September 15, 2012

Innovative Solution to NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Impact Threat Mitigation

This is a phase 2 NASA NIAC study.

A Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle (HAIV) mission architecture, which blends a hypervelocity kinetic impactor with a subsurface nuclear explosion for optimal fragmentation and dispersion of hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs), has been developed through a 2011 NIAC Phase I study. Despite the uncertainties inherent to the nuclear disruption approach, disruption can become an effective strategy if most fragments disperse at speeds in excess of the escape velocity of an asteroid so that a very small number of fragments impacts the Earth. Thus, the proposed HAIV system will become essential for reliably mitigating the most probable impact threat: NEOs with warning times shorter than 10 years. It offers a potential breakthrough or great leap in mission capabilities for mitigating the impact threat of NEOs. The proposed Phase II study further develops the HAIV-based mission architecture and explores its potential infusion options within NASA and beyond.

Plasma magnetoshell aerobreaking should be one thousand times better than aerobraking

This is a NASA NIAC phase 1 study to develop plasma magnetoshell aerobraking. Any breaking drag forces on the Magnetoshell will be three orders of magnitude larger than the aerodynamic forces on the spacecraft. Magnetoshell should be one thousand times better than aerobraking.

The recent Mars Curiosity rover mission required a skylift rocket landing system because the one ton rover was too big for aerobraking on Mars. Plasma magnetoshell aerobraking could enable far less mass for stopping and landing on planet and other missions.

Mission studies have shown that manned mars missions and deep space planetary orbiters require aerobraking and aerocapture which use aerodynamic drag forces to slow the spacecraft. The ability to utilize these atmospheres to slow down and capture spacecraft dramatically reduces the cost of future missions, launch mass, and enable long term studies of the outer planets and moons that would not be possible with current propulsive braking methodologies. The Plasma Magnetoshell Aerobraking, Aerocapture, and Entry System (Magnetoshell AAES) to be developed in this program holds the potential to perform the desired braking with significantly increased drag and control while dramatically reducing the mass required. Implementation of aerobraking by employing a solid deflector or aeroshell as a method for orbit insertion and circularization has been successfully demonstrated in the past, with mass savings greater than 50%. In order to reduce the effect of frictional heating and dynamic pressure on the typically fragile aeroshell the braking must be distributed over many orbital passes at a higher altitude in the less dense regions of the atmosphere.

The Plasma Magnetoshell is based on demonstrated experimental results and the successful implementation would dramatically decrease mission risk, launch cost, mass, and overall radiation exposure. The Plasma Magnetoshell is a high-Beta (the ratio of plasma to magnetic field energy density) dipole plasma configuration which would initially be populated with ambient atmospheric gases. This plasma is formed, sustained, and expanded with an electrodeless Rotating Magnetic Field (RMF), which has been shown in previous experiments to generate the required, fully ionized, high temperature magnetized plasma. RMF plasma formation induces large currents in the plasma that inflate and maintain the large-scale magnetic structure. The primary drag-inducing interaction between the magnetically confined plasma ions and the incoming neutral atmospheric particles is that of charge exchange, which has the largest cross section. After a charge exchange, the now magnetized atmospheric ion reacts its directional momentum (in the frame of the spacecraft) onto the magnet via field line bending and stretching.

Develop Remote Sensors that are ten times better for Better Science

This is a new NASA NIAC phase 1 study to develop remote sensors that are ten times better than today.

This NASA Innovative Research Grant activity conducts engineering analysis to demonstrate the feasibility and advantages of applying a breakthrough remote sensor calibration concept to a wide range of future NASA remote sensor science missions, e.g., PACE, GEO-CAPE, CLARREO, HySpIRI, GACM and Heliophysics research.

Our concept, currently a TRL-2 mature aerospace subsystem for use with space-based, remote sensors, improves radiometric measurement accuracy in the ultraviolet, visible and near infrared (UV/VIS/NIR) bands over current technology by a factor of 10. Our International Standard (SI) calibration concept is spectrally resolved, permitting very small changes to be detected at specific wavelengths over the continuum. The proposed concept enables future scientific and climate-class remote sensors to achieve the very low measurement uncertainty needed to accurately trend the earth radiation balance and to isolate cause/effect through highly accurate, spectrally resolved measurements in the UV/VIS/NIR from space. Such a breakthrough in remote sensor measurement accuracy is needed to obtain reliable measurements from space capable of trending decade long changes in earth climate and then associating those observed changes with root cause.

