September 08, 2012

Carnival of nuclear energy 121

1. Canadian Energy Issues - Carbon capture and recycle: the new frontier in Canadian synfuel expertise

Canada is the world leader in synthetic fuel production. It is also a leading civilian nuclear state. Steve Aplin argues that the two fields are symbiotic, and that nuclear fission could provide the decisive energetic leverage for ultra-low-carbon hydrocarbon fuels that are chemically identical to the petroleum-based fuels we use today.

2. Thorium MSR - Another welcome book about Thorium but more by Robert Hargraves

Book review of latest book on Thorium molten salt reactors. Much more than just a plug for the LFTR and MSRs

Off topic - Used to Know Parodies and some other videos

China kicking debt problem into the future works as long they get twice as rich every 7 years or so

In the Diplomat, Minxin Pei (professor of government) tries to raise an alarm about the debt levels at China's banks and local government. This has been an issue that has been discussed for at least two years.

The global "wall" of nonfinancial corporate debt maturities coming due from 2012 to 2016 is not new to market observers. Less discussed is the incremental financing that corporate debt issuers will need over this period to fund capital expenditure and working capital growth. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services estimates the total amount of refinancing and new money requirements over the next five years at between $43 trillion and $46 trillion. This demand for funds will potentially compound the credit rationing that may occur as banks seek to restructure their balance sheets, and bond and equity investors reassess their risk-return thresholds. These factors, amid the current eurozone crisis, a soft U.S. economic recovery following the Great Recession, and the prospect of slowing Chinese growth, raise the downside risk of a perfect storm for credit markets, in our view.

Our assumption is that there is sufficient capital market and bank lending capacity to absorb the majority of the $30 trillion that we estimate nonfinancial corporate borrowers will need to refinance over the next five years in the U.S., euro area, the U.K., China, and Japan. However, the $13 trillion to $16 trillion required to fund future growth could be more at risk. Given our expectation that certain borrowers may find the availability of bank financing more limited than in the past--and when available, at a higher cost with likely more onerous terms and conditions--alternative providers of debt financing may be set for a new challenge.

If China kicks the debt issue down the road into 2017, then China's nominal GDP is $14 to 18 trillion. The current debts could have grown by 20% at that point.

Europe, Japan and the United States with slow growth are unable to noticeably grow faster than the debt interest.

Deferring the "debt bomb" will work for China. The debts of Greece, Spain, and Italy do not work out that way.

OCCAMS: Optically Controlled and Corrected Active Meta-material Space Structures

This is a phase 2 NASA NIAC study which could reduce the cost of space telescopes by 250 times. Beyond Hubble class space telescopes could cost a few million instead of a few billion dollars. The mirror costs would be reduced by over 500 times.

Photons weigh nothing. Why must even small space telescopes have high mass? Our team has demonstrated this is not the case using a completely novel approach to producing and correcting active optical primary mirrors to be used specifically for NASA’s future large space telescope missions. Unprecedented advances in nano-engineered meta-materials have produced a laser actuated liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) polymer substrate with controllable reversible bi-directional bending. Using our novel optically controlled molecular actuators allows substitution of optically induced control for rigidity and mass.

Development of optics for space telescopes has traditionally been one of the most risky and costly facets of astronomy missions. The advancement of science is a function of the tools at hand. The level of tools is based on materials available. Nano-engineered meta-materials stand today as semiconductors did 50 years ago ready to transform our knowledge of the cosmos.

Orbiting Rainbows: Optical Manipulation of Aerosols and the Beginnings of Future Space Construction

Another NASA NIAC phase 1 funded study. This one takes advantage of certain places in space having almost no gravitational effects which enables things of very large size to be placed without needing a structure to hold them in place.

Our objective is to investigate the conditions to manipulate and maintain the shape of an orbiting cloud of dust-like matter so that it can function as an ultra-lightweight surface with useful and adaptable electromagnetic characteristics, for instance, in the optical, RF, or microwave bands. Inspired by the light scattering and focusing properties of distributed optical assemblies in Nature, such as rainbows and aerosols, and by recent laboratory successes in optical trapping and manipulation, we propose a unique combination of space optics and autonomous robotic system technology, to enable a new vision of space system architecture with applications to ultra-lightweight space optics and, ultimately, in-situ space system fabrication. Typically, the cost of an optical system is driven by the size and mass of the primary aperture. The ideal system is a cloud of spatially disordered dust-like objects that can be optically manipulated: it is highly reconfigurable, fault-tolerant, and allows very large aperture sizes at low cost.

Robotic Asteroid Prospector (RAP) Staged from L-1: Start of the Deep Space Economy

Another of the most recent NASA NIAC phase 1 studies.

The objectives of the Robotic Asteroid Prospector (RAP) project are to examine and evaluate the feasibility of asteroid mining in terms of means, methods, and systems. This study decomposes the challenge of asteroid mining into four key efforts:

1. Mission design, including trajectory and logistics from an Earth-Moon Lagrange Point (EMLP) to the asteroid and return to that EMLP,
2. Spacecraft design including propulsion and Mission operations,
3. Mining technology for microgravity and vacuum operations, and
4. How these efforts can add up to a business case for asteroid mining

High-Temperature Superconductors as Electromagnetic Deployment and Support Structures for building bigger things in space

In our NIAC Phase I study, awarded September 2011, the MIT Space Systems Lab (MIT SSL) began investigating a new structural and mechanical technique aimed at reducing the mass and increasing the stowed-to-deployed ratio of spacecraft systems. This technique uses the magnetic fields from current passing through coils of high temperature superconductors (HTSs) to support spacecraft structures and deploy them to operational configurations from their positions as stowed inside a launch vehicle fairing. The chief limiting factor in spacecraft design today is the prohibitively large launch cost per unit mass. Therefore, the reduction of spacecraft mass has been a primary design driver for the last several decades. The traditional approach to the reduction of spacecraft mass is the optimization of actuators and structures to use the minimum material required for support, deployment, and interconnection. Isogrid panels, aluminum or composites, and gas-filled inflatable beams all reduce the mass of material necessary to build a truss or otherwise apply surface forces to a spacecraft structure. We instead look at using electromagnetic body forces generated by HTSs to reduce the need for material, load bearing support, and standoffs on spacecraft by maintaining spacing, stability, and position of elements with respect to one another.

Spiderfab was the other NASA NIAC project for building bigger in space. Spiderfab would use additive manufacturing. There was also contour crafting (cementjet printer manufacturing for building on the moon, planets and asteroids.

