using the Geant4 (Geometry and tracking) software toolkit released by the CERN accelerator laboratory for Monte Carlo simulation of the interaction of particles with matter and fields. Geant permits a more sophisticated and comprehensive design and optimization of antimatter engines than the software environment for simulations reported by prior researchers. The main finding is that effective exhaust speeds Ve ~ 0.69c (where c is the speed of light) are feasible for charged pions in beamed core propulsion, a major improvement over the Ve ~ 0.33c estimate based on prior simulations. The improvement resulted from optimization of the geometry and the field configuration of the magnetic nozzle. Moreover, this improved performance is realized using a magnetic field on the order of 10 Telsa at the location of its highest magnitude. Such a field could be produced with today's technology, whereas prior nozzle designs anticipated and required major advances in this area. The paper also briefly reviews prospects for production of the fuel needed for a beamed core engine.

Technology Review - The maximum speed of a rocket depends on its exhaust velocity, the fraction of mass devoted to fuel and the configuration of the rocket stages. "The latter two factors depend strongly on fine details of engineering and construction, and when considering space propulsion for the distant future, it seems appropriate to defer the study of such specifics," say Keane and Zhang.

In the past, various physicists have calculated that the pions should travel at over 90 per cent the speed of light but that the nozzle would be only 36 per cent efficient. That translates into an average exhaust velocity of only a third of lightspeed, barely relativistic and somewhat of a disappointment for antimatter propulsion fans.

The new work indicates the pions should travel at 80 per cent the speed of light but that the nozzle would be 85 per cent efficient.

These guys have another surprise up their sleeve. Their nozzle has a magnetic field strength of around 12 Tesla. "Such a field could be produced with today’s technology, whereas prior nozzle designs anticipated and required major advances in this area," they say.

Lead Sulphide quantum dot crystals on graphene for photodetectors with 50% light absorption

Economist - Silicon photodetectors are inflexible, not particularly cheap, not that sensitive and absorb only 10-20% of the light that falls on to them. For years, therefore, engineers have been on the lookout for a cheap, bendable, sensitive photodetector. Such a device could have many novel applications—wearable electronics, for example. With a little clever engineering, graphene seems to fit the bill. By itself, graphene is worse than silicon at absorbing light. According to Dr Koppens only 2.7% of the photons falling on it are captured. But he and his colleague Gerasimos Konstantatos have managed to increase this to more than 50% by spraying tiny crystals of lead sulphide onto the surface of the graphene.

These lead sulphide crystals are so small (three to ten nanometres across, a nanometre being a billionth of a metre) that they are known as quantum dots, because at dimensions measured in nanometres the weird effects of quantum mechanics start to manifest themselves. One such is that the size of a quantum dot affects the colour of the light it best absorbs. The larger the dot, the redder that light; the smaller, conversely, the bluer. This allows Dr Koppens and Dr Konstantatos to span all wavelengths from ultraviolet to infra-red, greatly increasing the utility of any photodetector that might emerge. Infra-red, for example, is important in telecoms and night-vision applications. Visible wavelengths, by contrast, are needed for cameras and solar cells.

Hybrid graphene–quantum dot phototransistor.

Nature Nanotechnology - Hybrid graphene–quantum dot phototransistors with ultrahigh gain

Intel Begins Work on 7nm, 5nm Process Technologies

Xbit Labs - Paul Otellini, chief executive of Intel Corp. said that the company had begun to work on 7 and a 5 nanometer process technologies. The company's plans now are to equip its Oregon, Arizona and Irelands fabs to make chips using 14 nanometer fabrication processes.

May 13, 2012

Gene Therapy enhancement of IGF-1 production triples endurance in mice

New Scientist - Athletes trying to cheat by loading their bodies with genes that make muscles bigger and more efficient could be caught if forced to supply muscle biopsies, but not through the analysis of urine or blood samples.

Giacca's team created mice loaded with extra copies of the muscle-boosting gene IGF-1, which codes for the protein insulin-like growth factor 1, by injecting its limbs with a virus that implants IGF-1 into muscle cells. They then tested the animals' endurance by recording how long they could swim before exhaustion. The doped mice swam for three times as long as mice that received the virus but not IGF-1.