Printable Spacecraft: Flexible Electronic Platforms for NASA Missions

This is a phase 2 NASA NIAC funded study.

Nextbigfuture had coverage of the phase 1 work

The 2 megabyte presentation of the phase 1 printable spacecraft project.

Atmospheric confetti. Inchworm crawlers. Blankets of ground penetrating radar. These are some of the unique mission concepts which are enabled by a printable spacecraft.

Flexible printed electronics is a wide-ranging technology that can enhance or even enable many engineering applications. Our concept is to utilize the commercial technology of printed electronics to design and fabricate an entire end to end functional spacecraft. The novel advancement (and therefore the technical challenge) of the concept is to apply printed electronics in a multi-functional platform by implementing every subsystem that a spacecraft might need from the scientific sensor through the data downlink and have it survive and function in a space environment. These requirements push the current state of the art for functionality as well as introduce design and manufacturing compatibility challenges among the functional subsystems. Current industry growth and commercial investment is expected to advance the functionality of available basic building blocks and components synergistically with NASA’s needs.

Radiation Protection and Architecture Utilizing High Temperature Superconducting Magnets

This is another phase 2 NASA NIAC study. Nextbigfuture covered the phase 1 part of this project

The presentation at the spring symposium of the phase 1 work is here (5.5 megabyte pdf

Active radiation shielding concepts have been studied for many decades as a means to protect crew from deep space radiation environments. These studies yield architectures that are significantly massive and too costly to launch and assemble in space largely due to the magnet size and field strength required to deflect galactic cosmic radiation (GCR) spectra and solar particle events (SPE) for meaningful crew protection in space. Since then state-of-the-art superconducting technology has made great strides in performance including higher temperature superconductivity (HTS) and greater current carrying capacity allowing for simpler magnet cooling systems and greater magnetic field strength per unit mass.

During phase 1 of this study, extensive Monte-Carlo analysis calculations to determine radiation-shielding efficiency for extended deep space missions such as Lagrangian points, Near Earth Asteroids, and Mars have shown that a combined system of active and passive radiation shielding constitutes the most promising solution to this issue. Large, ultra-light, expandable HTS coils are feasible and are capable of reducing radiation exposure of humans in the spacecraft habitat to acceptable levels over longer duration missions.

Ultra-light HTS coils offer significant deflection power for charged particles and due to the low amount of material from the HTS magnets, secondary particle production is kept at a low level.

Supersonic BI-directional silent wing

This is another NASA NIAC phase 1 funded study.

A supersonic bi-directional (SBiDir) flying wing (FW) has the potential to revolutionize supersonic flight with virtually zero sonic boom and ultra-high aerodynamic efficiency. The SBiDir-FW planform is symmetric about both the longitudinal and span axes. For supersonic flight, the planform can have as low aspect ratio and as high sweep angle as desired to minimize wave drag and sonic boom. For subsonic mode, the airplane will rotate 90deg in flight to achieve superior stable aerodynamic performance. The conflict of subsonic and supersonic aerodynamic performance of conventional fuselage-wing configuration is hence removed. The preliminary CFD simulation for a SBiDir-FW business jet (BJ) at Mach numbers of 1.6 and 2.0 indicates that the configuration generates no N-wave sonic boom on the ground at a high lift to pressure drag ratio L/Dp of 16. The superior supersonic aerodynamic performance is benefited from the sharp nose and ultra-slender body with a low aspect ratio of 0.33, which translates to a very high subsonic aspect ratio of 33 for high subsonic performance.

This proposal has three objectives:
1) design refinement of a supersonic SBiDir-FW BJ configuration using CFD;
2) mission analysis assisted with CFD simulation for the supersonic SBiDir-FW BJ to study the feasibility; and

3) wind tunnel testing of the SbiDir-FW BJ to verify its supersonic aerodynamic performance and sonic boom signature. The research team is highly qualified to perform the proposed tasks.