September 07, 2012

The Fusion Driven Rocket: Nuclear Propulsion through Direct Conversion of Fusion Energy

More on John Slough's direct conversion fusion propulsion project which has phase 2 NIAC funding

The future of manned space exploration and development of space depends critically on the creation of a dramatically more proficient propulsion architecture for in-space transportation. A very persuasive reason for investigating the applicability of nuclear power in rockets is the vast energy density gain of nuclear fuel when compared to chemical combustion energy. Current nuclear fusion efforts have focused on the generation of electric grid power and are wholly inappropriate for space transportation as the application of a reactor based fusion-electric system creates a colossal mass and heat rejection problem for space application. The Fusion Driven rocket (FDR) represents a revolutionary approach to fusion propulsion where the power source releases its energy directly into the propellant, not requiring conversion to electricity. It employs a solid lithium propellant that requires no significant tankage mass. The propellant is rapidly heated and accelerated to high exhaust velocity (over 30 km/s), while having no significant physical interaction with the spacecraft thereby avoiding damage to the rocket and limiting both the thermal heat load and radiator mass. In addition, it is believed that the FDR can be realized with little extrapolation from currently existing technology, at high specific power (about 1 kW/kg), at a reasonable mass scale (less than 100 mt), and therefore cost. If realized, it would not only enable manned interplanetary space travel, it would allow it to become common place.

SpiderFab: Process for On-Orbit Construction of Kilometer-Scale Apertures

Currently, a significant fraction of the engineering cost and launch mass of space systems is required exclusively to enable the system to survive launch. This is particularly true for systems with physically large components, such as antennas, booms, and panels, which must be designed to stow for launch and then reliably deploy on orbit. Furthermore, the sizes of apertures and spacecraft structures are limited by the requirement to stow them within available launch fairings. Deployable structures and inflatable/rigidizable components have enabled construction of systems with scales of several dozen meters, but their packing efficiency is not sufficient to enable scaling to the kilometer-size baselines desired for applications such as long-baseline interferometry and sparse aperture sensing.

We propose to develop a process for automated on-orbit construction of very large structures and multifunctional components. The foundation of this process is a novel additive manufacturing technique called ‘SpiderFab’, which combines the techniques of fused deposition modeling (FDM) with methods derived from automated composite layup to enable rapid construction of very large, very high-strength -per-mass, lattice-like structures combining both compressive and tensile elements.

NanoTHOR: Low-Cost Launch of Nanosatellites to Deep Space

To enable frequent, low-cost opportunities to deliver nanosatellites to destinations beyond Earth orbit, TUI proposes to develop the “Nanosatellite Tethered High-Orbit Release” (NanoTHOR) module. The NanoTHOR module will enable multiple nanosatellites carried as secondary payloads on upper stages launched into GTO to be injected into Earth-escape trajectories by scavenging orbital momentum and propellant from the upper stage. The NanoTHOR module will utilize a lightweight, re-usable tether to transfer momentum from the rocket stage to the nanosatellite. The use of a rotating tether “multiplies” the rocket’s delta-V by the mass ratio of the stage to the nanosat, enabling it to provide both very-high specific impulse propulsion competitive with the best EP thrusters AND short transfer times competitive with chemical rockets. The tether also enables the stage’s orbital momentum to be converted to tether rotational momentum to increase the nanosat toss velocity. After completing its mission, the tether can be de-orbited within one orbit period to eliminate collision or debris risks. The nanoTHOR module will provide a low-cost, low-mass means to enable nanosatellites to be launched as ride-share payloads on GEO satellite missions and then delivered to deep-space trajectories. It will therefore enable NASA to affordably launch flotillas of low-cost nanosatellites into heliocentric orbits to conduct searches for NEOs, to study potential targets for manned exploration of asteroids, to provide ‘nowcasting’ of solar weather conditions, and to serve as communications relays for manned and unmanned missions beyond Earth orbit.

Super Ball Bot - Structures for Planetary Landing and Exploration

Small, light-weight and low-cost missions will become increasingly important to NASA's exploration goals for our solar system. Ideally teams of dozens or even hundreds of small, collapsable robots, weighing only a few kilograms a piece, will be conveniently packed during launch and would reliably separate and unpack at their destination. Such teams will allow rapid, reliable in-situ exploration of hazardous destination such as Titan, where imprecise terrain knowledge and unstable precipitation cycles make single-robot exploration problematic. Unfortunately landing many lightweight conventional robots is difficult with conventional technology. Current robot designs are delicate, requiring combinations of devices such as parachutes, retrorockets and impact balloons to minimize impact forces and to place a robot in a proper orientation. Instead we propose to develop a radically different robot based on a "tensegrity" built purely upon tensile and compression elements. These robots can be light-weight, absorb strong impacts, are redundant against single-point failures, can recover from different landing orientations and are easy to collapse and uncollapse. We believe tensegrity robot technology can play a critical role in future planetary exploration.

Water Walls: Highly Reliable and Massively Redundant Life Support Architecture

NASA - Water Walls (WW) takes an approach to providing a life support system that is biologically and chemically passive, using mechanical systems only for plumbing to pump fluids such as gray water from the source to the point of processing. The core processing technology of Water Walls is FORWARD OSMOSIS (FO). Each cell of the WW system consists of a polyethylene bag or tank with one or more FO membranes to provide the chemical processing of waste. WW provides four principal functions of processing cells in four different types plus the common function of radiation shielding:

1. Gray water processing for urine and wash water,
2. Black water processing for solid waste,
3. Air processing for CO2 removal and O2 revitalization,
4. Food growth using green algae, and
5. Provide radiation protection to the crew habitat (all cells).

Tough gel stretches to 21 times its length, recoils, and heals itself and could be a replacement for cartilage

A team of experts in mechanics, materials science, and tissue engineering at Harvard have created an extremely stretchy and tough gel that may pave the way to replacing damaged cartilage in human joints.

Called a hydrogel, because its main ingredient is water, the new material is a hybrid of two weak gels that combine to create something much stronger. Not only can this new gel stretch to 21 times its original length, but it is also exceptionally tough, self-healing, and biocompatible—a valuable collection of attributes that opens up new opportunities in medicine and tissue engineering.

Beyond artificial cartilage, the researchers suggest that the new hydrogel could be used in soft robotics, optics, artificial muscle, as a tough protective covering for wounds, or "any other place where we need hydrogels of high stretchability and high toughness."

The researchers pinned both ends of the new gel in clamps and stretched it to 21 times its initial length before it broke. (Photo courtesy of Jeong-Yun Sun.)

Nature - Highly stretchable and tough hydrogels

7000 year old Egyptian Paste Technique could improve 3D Printing

A 7,000 year old technique, known as Egyptian Paste (also known as Faience), could offer a potential process and material for use in the latest 3D printing techniques of ceramics, according to researchers at UWE Bristol.

Researchers have a major investigation into a self-glazing 3D printed ceramic, inspired by ancient Egyptian Faience ceramic techniques. The process they aim to develop would enable ceramic artists, designers and craftspeople to print 3D objects in a ceramic material which can be glazed and vitrified in one firing.

The researchers believe that it possible to create a contemporary 3D printable, once-fired, self-glazing, non-plastic ceramic material that exhibits the characteristics and quality of Egyptian Faience.

The work offers the theoretical possibility of a printed, single fired, glazed ceramic object - something that is impossible with current technology.

Coil Clay Method inspires New Titanium fabrication which is faster and half the cost

Norway has a new method of making titanium parts. The basic method involves feeding wire-shaped pieces of titanium into a machine for smelting. But first specifications are entered into a computer program in the machine which determines the resulting shape of the components. The process produces components that can range from five centimeters to nearly two meters in length.