Autopsies showed that the extra IGF-1 triggered the production of 10 times more protein than normal in the muscles. Giacca also saw activity soar in genes controlling energy production, contraction of muscles and respiration. Also detectable in the muscle were traces of the virus used to deliver the genes. However, the gene, protein and virus were undetectable in blood or urine from the mice

Human Gene Therapy - Enhanced Athletic Performance on Multisite AAV-IGF1 Gene Transfer Coincides with Massive Modification of the Muscle Proteome

The fictional superhero, Captain America, has enhanced endurance and enhance strength.

Electronic retinas for blind in the UK, Germany and China

BBC News - Two British men who have been totally blind for many years have had part of their vision restored after surgery to fit pioneering eye implants.

They are able to perceive light and even some shapes from the devices which were fitted behind the retina.

The men are part of a clinical trial carried out at the Oxford Eye Hospital and King's College Hospital in London.

The two patients, Chris James and Robin Millar, lost their vision due to a condition known as retinitis pigmentosa, where the photoreceptor cells at the back of the eye gradually cease to function.

The wafer-thin, 3mm square microelectronic chip has 1,500 light-sensitive pixels which take over the function of the photoreceptor rods and cones.

The surgery involves placing it behind the retina from where a fine cable runs to a control unit under the skin behind the ear.

Retina Implant AG, the leading developer of subretinal implants for patients blinded by retinitis pigmentosa (RP), today announced that the first UK patients participating in the Company’s multi-centre trial have been successfully implanted. The UK trial is set to include 12 patients in total.

Retina Implant’s subretinal implant technology has been in clinical trials for more than six years. Patients involved in Retina Implant’s clinical trials have received a 3x3 mm2 microchip with 1,500 electrodes implanted below the retina. Results from the Company’s first human clinical trial published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B in November 2010 showed placement of the implant below the retina, in the macular region, provided optimum visual results allowing patients to recognise foreign objects and to read letters to form words. The second human clinical trial began in May 2010, in which patients were implanted with Retina Implant’s new wireless device in Germany, indicated even better visual acuity. The multi-centre phase of this trial was expanded in late 2011 and now includes two additional sites in Germany, and the UK, as well as a site in China. In fact, Retina Implant announced today the first of three patients to be implanted at the University of Hong Kong Eye Institute has regained useful sight after receiving Retina Implant’s microchip. Sites in Italy, Hungary and the U.S. are also under agreement to participate.

Data from the first nine patients implanted in Germany in this current trial indicate the best visual acuity to-date, with the majority of patients experiencing restoration of useful vision in daily life. The vast majority of patients are experiencing visual perception indoors and outdoors in both dim and bright environments. Additionally, patients have reported the ability to see objects 30 feet away and to read numbers on a pair of dice.

X-ray of skull showing position of chip with cable running to control unit

Eye Implants

Technology Review - Retinal implants powered by light could reverse some vision loss with simple surgery.

The new implant, which works like a combination digital imaging chip and photovoltaic array, requires much less bulky hardware than previous designs. The devices have yet to be tested in live animals or human patients, but the implants are creating excitement among researchers because they have greater pixel densities and may restore more vision than other retinal prosthetics being worked on.

Light-powered eyes: This photovoltaic retinal prosthesis is a flexible sheet of silicon pixels that convert light into electrical signals that can be picked up by neurons in the eye. A scanning-electron micrograph shows the implant in a pig’s eye. Nature Photonics/Stanford

BIONIC EYE - A system being tested in rats may partially restore sight for some blind people. A handheld computer processes images from a video camera that sits on specialized goggles. Lasers inside the goggles send that information to photovoltaic chips implanted in the eye, stimulating nerve cells that send information to the brain. The person then perceives the images seen by the camera.James Loudin/Nature Photonics

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 104

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 104 is up at Atomic Power Review Atomic Insights Nuclear fission qualifies as "ultra low carbon" power; natural gas does not In the power system marketing wars, both nuclear fission and natural gas are currently labeled as “low carbon” sources of electricity. Even though nuclear fission reactors can be clean enough to run inside sealed submarines, the forces who oppose nuclear energy insist that there is enough CO2 produced in the fuel cycle and in the plant construction processes to prevent the use of the term “zero carbon” in any marketing literature. It is time to take a page from the American Petroleum Institute (API) and start branding nuclear energy as "ultra low carbon" power. We need to emphasize the difference between an average nuclear plant lifecycle emission 17 grams/kilowatt-hour and a minimum of 400 gms/kilowatt hour at a plant burning natural

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