Iraq sees oil exports reaching 6 million barrels per day by 2017

Iraq laid out more milestones on its path back to oil producing power, targeting 6 million barrels per day exports by 2017, and confirming it was currently pumping more than neighbor and fellow OPEC member Iran.

Iraq milestone targets for oil exports
Year  Exports          Total Production
2012  2.6 million bpd  3.2 million bpd
2013  2.9 million bpd
2014  3.5 million bpd
2015  3.75 million bpd
2016  4.5 million bpd (NBF interpolation)
2017  6.0 million bpd  

Iraq with the help of foreign firms has ambitious plans to boost production capacity beyond 12 million bpd by 2017, but this target has proved unrealistic due to infrastructure bottlenecks and logistical shortcomings. It is expected to target 8-8.5 million bpd, but some oil analysts and executives see even 6 million bpd by 2017 as a stretch for the war-damaged country.

Wired UK covers Rossi, Celani, Brillouin and Defkalion in a generally positive review

Wired UK has an article that summarizes recent developments with cold fusion / low energy nuclear reactions. They cover recent news from Rossi, Brillouin, Celani, Defkalion and others.

The weekend of 7 and 8 September saw a conference in Zurich on Rossi's reactor, known as the E-Cat. The conference mainly preached to the converted, attended by licensees who market E-Cat technology in different regions, like E-Cat Australia and Hydrofusion in the UK. Rossi has refused to give public demonstrations or prove the technology to sceptics; he wants to let the market decide. However, at the conference he produced a brief paper with details of third-party tests of an E-Cat.

The device tested was a new high-temperature model known as a Hot Cat. Previous E-Cats have been confined to around 200C -- useful for heating water but extremely inefficient for conversion to electricity. Since May 2011 Rossi has been talking about an improved version, and the new Hot Cat operates at a high enough temperature for electricity generation.

Although other scientists in the report have no known affiliations, one section was authored by David Bianchini, a radiation measurement specialist of the University of Bologna. The test, which ran for over six hours, measured an average temperature of 1,100-1,200C, and concluded that the energy output of the four-kilo Hot Cat was three 3.6 Kilowatts from an input of 1.28 Kw. Rossi says that a full scientific report will be available soon.

However, on 9 September Hydrofusion Ltd put out a press release about a demonstration of the Hot Cat in Bologna stating "early indications are that the results of the 16 July/ 7 August reports could not be reproduced." Swedish science magazine NyTeknik reported that the test was overseen by Swedish National Testing and Research Institute who did not find the Hot Cat was outputting more energy than was input. As a result, a planned investment of 65 million Kronor (£6.1 million) was withdrawn. The investors are now considering whether this affects all E-Cats or just the new Hot Cat.

Rossi has responded by saying that Hot Cat validation will not be completed for another two or three months.

September 14, 2012

Transparent Memristors

The transparent electronics that were pioneered at Oregon State University may find one of their newest applications as a next-generation replacement for some uses of non-volatile flash memory, a multi-billion dollar technology nearing its limit of small size and information storage capacity.

Researchers at OSU have confirmed that zinc tin oxide, an inexpensive and environmentally benign compound, has significant potential for use in this field, and could provide a new, transparent technology where computer memory is based on resistance, instead of an electron charge.

Solid State Electronics - Resistive switching in zinc–tin-oxide


Bipolar resistive switching is demonstrated in the amorphous oxide semiconductor zinc–tin-oxide (ZTO). A gradual forming process produces improved switching uniformity. Al/ZTO/Pt crossbar devices show switching ratios greater than 103, long retention times, and good endurance. The resistive switching in these devices is consistent with a combined filamentary/interfacial mechanism. Overall, ZTO shows great potential as a low cost material for embedding memristive memory with thin film transistor logic for large area electronics.


► We present the first report of resistive switching in zinc–tin-oxide (ZTO).
► ZTO is the leading alternative material to IGZO for TFTs for LCDs.
► ZTO has an advantage over IGZO of lower cost due to the absence of In and Ga.
► Al/ZTO/Pt crossbar RRAM devices show switching ratios greater than 1000.
► ZTO shows promise for embedding RRAM with TFT logic for large area electronics.