Minimal waste – fast production

The traditional method of producing components of titanium involves using forged plates, blocks or rods depending on the product specifications. These are then shaped into the desired components through machining.

This production method has two significant drawbacks:

First, machining can lead to as much as 70 per cent of the material being lost as waste. This loss is very costly, as titanium is more difficult to recycle than other materials and the price of titanium plates is NOK 1 000 per kilo.

Second, the production process is very lengthy. NTiC expects their new production technology to reduce delivery times by many months.

In addition, the company forecasts that material waste can be limited to 10-20 per cent and that their prices will be 30-50 per cent lower than those of their competitors. NTiC will also be able to produce titanium components of a much higher quality than what the industry can offer today.

The coil clay method is shown above and is described at this link

Broadcom Chief Technologist predicts 1 gbps wireless in 2027 while South Korea rolls out 100 Mbps wireless in 2013

One of several predictions by Broadcom chief technologist Henry Samueli is that by 2027, mobile devices will sport all-digital radios and Gbit/second cellular modems powered by 16-core apps processors running at 5 GHz. This prediction seems to be way too conservative.

TheVerge - Korean carrier SK Telecom is hoping to push the limits of LTE speed by combining multiple frequencies in one network. At the beginning of July, it launched the first commercial Multi Carrier (MC) network, which combines frequencies from the 800MHz and 1.8GHz bands and distributes traffic between them as necessary, keeping service stable even during high use times. Currently, service is only available in Seoul's Gangnam district; the rest of the city and areas in six other metropolitan centers should see it by the end of the year, with more expansions to follow. A pilot program has been running since May.

SK Telecom users would see 60Mbps download speeds this year and 100Mbps by 2013. SK Telecom Korea announced that it would offer mobile internet speeds of up to 100 Mbps using a technology called Heterogeneous Network Integration Solution. The system works by combining existing networks — such as Wi-Fi and 3G or Wi-Fi and LTE — to provide a service that equals the sum of the two network speeds.

Korean LTE can theoretically achieve 100Mbps speeds already; back in the USA, T-Mobile has discussed implementing an 86Mbps HSPA+ network, and Clearwire says it has reached 90Mbps at testing sites. The distributed traffic and multiple networks provides a better guarantee of always being able to reach the 100 Mbps.

September 06, 2012

Silicon chip enables mass-manufacture of quantum technologies

Scientists from the University of Bristol’s Centre for Quantum Photonics have developed a silicon chip that will pave the way to the mass-manufacture of miniature quantum chips.

EETimes - The Bristol research team is in discussions with Nokia about the use of quantum computing for use within secure mobile communications. Quantum secure communications could deployed commercially within five years. Over the same sort of period the Bristol research team expects to demonstrate quantum computing chips developed to solve specific problems. Many of these may be particular to molecular, atomic and even quantum simulation or to some fundamentally hard-to-solve problems in mathematics.

The research paper is talking about 81-94% accuracy. So it seems there would be work to get scalable precision and results.

They believe that they can make the components many thousands of times smaller than their current work. This would enable miniature quantum circuits that could potentially fit inside a mobile phone, for example to enable quantum-secure communications for internet banking. A large scale quantum system that is faster than classical supercomputers could be possible within ten years based on an extrapolation and further development of this work.

The leap from using glass-based circuits to silicon-based circuits is significant because fabricating quantum circuits in silicon has the major advantage of being compatible with modern microelectronics. Ultimately this technology could be integrated with conventional microelectronic circuits, and could one day allow the development of hybrid conventional / quantum microprocessors.

The Bristol-led team have developed quantum chips from silicon — the same material routinely used en masse to build the tiny electrical processors in all computers and smart phones. However, unlike conventional silicon chips that work by controlling electrical current, these circuits manipulate single particles of light (photons) to perform calculations. These circuits exploit strange quantum mechanical effects such as superposition (the ability for a particle to be in two places at once) and entanglement (strong correlations between particles that would be nonsensical in our everyday world). The technology developed uses the same manufacturing techniques as conventional microelectronics, and could be economically scaled for mass-manufacture. These new circuits are compatible with existing optical fibre infrastructure and are ready to be deployed directly with the internet.

The researchers have demonstrated quantum interference and manipulation of entanglement using silicon components just 10's micrometres in size. The photonic quantum microchips were made using the silicon-on-insulator material system, which is the standard technology routinely used to make microprocessors found for example in the Xbox, Playstation,Wii, AMD processors and many others. This means that not only can these new devices be mass-manufactured using standard microelectronics processing that already exist, but they can also be combined with standard microelectronics circuits — ultimately enabling the development of hybrid quantum / conventional microprocessors.

Along with recent demonstrations from the Bristol research group and other groups showing on-chip generation of photonics qubits and results from the US showing on-chip detection of single photons, the Bristol-lead research team now believes that all the key components are in place to realise a fully functioning quantum processor — a powerful type of computer that uses quantum bits (qubits) rather than the conventional bits used in today’s computer

Example of a silicon quantum chip next to a 20 pence coin.

Arxiv - Quantum interference and manipulation of entanglement in silicon wire waveguide quantum circuits

New Research indicates (Ba0.6K0.4)Fe2As2 could enable 50-120 Tesla magnet applications

There is a 100 tesla pulsed magnet.

Ferropnictide superconductors, i.e., superconductors that contain Fe and As, have superconducting transition temperatures (Tc) up to 56 K and high upper critical fields (Hc2) over 100 Telsa. The high Hc2 means these materials could be used in very high field magnets. Previous studies suggested that polycrystalline samples of these materials could not carry a large superconducting current because grain boundaries reduce the critical current density (Jc). Surprisingly, new results find that the opposite is true for wire made from (Ba0.6K0.4) Fe2As2.

Synthesized polycrystalline wires and bulk material using high-energy ball milling and high-pressure heat treatment were produced. The critical current flowed over the whole sample at values more than 10 times higher than in any previously reported ferropnictide wire.

The exciting and surprising result is that high Jc occurs over the whole sample at almost-application-ready Jc values, in spite of having a very high density of grain boundaries due to the small (~100 nm) grain size and lack of texture.

Nature Materials - High intergrain critical current density in fine-grain (Ba0.6K0.4)Fe2As2 wires and bulks (3 pages)

36 Tesla Hybrid magnet construction is well underway

Fabrication of the Series-Connected Hybrid magnet is well underway. This magnet will produce for MagLab users magnetic fields of 36 Tesla featuring unprecedented (1ppm) homogeneity.

Winding of the superconducting coil, the largest component of the magnet windings, is well underway. The superconducting coil is wound with a cable-in-conduit conductor (CICC) that contains hundreds of Nb3Sn/Cu superconductor wires. The total length of CICC to be wound is 1.8 kilometers.

Four of 18 layers have been wound. The first three layers contained the largest “High-Field” CICC in the magnet. A complex structural link – a MagLab innovation – was successfully installed to connect the “High-Field CICC” of the third layer to the fourth layer, a layer that is the first in the winding of the smaller “Mid-Field CICC”.

After coil winding and installation of inter-layer joints, the entire coil will go through a reaction heat treatment to form the superconductor, followed by epoxy impregnation and final assembly.

Round Wire Bi-2212 with critical current of 500 A/mm^2

Bi-2212 is the only cuprate superconductor that can be made in round wire with high critical current density Jc; however, to date, its use in superconducting magnets is restricted because gas bubbles form during heat treatment, causing wire expansion, leakage and superconducting filament dedensification that greatly reduces Jc in coil length

This year we have developed over pressure (OP) processing and have shown that the critical current for wires processed at 25 bar is more than five times higher than samples processed at 1 bar with closed ends, a geometry that mimics a coil-length wire. Our results demonstrate a wire-fabrication process for Bi-2212 round wire that avoids the long-length loss of Jc. This process has raised Jc to ~500 A/mm2 at 20 T, very attractive values for high field magnets, and about 5 times higher than Nb3Sn at 20 T.
The chart is from other work that shows the potential of Bi-2212

General Fusion has minisphere and a full scale plasma injector prototype

General Fusion is working towards magnetized target nuclear fusion. General Fusion is targeting a large prototype by 2015 and a working reactor by 2020.

Canadian Manufacturing had an article earlier in the year 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 had closed on another round of funding for $19.5 million. There is new picture of the full scale plasma injector. It is at the EU Fusenet site They say not to use the picture without permission. So go through this link to check out the EU Fusenet site

General Fusion has a full scale prototype of the Plasma Injector. It is approximately 5 meters long and conical in shape, tapering from 2 meters to 40 centimeters wide. It is powered by a 22 kV, 2.4 MJ energy storage capacitor pulsed power supply.

Brillouin Energy has conditional Funding for $20 million

Slideshare has a 25 page presentation which was successful in raising an angel round of $2.2 million.

The goal of the $2 million round - Complete successful SRI dry hot tube NHB™ testing plus wet Brillouin Boiler™ testing of at least 3X excess heat results (commercialization)

China recently granted Brillouin Energy a patent for its LENR boiler technology

Brillouin has negotiated a “second stage” $20M investment conditional agreement from Sunrise Securities of New York, NY (

•  The Sunrise offer would purchase 15% of BEC post-money, conditional on BEC moving ahead with and completing successful testing of its NHB™ at SRI

•  Sunrise offer is also conditional on Brillouin striking preliminary agreement to acquire at least one “stranded asset” conventional fuel source small scale (5-10MW) Power Plant, with existing conventional co-gen equipment, and replacing (retrofitting) old fuel source with Brillouin’s hot tube NHB™, together with renewal of an operating power purchase or steam heat contract with an industrial or a utility

•  Key expert affiliates of Sunrise, including former Director of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)’s independent power division, have already provided potential acquisition candidates, available for negligible cost, with power contracts already in place

•  Upon successful testing of NHB™ at SRI, the $20M Sunrise offer will fund full commercial launch of this merchant power supply retrofit business model

China Grants Patent to Brillouin Energy

ColdFusionnow - Brillouin Energy of Berkeley, California has been granted a patent for their hot-water boiler technology in China.

The Chinese patent is a huge breakthrough for commercial development of this ultra-clean energy technology. Any duplicate technologies released in the United States would force the USPTO to grant the Brillouin patent, and compel the other company to negotiate with the Brillouin Energy Corporation. This would necessitate a break in the long-standing Department of Energy (DoE) policy that refuses to acknowledge the existence of cold fusion, also called low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR), lattice-assisted nuclear reactions (LANR), and quantum fusion, and which influences USPTO policy.

Further, though no product is currently slated for public release and the company is still prototyping their commercial design, an Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) company has contacted Brillouin with interest in licensing the technology.

The Brillouin lab is currently engineering a new gas-loaded design that will run at much higher temperatures, thereby increasing the power output. The Brillouin Hydrogen Hot Tube (HHT)™ is the core reactor of the new design.

Patents had been submitted in countries around the world with Japan “not rejecting” the patent and “some back and forth” on the patent in the European Union, but as with virtually all submissions referencing this new energy technology in North America, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rejected the application.

IQ scores are increasing but better devices will be more important

Scientific American reviews the Flynn Effect where IQ scores are increasing.

Studies in two dozen countries and found that scores were rising by 0.3 point a year—three full points per decade. Nearly 30 years of follow-up studies have confirmed the statistical reality of the global uptick, now known as the Flynn effect. And scores are still climbing.

Most of the increases are in parts of the IQ tests focused on finding similarities or analogies. There are increases in math and reading but at a far slower pace.

The likely explanation is that people and society did not need or value the abilities to use abstractions as much as before.

Another development is that reaction times are improving. This is likely due to the playing of video games. Video game players tend to have reaction times that are 25% faster.

IEEE Spectrum discusses generation smartphone, where people will have increasing help from smartphone like devices from the time they are born. The smartphone’s role as constant companion, helper, coach, and guardian has only just begun.

Nextbigfuture has covered the changes we can expect in smartphones. IBM is developing more industry knowledge into Watson (the AI that won the quiz game Jeopardy) so that Watson will be as capable and sometimes more capable than doctors for some diagnosis. Watson will be made accessible by smartphone.

Robotic cars will also be deployed over the next decade or two. The first robotic cars are being made legal in various states now, but it will take time to add the systems into all new cars and into all old cars.

Note - some think that the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence systems will rapidly blow past human capabilities and replace people entirely. I think the transition will be slower to achieve across the board in all jobs and functions. It will be fast in some jobs and functions, but there will be a transition of many decades where people can adapt and learn to perform better and work with the new systems. There will also be sociological and policy forces which will lengthen the time when people will work closely with more capable robotics and AI and devices.

Bakken Oil Rail Shipping Capacity increased to 1 millinon barrels per day

Bloomberg - Bakken oil traded at the most expensive compared with West Texas Intermediate in four months as Burlington Northern Santa Fe boosted crude rail shipping capacity for the grade to 1 million barrels a day.

This seems to suggest that railroad and oil companies are expecting the oil from North Dakota to increase 660,000 bpd to over 1.1 million bpd in 2013 and 2014.

The increase of more than 25 percent over the past year covers shipments of crude from the Bakken-producing Williston Basin region in North Dakota and Montana.

Bakken strengthened $4 to a premium of $1 above the U.S. benchmark at 3:54 p.m. in New York, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the most expensive the graded has traded at since May 3.

Canadian oils also strengthened. Syncrude’s premium added $6.25 to $8.25 above WTI. Western Canada Select’s discount to West Texas Intermediate narrowed $4.50 to $11.50 a barrel.

CNBC - About 62 percent of Bakken crude is shipped out of the region by pipelines now, while about 25 percent currently goes by rail and the balance by truck. That ratio will fluctuate as there are major projects under way to add capacity for both rail and pipelines, but the pipeline work in particular will take years to complete, giving the railroads a leg up for now.

Eventually, it is hoped that TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project, held up by the Obama administration on environmental concerns, will get done and a link to it from the Bakken will be finished and help alleviate the current bottleneck.

Boston Dynamics Cheetah robot with support runs faster than Usain Bolt

IEEE Spectrum - Boston Dynamics' Cheetah robot has just set a new record for legged robots by sprinting at 28.3 mph. This, incidentally, is also faster than Olympic (human) champion Usain Bolt, who set the world record for the 100 meter dash with a speed of 27.8 mph back in 2009.