Lysosens life extension related research progress

This month, a paper reporting results from the LysoSENS project that SENS Foundation funds at Rice University will be published in the printed edition of Biotechnology and Bioengineering. (The paper is already available online.) The research that produced these results was primarily performed by Dr. Jacques Mathieu in the lab of Dr. Pedro Alvarez, in Rice University’s Department of Environmental Engineering. The project has focused on identifying enzymes that can degrade or modify 7-ketocholesterol (7KC) in the lysosomal environment. Because the cytotoxic effects of 7KC on the lysosomes of macrophages and foam cells are a root cause of atherosclerosis, such enzymes could ultimately be used in vivo as a new class of regenerative therapies to prevent and reverse heart disease.

The bacteria that express enzymes capable of degrading 7-KC, which is the objective of Lysosens. Lysosens is to remove junk that builds up in cells as a process of aging

Fightaging covers the progrss on Lysosens.

Given that many different harmful metabolic waste products exist, the field of biomedical remediation has enormous scope for growth - and certainly for more funding, which should hopefully start to arrive in the wake of proof of concept work like this. There is no need to slow down after finding one or more enzymes that break down 7-ketocholesterol, as firstly there could still be far better enzymes out there for this job, and secondly there remain numerous other damaging waste compounds in our cells and tissues that are worthy of biomedical remediation.

Norway scientists commercialize semiconductors grown on graphene

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) researchers report they have patented and are commercializing gallium arsenide (GaAs) nanowires grown on graphene, a hybrid material with competitive properties. Semiconductors grown on graphene are expected to become the basis for new types of device systems, and could fundamentally change the semiconductor industry.

Crayonano is the caompny commercializing the work.

The new patented hybrid material offers excellent optoelectronic properties, says Professor Helge Weman, a professor at NTNU's Department of Electronics and Telecommunications, and CTO and co-founder of the company created to commercialize the research, CrayoNano AS. "We have managed to combine low cost, transparency and flexibility in our new electrode," he adds.

The patented method of growing semiconductor nanowires on atomically thin graphene uses molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) to grow the nanowires.

"We do not see this as a new product," Weman says. "This is a template for a new production method for semiconductor devices. We expect solar cells and light emitting diodes to be first in line when future applications are planned."

Nanoletters - Vertically Aligned GaAs Nanowires on Graphite and Few-Layer Graphene: Generic Model and Epitaxial Growth

Laser-powered ‘Needle’ Promises Pain-free Injections

A new laser-based system blasts microscopic jets of drugs into the skin could soon make getting a shot as painless as being hit with a puff of air.

The system uses an erbium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet, or Er:YAG, laser to propel a tiny, precise stream of medicine with just the right amount of force. This type of laser is commonly used by dermatologists, “particularly for facial esthetic treatments,” says Jack Yoh, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Seoul National University in South Korea, who developed the device along with his graduate students.

A time-lapse image showing a microjet fired from the laser-based injection system. Traveling through the air, the liquid in this experiment reaches a velocity of 30 meters per second (nearly 100 feet per second). Credit: Optics Letters.

Optics Letters - Er:YAG laser pulse for small-dose splashback-free microjet transdermal drug delivery

Other Needle Free Drug Delivery

The old series of Star Trek had a needle free hypospray. The hypospray has a real world counterpart called a jet injector, invented four years before the first Star Trek series debuted. It uses compressed air to inject the medication through the skin. However, unlike the hypospray, it carries the risk of cross-contamination, which has led to the jet injector falling into disuse. It also has limits for adjusting and controlling the exact dosage levels. The mechanisms used, particularly in spring-loaded designs, are one shot releases, with a coil that ejects the same amount of drug to the same depth every time, which limits the application to certain drugs or patient populations.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a device which uses ultrasonic waves to open pores on the skin, allowing the injection liquid to enter the bloodstream without the use of needles.