The plan is to reach a speed of 50 mph.
They plan to remove the boom support and get onboard power by next year.
5 months ago the top speed was 18 mph.

BRIC, China and India Economic Future

Economic Times interviewed Arvind Subramanian, Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics. Arvind has previously indicated that on a purchasing power parity basis China has already passed the US economy 2 years ago.

Arvind - Over the next 10 years, the BRICs' share of world GDP will go up. In market terms, it is about 18% of GDP, which will go up to about 25-26% over the next 10 years and even to about one-third by 2030. In PPP terms, it is about 30% of world's GDP at the moment. By 2020, it will be about 37%-38% and going up to as much as 45% by about 2030.

Economically, currently China is two-thirds of the total BRIC economy.

Arvind has derived an index of economic dominance that includes GDP, trade and creditor-debtor status. For the next 20 years, Brazil and Russia figure nowhere in the top 5-6-7-8 countries.

By 2030, India will become the world's third most economically dominant country the way I [Arvind] measure dominance and the reason for that of course is that going forward, one would normally expect that India will grow faster than China just by virtue of the fact that India is actually poorer now than China. So, what China accomplished over the last 20-30 years, India should be able to do going forward with appropriate conditions.

September 05, 2012

Standardized modular drones and a Glove Tricorder

BigThink - Singularity University team Infinity - presented their plan for a standardized, modular platform to manufacture drones. The group successfully flew a drone in Zero G gravity, cutting that cost by a factor of 10, and wants to utilize the drones for STEM education, 3D mapping, and anything else that could be accomplished by small, unmanned aerial vehicles.

Lunar Space Elevator kickstarter over $65,000 with one week to go

The Lunar Space elevator kickstarter is over $65,000 with one week to go.

Different Fund Raising Levels in Brief

$8,000 - 2 km test
$20,000 - better sensors
$30,000 - at least 3 to 5 kilometer
$50,000 - new robot and at least 3 to 5 kilometer
$75,000 - transition from altitude to endurance
$100,000 - back in business for real
$250,000 - try for to climb to the limit of balloon technology , about 20 miles / 30 kilometers

$500,000 - tests with plants and animals at 30 kilometers
$3,000,000 - Full feasibility study and tests

They appear to be solidly on track for over $100,000 and probably about $120,000. A second kickstarter might get them to the $250,000 level.

CARMA Online database of 60 thousand power plants with 8 years of emissions data

Scientific American - The Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) tool produced by the Center for Global Development has a database of 60,000 power plants worldwide with emissions data going back to 2004.

Seven of the world's 10 dirtiest power plants are in Asia -- though none in China. On the other hand, China's state-owned power companies accounted for five of the top seven highest-emitting utility companies.

China, she said, invested millions of dollars in closing down inefficient coal-fired power plants, a move for which the country was highly lauded. But part of that deal, she noted, included the recycling and sale of China's boilers to Indonesia.

"Some of these plants were not efficient by China's standards but were fine by Indonesia's standards," she said. Ummel also pointed to Pakistan, where the power sector is hungry but few standards are in place to ensure even incrementally cleaner growth.

The data underscore vast technology improvements in China over the past five years. In 2004, he said, China had almost no pollution controls on its power plants. Now, almost one-quarter do, on par with the United States. Similarly, no power plants in China used supercritical technology in 2004, but five years later about a quarter of the fleet was outfitted.
Big green power plants are usually nuclear power or hydro power. Solar and wind are small power plants

India starting 1000MW Kudankulam reactor now, 500 MW fast breeder 2013 and 300 MW Thorium reactor in 2017

NY Daily News - The Kudankulam Atomic Power Project in Tamil Nadu, where fuel loading begins next week, is expected to start full-load generation of 1,000 MW from its first unit by December, an Atomic Energy Commission member (AEC) said here Monday The fuel loading will start next week and power generation will start by end of October and is expected to reach its peak probably by December when it will generate 1000 MW.

The prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) of 500 MW capacity at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu, which ensures safety by carrying out recycling activities on site, would begin operations next year.

India's first thorium reactor - the advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR) of 300 MW capacity might start operations by 2017.

Oil Production for States and Countries and the World

1. The EIA has Texas crude oil production (including natural gas liquids) at 57 million barrels for June 2012. This is 1.9 million barrels per day Texas is at the highest production in 22 years.

2. Iraq oil exports averaged 2.565 million barrels per day in August. Iraq oil production currently averaged around 3.2 million barrels per day. This is the highest level in 30 years.

3. Global oil supply grew by 0.3 mb/d m-o-m to 90.7 mb/d in July, with non-OPEC generating 60% of the increase. Global oil output stood 2.6 mb/d above year-ago, with 80% of the increase from OPEC crude and NGLs. Summer maintenance reduced 2Q12 non-OPEC growth to 0.5 mb/d, but output should grow by 0.7 mb/d in 2013. The 90.7 million barrels per day is the highest production of crude and oil liquids.

Virus kills cancer tumors in animals

Telegraph UK = Lab results show a virus is more effective than drugs at killing cancer tumors in animals. However, adenovirus serotype 5 is a common virus in which we have achieved transcriptional targeting by replacing an endogenous viral promoter sequence.

Cheap to produce, the virus is exquisitely precise, with only mild, flu-like side-effects in humans. Photographs in research reports show tumours in test mice melting away.

'It is amazing,' Prof Essand gleams in wonder. 'It's better than anything else. Tumour cell lines that are resistant to every other drug, it kills them in these animals.'

Yet as things stand, Ad5[CgA-E1A-miR122]PTD – to give it the full gush of its most up-to-date scientific name – is never going to be tested to see if it might also save humans. Since 2010 it has been kept in a bedsit-sized mini freezer in a busy lobby outside Prof Essand's office, gathering frost.

A million pounds (1.6 million US dollars) is needed to advance the research

Brain wave-reading robot exoskeleton might help stroke patients

A multidisciplinary team hopes to develop and validate a noninvasive brain-machine interface (BMI) to a robotic orthotic device that is expected to innovate upper-limb rehabilitation. The new neurotechnology will interpret brain waves that let a stroke patient willingly operate an exoskeleton that wraps around the arm from the fingertips to the elbow.

Rice is developing the exoskeleton and UH the electroencephalograph-based (EEG) neural interface. The combined device will be validated by UTHealth physicians at TIRR Memorial Hermann with as many as 40 volunteer patients in the final two years of the four-year R01 award, the oldest research grant offered by NIH. The grant, funded through the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, is one of only a few projects selected by the NRI, a collaborative partnership by the NIH, National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Agriculture to encourage the development of the next generation of robots that will work closely with humans.
From left, Gerard Francisco, José Luis Contreras-Vidal and Marcia O’Malley work with a University of Houston (UH) graduate student testing MAHI-EXO II, a robotic rehabilitation device developed at Rice and being used at TIRR Memorial Hermann to help spinal-cord-injury patients recover. In a new project, a similar device will be matched with a noninvasive neural interface under development at UH to help rehabilitate stroke survivors. (Credit: Bruce French/TIRR Memorial Hermann)

September 04, 2012

George Church outlines a pathway to indeterminant lifespans via Synthetic Biology

George Church is a giant in gene sequencing, synthetic biology and DNA science. In the October, 2012 Discover Magazine, George Church teases with some ideas he has for achieving physical immortality (indeterminant lifespans) via Synthetic biology.