Neural implant restores decision making capability in cocaine impaired monkeys

Technology Review - Researchers have used a neural implant to recapture a lost decision-making process in monkeys—demonstrating that a neural prosthetic can recover cognitive function in a primate brain. The results suggest that neural implants could one day be used to recover specific brain functions in patients with brain injuries or localized brain disease.

While the results of today's study may take many years to translate into humans, they suggest that even cognitive processes, such as deciding whether or not to grab a cup of coffee or remembering where you left your keys, could one day be augmented by brain chips.

Paralyzed patients have previously used brain implants and brain-machine interfaces to control robotic arms. And more than 80,000 Parkinson's patients around the world have a deep-brain stimulation implant, which functions like a pacemaker to reduce their tremors and other movement problems. In the new study, however, the implants could actually interpret neuronal inputs from one part of the brain and effectively communicate those outputs to another brain region.

More advanced versions of brain implants will eventually restore brain functions and memories in humans and could eventually lead to tranhumanist enhancement of brain function.

Microstructural Improvements Enhance Material Properties

DARPA merges structural engineering principles with new fabrication technologies to demonstrate microstructural control of materials at the micron level.

Exquisite buildings like the Eiffel Tower were made possible because of advances in structural engineering design methods. Truss structures, like the Eiffel Tower, are highly efficient; they can carry the same loads as solid structures, but at approximately one tenth of the weight. This weight and strength advantage is also what enabled the dramatic increase in building heights between 1885 and 1930, when buildings went from an average of ten stories to more than 100 stories, as epitomized by the Empire State Building.

Drilling down a level to the materials that make up a structure, there is room again for dramatic improvements in strength, weight and other properties. With current technologies, materials are generally made using bulk processing methods. Bulk processing limits material properties because it provides insufficient control of the morphology, or form, within a material’s microstructure. The microstructure refers to the arrangement of the constituents that make up a material at the microscopic (material grain) level. The lack of full control in the microstructure allows for flaws in materials. However, if the limitations of bulk processing can be overcome, the range of material properties available might be greatly increased.

DARPA’s Materials with Controlled Microstructural Architecture (MCMA) program seeks these kinds of breakthroughs. In an attempt to overcome the limitations of bulk processing and achieve its goals, MCMA is combining engineering principles developed for large structures with emerging fabrication techniques to engineer and control the architecture of a material’s microstructure down to the micron level. This control allows researchers to develop materials with greatly enhanced properties. For instance, as demonstrated in the video below, DARPA was able to construct a material so light that it can rest atop a bubble. MCMA researchers are working toward the goal of developing a material that is as strong as steel, but as light as a plastic. To do so, they are exploring the full range of properties that can be manifested as functions of truss design and weight in a material’s microstructure.

DARPA walking robot for carrying supplies is now ten times quieter

DARPA and Boston Dynamics walking robot LS3 systemunderwent its initial outdoor test earlier this year and has matured through continual testing and improvements to the point that two functioning platforms have started to run through the paces similar to what they could one day experience carrying gear for a squad of Marines or Soldiers. The goal of the LS3 program is to demonstrate that a legged robot can unburden dismounted squad members by carrying their gear, autonomously following them through rugged terrain, and interpreting verbal and visual commands.

The system will help a squad carry about 400 pounds of gear.

“We’ve refined the LS3 platform and have begun field testing against requirements of the Marine Corps,” said Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, DARPA program manager. “The vision for LS3 is to combine the capabilities of a pack mule with the intelligence of a trained animal.”

During today’s event, the LS3 prototype completed trotting and jogging mobility runs, perception visualization demonstration and a soldier-bounded autonomy demonstration.

Today’s demo also exhibited reduced noise levels for the robots. “LS3 is now roughly 10 times quieter than when the platform first came online, so squad members can carry on a conversation right next to it, which was difficult before,” Hitt said.

September 13, 2012

Nanoengineers can print 3D microstructure blood vessels in mere seconds

Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a novel technology that can fabricate, in mere seconds, microscale three dimensional (3D) structures out of soft, biocompatible hydrogels. Near term, the technology could lead to better systems for growing and studying cells, including stem cells, in the laboratory. Long-term, the goal is to be able to print biological tissues for regenerative medicine. For example, in the future, doctors may repair the damage caused by heart attack by replacing it with tissue that rolled off of a printer.