George's idea is to bring in sections of DNA from exotic organisms or genes that are rare for humans to enable all people to have desired genetic capabilities. He describes capabilities such as immunity to all viruses and cellular immunity to radiation and creating immunity to diseases.

They are working to sequence and determine the genetic basis for long lived animals and humans and determine how to engineer longer lived people.

They are working on approaches to rejuvenate different kinds of cells including the neurons of the brain.

Besides myostatin inhibition for lean muscle, there is also rare genes for very strong - nearly unbreakable bones, genes for lower heart disease risks.

53 thousand word Textbook encoded in DNA

Nature - 5.27-megabit book containing more than 53,000 words, 11 digital images and a computer program has been encoded in DNA — the largest amount of non-biological data yet stored in this way.

Sriram Kosuri at Harvard's Wyss Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, and his colleagues created nearly 55,000 different short DNA strand to store the information.

Science - Next-Generation Digital Information Storage in DNA

Digital information is accumulating at an astounding rate, straining our ability to store and archive it. DNA is among the most dense and stable information media known. The development of new technologies in both DNA synthesis and sequencing make DNA an increasingly feasible digital storage medium. Here, we develop a strategy to encode arbitrary digital information in DNA, write a 5.27-megabit book using DNA microchips, and read the book using next-generation DNA sequencing.

Technology Review - The team encoded a draft HTML version of a book co-written by Church called Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves. In addition to the text, the biological bits included the information for modern formatting, images and Javascript, to show that “DNA (like other digital media) can encode executable directives for digital machines,” they write

Obesity Epidemic Could be followed by Dementia Epidemic

New Scientist - Suzanne De la Monte has interfered with the way the rats' brains respond to insulin and produces results that mimic dementia. The hormone is most famous for controlling blood sugar levels, but it also plays a key role in brain signalling. When de la Monte disrupted its path to the rats' neurons, the result was dementia.

Poor sensitivity to insulin is typically associated with type 2 diabetes, in which liver, fat and muscle cells fail to respond to the hormone. But results such as de la Monte's have led some researchers to wonder whether Alzheimer's may sometimes be another version of diabetes - one that hits the brain. Some have even renamed it "type 3 diabetes".

If they are right - and a growing body of evidence suggests they might be - the implications are deeply troubling. Since calorific foods are known to impair our body's response to insulin, we may be unwittingly poisoning our brains every time we chow down on burgers and fries. People with type 2 diabetes, who have already developed insulin resistance, may be particularly at risk. "The epidemic of type 2 diabetes, if it continues on its current trajectory, is likely to be followed by an epidemic of dementia," says Ewan McNay of the University at Albany in New York. "That's going to be a huge challenge to the medical and care systems."

* 115 million people globally will get Alzheimer's by 2050
* 5.4 million adults in the US have Alzheimer's now. The US care cost was $130 billion in 2011 alone.
* Worldwide, 36 million people have the Alzheimer's now

EU Nano Nano-Electro-Mechanical Integration And Computation project

EETimes- IBM and STMicroelectronics are working on a project to enable a low-power processor made from nanometer-scale mechanical relays.

The motivation for the research is that as transistors have been miniaturized leakage power consumption is becoming as large as active power consumption and this is a particular issue for emerging applications such as autonomous sensors nodes, wireless communications and mobile computing.

The NEMIAC (Nano-Electro-Mechanical Integration And Computation) project aims to develop a process based on what it calls nano-electromechanical (NEMS) switches suitable for embedded systems and offering 3-D integration with CMOS. The researchers are being asked to show a magnitude improvement in energy efficiency with no performance penalty compared with solid-state. The process is also expected to have higher radiation resistance and higher temperature operation than CMOS.

The relays are expected to have a footprint of less than 3-micron by 3-micron and demonstrate a switching time of the order of 10 nanoseconds. Proving the reliability under billions of switching operations will be an important task prior to commercial deployment. The term "bug" is said to have been introduced into the computing industry because of the propensity for

The project is expected to produce a number of digital logic designs as proof of the process and innovative circuit architectures for low-power applications.

Atomistic mechanisms of graphene growth

Like tiny ships finding port in a storm, carbon atoms dock with the greater island of graphene in a predictable manner. But until recent research by scientists at Rice University, nobody had the tools to make that kind of prediction.

Electric current shoots straight across a sheet of defect-free graphene with almost no resistance, a feature that makes the material highly attractive to engineers who would use it in things like touchscreens and other electronics, said Rice theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson.

PNAS - Equilibrium at the edge and atomistic mechanisms of graphene growth

Solar Powered LED lighting Revolution for the developing world

Two thirds of the rural population in developing countries are without electricity. This leaves limited options for lighting.

Many turn to kerosene or paraffin oil. It is estimated that 88 billion liters of kerosene are burned purely for light. One liter of kerosene is estimated to produce 3kg CO2 when burnt.

Research has shown that basic oil lamps typically produce just 1% of the light of a 100W light bulb.

Nokero is one of many companies making LED solar powered lights and solar powered mobile phone chargers and battery chargers. The N200 is about 13.5 lumens on high, and about 5 lumens on low. DBT 1.9 hours when tested with 5000 watt-hrs/m^2-Day on hi setting, 6.6 hours on low. The battery will last for approximately 1.5 years, and can be replaced to keep the bulb in operation. The Nokero N200 can withstand rain, but is not waterproof and cannot be submerged. Product performance varies based on intensity of sunlight and duration of charging time.

The N200 lantern made by another American firm, Nokero (for “no kerosene”), has a design inspired by a light bulb, and costs about $15. It worked well for cooking, cleaning and sitting around a table, but was deemed less suitable for studying. The Solar Muscle, a solar lamp made by Flexiway, can be used as a desk light. Its compact, square design, with a solar panel on one side and LEDs on the other, also allows several lamps to be snapped together to make a larger panel. The square design arose after an earlier, circular version was mistaken for a landmine, says James Fraser of Flexiway. The firm can pack 2,750 of its $10 lamps in a cubic metre—a plus in countries where transport is expensive. They are being distributed by NGOs in Papua New Guinea and several African countries.

The best solar lamp among those tested was the Sun King, produced by an Indian company, Greenlight Planet. It was purchased off the shelf from an African supermarket for $24. The Sun King’s almost dazzling light was appreciated by users, as was its seemingly unbreakable design. The awkward-looking wire stand worked well. The lamp’s only drawback was that its solar panel is separate, rather than being built into the lamp.

Economist - the mobile phone has been quickly improving the lives of the world’s poorest people for the last decade.

For the next decade the mobile phone will be joined by the solar-powered lamp, made up of a few light-emitting diodes (LEDs), a solar panel and a small rechargeable battery, encased in a durable plastic shell. Just as the spread of mobile phones in poor countries has transformed lives and boosted economic activity, solar lighting is poised to improve incomes, educational attainment and health across the developing world.

Fukushima Restoration Plan Announced

World Nuclear News - Plans to enable residents to rebuild their lives in certain evacuation zones around the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant have been announced by Japan's Reconstruction Agency. In addition to decontamination work and the restoration of infrastructure, the ten-year plan calls for the creation of jobs in the area.

The 'Grand Plan' released by reconstruction minister Tatsuo Hirano today covers parts of the twelve municipalities that were designated as evacuation zones following the March 2011 accident. However, those zones were recently reclassified into three groups: those whose evacuation orders will be immediately lifted; those where preparations will be made to lift the orders; and those where the order will remain in place.

Residents may be able to return to some areas in about two years, after decontamination work has been carried out and power, water and sewage services have been restored. The agency noted that, while in some areas such infrastructure was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, in others it has stood unused for more than a year and may now not function correctly.

September 03, 2012

Ink-based supercapacitor holds ten times more charge than other carbon fiber devices

New Scientist - Standard pen ink is the surprise component in a flexible carbon fibre supercapacitor which can be bent in a full circle with barely any loss of performance.

Just a few millimetres in diameter, the new ink-based supercapacitor outdoes the performance of other carbon fibre-based devices, and can hold up to 10 times more charge.

Researchers from Peking University in Beijing, China, built the device by coating two long thin carbon fibers with the ink, then wrapping them in a flexible plastic casing, filled with electrolyte.

Advanced Materials - Fiber Supercapacitors Utilizing Pen Ink for Flexible/Wearable Energy Storage

The Future world economy and the question of what will happen with China

A key factor for what will happen with the future world economy is how fast will Chinas economy grow over the next twenty years. In 2010, the Asian Development Bank projected that China might grow at a 5.5 percent average during the two decades to 2030, and if it improves education, research, and property rights, that might climb to 6 percent. A 31 page research paper by Economic historian and Nobel laureate makes a detailed case for how China can achieve 8% per year GDP growth from 2000 to 2030.

Business Week cited and referenced the Fogel paper in a recent article. They indicate there are still strong reasons to believe fast growth remains possible for China during the next two decades. Fogel's 31 page paper was written in 2006.

From Business Week -
Economic historian and Nobel laureate Robert Fogel argues there is certainly the potential for China to continue growing at 8 percent until 2030. Despite an aging (PDF) population, there are still opportunities for more adults to work. And more of that labor will likely move into more productive sectors over time—out of agriculture and into manufacturing and services. These two factors alone could account for 30 percent of the country’s continued growth, Fogel suggests.

From the Fogel paper -
Since about 30 percent of China’s growth rate is likely to continue to come from the interindustry shifts (agriculture to manufacturing and services) and modest increases in the labor force participation rate growth rates of labor productivity within sectors need only average about 5 percent per year.

Several factors suggest that such growth rates are likely. Despite the remarkable advances of recent decades, the average technology is still well below best prevailing practice in each of the three sectors. Hence, growth in each sector will be stimulated by the diffusion of the best prevailing practice. Moreover, the frontier of technology is moving out rapidly, especially in the industrial and service sectors, but also in agriculture. Third, the investment in capital, especially human capital, is capable of rapid improvement in the next several decades. Finally, despite the preoccupation with possible overstatement of the Chinese growth rate due to inflated estimates of growth sent from localities, on balance it is likely that the true Chinese growth rate is understated, especially in the service sector, due to the failure adequately to account for improvements in the quality of output and the underreporting of small firms. I now want to elaborate briefly on these last two factors and assess their likely impact on growth rates over the next two or three decades.

In 2002, the Chinese Communist Party announced a goal of quadrupling per capita income by the year 2020. Starting at income levels of the year 2000, this would require a growth rate of 7.2 percent per annum in per capita income or close to 8.0 percent in GDP. Such unresolved and emerging problems as growing income disparities, increasing pollution, pressures on infrastructure, the inefficiency of state owned enterprises, and political instability are often cited as reasons to doubt the attainability of the CCP’s goal. However, China’s progress in addressing fundamental constraints that might limit rapid economic growth augurs well for the success of its economic goals. Although there are disagreements about economic policy among top leaders, the continued transformation into a market economy and the promotion of increasing local autonomy in economic matters are not in doubt. In education, China has substantially increased the percentage of its workforce receiving a college education, and continuing growth in this investment in human capital could account for a large portion of the desired growth rate. In addition, the value of improvements in the quality of economic output unmeasured by GDP, such as advances in the quality of health care and education, could raise reported growth rates by as much as 60 percent. Finally, the government’s increasing sensitivity to public opinion and issues of inequality and corruption, combined with improving living conditions, have resulted in a level of popular confidence in the government that makes political instability unlikely.

Tablet headed robots for remote presence

Texai is a remote presence system prototype developed at Willow Garage.

Based on the amount of interest in Texai, Willow Garage has created a new company called Suitable Technologies, Inc., to bring the technology to market.

There are many companies working on commercializing tablet headed robots. iRobot (the makers of Roomba -vacuum cleaner robots) has the Ava bot.

Willow Garage PR2 Progress

Yesterday I was at the Tech Museum of Innovation in downtown San Jose and saw and programmed a Willow Garage PR2 robot.

I spoke with some Willow Garage employees.

Here is some information I got from speaking with the Willow Garage employees.

* There are now 50 employees of Willow Garage
* There are 60 PR2 robots deployed around on the world
* A full price PR2 is $400,000
* There are two spinoff robot companies from Willow Garage (Turtlebot and Suitable Technologies
* Suitable will have the tablet for a head robot, which may companies are working on. In 22 days Suitable will announce something and launch their website. they are focused on using the tablet bot for telepresence.
* Kinect and Leap Motion devices for motion capture are making the sensors far cheaper than the planar laser scanning devices.
* higher resolution cameras are currently not helpful for robots. The algorithms that are currently used would analyze a pixel at a time and higher resolution would increase the computational costs. The PR2 has a 5 megapixel camera now and it is never used because the low resolution VGA camera is good enough
* If there were smart radio tags used to label an environment that would make it easier for a robot to operate. Thin Film Norway has smart radio tags which will be available for pennies. This would be useful for environments like a business or industrial setting where the environment can be controlled to allow for complete labeling. There would be the need to control any dynamic elements (ie unpredicatable people)

Videos showing the PR2 performing common tasks

History and Future of Electric Bikes in China

China Dialogue - Unlike other export-oriented industries, China consumes 80% of its own production of electric bikes. China has over 150 million electric bikes on the road, while Europe, with 18 million units, comes a distant second. India, with less than 500,000 vehicles produced, is low down on the list.

In 2010, the world produced 60 million motorbikes that ran on fossil fuel and 32 million electric and hybrid two-wheelers. With a near average yearly growth of 20%, electric-powered units will close the gap by 2015, with both categories expected to be producing 70 million units individually by that time.

China expects to produce 75 million units per year by 2020, with 500 million electric bikes on road. This will mean that a third of China’s population will be empowered with personal transport and will not need state-funded subsidized mass transport.