NanoEngineering Professor Shaochen Chen has demonstrated the capability of printing three-dimensional blood vessels in mere seconds out of soft, biocompatible hydrogels. Being able to print blood vessels is essential to achieving the promise of regenerative medicine because it is how the body distributes oxygen and nutrients. Image Credit: Biomedical Nanotechnology Laboratory, Chen Research Group, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

Advanced Materials - Rapid Fabrication of Complex 3D Extracellular Microenvironments by Dynamic Optical Projection Stereolithography

A slow shift from World War 2 Radar to GPS for US Air Traffic Control

WSJ - A high-tech overhaul to the nation's air traffic control system is mostly on track to completion, but has yet to produce the benefits that airlines and passengers were told to expect, federal investigators say. Progress in moving from preparation to execution has been slow as the Federal Aviation Administration replaces its World War II-era radar technology with a GPS-based system.

Lacking return on their investment, airlines are reluctant to continue making the multibillion-dollar equipment upgrades needed for the new system to work.

After years of delays and cost overruns, the FAA has improved its handling of the modernization program, known as NextGen, Scovel said. But the agency still hasn't established its overall costs or timeline.

By 2020, the new system is expected to reduce delays by 38 percent compared with the current system; airlines, passengers and taxpayers are estimated to save $24 billion.

The FAA plans to spend $2.4 billion over the next five years on a collection of six programs that the agency says will revolutionize air travel by moving from an outdated, radar-based system to one that uses satellite technology for precision tracking. The goal is to move planes faster and more efficiently by making routes more direct, eliminating many weather delays and enabling planes to fly safely at closer distances.

Once fully in place, the modernization program will save 1.4 billion gallons of fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 14 million metric tons.

Planes must be equipped with new technology, such as navigational equipment, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars per aircraft. NextGen, however, doesn't start yielding full benefits until a critical mass of planes have the new technology, so nobody wants to go first.

Most of the previous scrutiny of the modernization effort has focused on ERAM, the main computer system air traffic controllers will use to identify and track aircraft, except right before takeoff and landing. After a four-year delay and a cost overrun of $330 million, the computer system is up and running in nine cities and on track to be used in all sites by 2014.

But software glitches persist, including some that send data to the wrong aircraft. Those issues have had a domino effect, throwing off implementation of other NextGen elements that depend on the computer system and eating up FAA dollars intended for other functions.

US Federal Reserve Starts QE3 and promises zero interest rate to mid-2015

1. Bloomberg - The United States Federal Reserve said it will expand its holdings of long-term securities with open-ended purchases of $40 billion of mortgage debt a month in a third round of quantitative easing as it seeks to boost growth and reduce unemployment.

“If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the committee will continue its purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases and employ its other policy tools as appropriate,” the Federal Open Market Committee said today in a statement at the end of a two-day meeting in Washington.

The FOMC said it would probably hold the federal funds rate near zero “at least through mid-2015.” Since January, the Fed had said the rate was likely to stay low at least through late 2014.

Engineers at the University of Southampton have built a supercomputer from 64 Raspberry Pi computers and Lego

A team, led by Professor Simon Cox, consisted of Richard Boardman, Andy Everett, Steven Johnston, Gereon Kaiping, Neil O’Brien, Mark Scott and Oz Parchment, along with Professor Cox’s son James Cox (aged 6) who provided specialist support on Lego and system testing created a 64 Raspberry Pi supercomputer.

The machine, named “Iridis-Pi” after the University’s Iridis supercomputer, runs off a single 13 Amp mains socket and uses MPI (Message Passing Interface) to communicate between nodes using Ethernet. The 64 units have 24 GFLOPs for a theoretical peak of 1.5 TeraFLOPs.

The racking was built using Lego with a design developed by Simon and James, who has also been testing the Raspberry Pi by programming it using free computer programming software Python and Scratch over the summer. The machine, named “Iridis-Pi” after the University’s Iridis supercomputer, runs off a single 13 Amp mains socket and uses MPI (Message Passing Interface) to communicate between nodes using Ethernet. The whole system cost under £2,500 (excluding switches) and has a total of 64 processors and 1Tb of memory (16Gb SD cards for each Raspberry Pi). Professor Cox uses the free plug-in ‘Python Tools for Visual Studio’ to develop code for the Raspberry Pi.