The world’s five largest motorcycle markets are China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and Vietnam, which together have three billion people in need of low-cost, eco-friendly vehicles for daily commutes. Other emerging economies will soon latch on to the China growth story. Also, it is only a matter of time before solar batteries replace lead-acid, lanthanum and lithium ion ones. “In China, electric bicycles have a moderating influence on the use of cars,” advocacy group The Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities told The New York Times. As a result, there are five times more electric bikes on China’s roads than cars.

Most of these are low-powered units of 200 watts, fitted with reusable lead acid batteries. They typically cost 2,400 yuan (less than US$400), the average monthly pay of a Chinese worker. They are no-frills utility vehicles chugging steadily at 20 kilometers an hour. The workforce typically travels 50 kilometers a day on single charge, usually from home to workplace, and is said to save 150 million worker hours each day. By contrast, the US motorbike market is 82% for recreation with low average bike runs of 1,000 miles per year, against 12,000 miles per year driven by the American car user.

Estimate of Electric bikes in China
2012  150 million
2013  185 million
2014  220 million
2015  265 million
2016  310 million
2017  360 million
2018  410 million
2019  465 million
2020  520 million

September 02, 2012

Carnival of Space 265

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 120

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 120 is up at Hiroshima Syndrome

Atomic Power Review interviews Matt Miles about the B&W Small Medium sized nuclear reactor project , which (jointly with Bechtel) is marketed by Generation mPower.

The mPower is an integral PWR rated 180 MWe for each reactor, and which can be built either as a single unit or in multiples in one plant site. Right now, B&W seems to have two offers on the table for construction of mPower units; one with TVA at the Clinch River site, and another more generally with FirstEnergy.

In talking to potential customers, they think the most likely scenario is that a customer will initially deploy what we call a “twin-pack,” which is two reactor modules producing a total of 360MWe. At a later time, as their power generation needs increased, they would be able to scale up their capacity and add additional units.

Traditionally nuclear power plants have been used for base-load generation. Our plants are designed for more segmented or off-grid applications and are capable of load following to accommodate this type of deployment.

Yes Vermont Yankee reviews a book - Thorium Energy Cheaper than coal

Closing in on affordable 50 percent conversion efficiency in side by side concentrated solar

IEEE Spectrum - Todays armies marches on its batteries. Without them, soldiers can’t see in the dark, work their radios, or determine their positions. But even the best storage batteries—accounting for one-fifth of the load in a typical infantryman’s 45-kilogram pack—can’t last the week or so that field soldiers require. Better energy storage is taking too long, so far better solar power is also being pursued.

The most promising effort to create such superefficient photovoltaics (solar power) began in 2005, when Doug Kirkpatrick, a veteran of the optics industry, kick-started the Very High Efficiency Solar Cell (VHESC) program for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He wanted a way to build modules from solar cells that would convert a full 50 percent of the solar energy they receive into direct current. That’s a jaw-dropping number when you consider that in 2005 the best laboratory devices were still shy of 40 percent efficiency and were improving by less than one percentage point per year.

Funneling Color: The DARPA design concentrates sunlight and splits it into “buckets” optimized to absorb at particular frequency ranges. The initial concept, not yet realized, was to split light into three ranges. High-energy photons would go to a single cell, while two or three cells stacked together would harness the power from mid-energy and low-energy cells, respectively. As of today, researchers have not been able to produce a good enough cell for the high-energy photons, so the prototype design has just two buckets—a “green” one for higher frequencies and a “red” one for lower ones

White Space equipment will become widely available in 2013

Fierce Broadband Wireless - A consortium of higher education associations, public interest groups and high-tech companies today announced a partnership named AIR.U (Advanced Internet Regions) to deploy Super Wi-Fi networks to upgrade the broadband available to underserved campuses and their surrounding communities. By using unlicensed access to unused television channels (TV band "white spaces"), universities and neighboring communities will be able to significantly expand the coverage and capacity of high-speed wireless connectivity both on and off campus.

The consortium's initial goal is to plan and deploy several pilot networks in diverse university communities and create a roadmap for the rapid deployment of sustainable, next generation wireless networks as White Space equipment becomes widely available in 2013.

The AIR.U consortium expects one or more pilot networks will be operational by the first quarter of 2013.

White-space is technical slang for television channels that were left vacant in one city so as not to interfere with TV stations broadcasting on adjacent channels in a neighboring city. In the early days of television, America's broadcasting authorities reserved 50 or so channels for TV stations. But because of worries about interference, no metropolitan area has ever come close to using all 50 channels at its disposal. In rural areas, vacant channels (ie, white-space) have frequently amounted to 70% or more of the total bandwidth available for television broadcasting.

Muscle Development Protein could be used to fight muscle wasting diseases

Science News - Australian scientists have suggested that a protein called Grb10 plays a crucial role in increasing muscle mass during development

By identifying a novel mechanism regulating muscle development, our work has revealed potential new strategies to increase muscle mass,” said lead author Dr Lowenna Holt of the Diabetes and Obesity Research Program at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia. “Ultimately, this might improve treatment of muscle wasting conditions, as well as metabolic disorders such as Type 2 diabetes.”

To make this discovery, Dr Holt’s team compared two groups of mice. Once group had disruption of the Grb10 gene, and were very muscular. The other group, where the Grb10 gene was functional, had normal muscles. The researchers examined the properties of the muscles in both adult and newborn mice and discovered that the alterations caused by loss of Grb10 function had mainly occurred during prenatal development.

These results provide insight into how Grb10, nicknamed ‘Hulk’ protein, works, suggesting that it may be possible to alter muscle growth and facilitate healing, as the processes involved in muscle regeneration and repair are similar to those for the initial formation of muscle.

FASEB Journal - Grb10 regulates the development of fiber number in skeletal muscle

Tissue Engineering as a Third Age of Medicine

CNET - Columbia researcher Nina Tandon believes that the era of engineered tissues -- think ultimately of a replacement kidney grown in the lab -- is just beginning.

Medical science, boosted by manufacturing and information technology, is on the cusp of being able to grow human tissue.

So believes Nina Tandon, a senior fellow at Columbia University's Lab for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, who for her Ph.D. thesis grew cardiac cells that beat like tiny hearts.

A third age of medicine is beginning, she said in a speech here at the TEDx Berlin conference held in conjunction with IFA consumer-electronics show. The first age, most of human history, had only a primitive understanding of the body. The second age ran from the first dialysis machines in 1924 to today's organ replacement procedures dependent on human donors and limited by the fact that many tissues are rejected by the body they're being transplanted into.

The third age builds replacement materials through tissue engineering.

"We've gone to growing pieces of the body that are living -- from scratch," Tandon said. Though she's careful to give credit where it's due: humans provide a framework and the correct environment, but "the real tissue engineers are the cells."

Her work so far has focused coaxing cells into activity with electrical impulses inside what she calls a bioreactor. Some of her work is shown in a video of a pulsating cube of lab-grown rat heart tissue. It's about 5mm on a side, a scale that makes her ambition -- growing a patch of heart tissue that could be applied after a heart attack -- seem more achievable.

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