Professor Cox adds: “The first test we ran – well obviously we calculated Pi on the Raspberry Pi using MPI, which is a well-known first test for any new supercomputer.”

The steps to make the computer are here

The machine uses linux and Python.

Intel Bets on Moore's Law for Another Decade

PC Mag -Intel is readying 14-nanometer process technology for chips due out next year and sees a path all the way to 5nm processors by the end of the decade, Intel senior fellow Mark Bohr said Wednesday.

The chip giant is currently ramping its 22nm process with third-generation Core chips known as Ivy Bridge that were first released in late 2011. Comfortably ensconced in the high-volume stage of 22nm production, Bohr said defect density in Intel's 22nm silicon have improved considerably and yields are now matching the previous 32nm generation of products.

Bohr said extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography would be preferable for the 10nm node, but it probably wouldn't be cost-effective at that point.

Beyond 10nm, Intel has pegged 7nm and 5nm transistors as the next stops on the Moore's Law-driven path to ever-smaller circuitry packed more densely onto computer chips every 18 months or so.
ZD Net - Jack Clark picture from the IDF 2012 talk

Intel to Software Developers: Embrace Era of Transparent Computing

at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF), Renée James, senior vice president and general manager of the Software and Services Group at Intel Corporation, outlined her vision for transparent computing. This concept is made possible only through an “open” development ecosystem where software developers write code that will run across multiple environments and devices. This approach will lessen the financial and technical compromises developers make today.

Intel now believes that HTML5 is emerging as a credible solution for several of the technical challenges that we outlined around the vision for transparent computing.

“With transparent computing, software developers no longer must choose one environment over another in order to maintain profitability and continue to innovate,” said James. “Consumers and businesses are challenged with the multitude of wonderful, yet incompatible devices and environments available today. It’s not about just mobility, the cloud or the PC. What really matters is when all of these elements come together in a compelling and transparent cross-platform user experience that spans environments and hardware architectures. Developers who embrace this reality are the ones who will remain relevant.”

Software developers are currently forced to choose between market reach, delivering innovation or staying profitable. By delivering the best performance with Intel's cross-platform tools, security solutions and economically favorable distribution channels, the company continues to take a leadership position in defining and driving the open software ecosystem.

* Intel reinforces commitment to ensuring HTML5 adoption accelerates and remains an open standard, providing developers a robust application environment that will run best on Intel® architecture.

* New McAfee Anti-Theft product is designed to protect consumers’ property and personal information on Ultrabook™ devices.

* The Intel® Developer Zone is a new program designed to provide software developers and businesses with a single point of access to tools, communities and resources to help them engage with peers.

Intel sees economical quad-patterned path to 10 nm chips and plans to get to 5nm

EETimes - Intel Corp. has found a way to create a 10 nm process technology using immersion lithography. In addition, the processor giant is on track to start making chips in a 14 nm process technology before the end of next year, said an Intel fellow in a talk at the Intel Developer Forum.

The 10 nm process would debut in 2015 or later. It would require quadruple patterning for some mask layers but “it’s still economical,” said Mark Bohr, director of Intel’s technology and manufacturing group.

Intel is considering many options including ones not on this slide Bohr showed.

ABC Conjecture has a serious claim to a proof

Wikipedia - The abc conjecture (also known as Oesterlé–Masser conjecture) is a conjecture in number theory, first proposed by Joseph Oesterlé (1988) and David Masser (1985) as an integer analogue of the Mason–Stothers theorem for polynomials. The conjecture is stated in terms of three positive integers, a, b and c (whence comes the name), which have no common factor and satisfy a + b = c. If d denotes the product of the distinct prime factors of abc, the conjecture essentially states that d is rarely much smaller than c.

The abc conjecture has already become well known for the number of interesting consequences it entails. Many famous conjectures and theorems in number theory would follow immediately from the abc conjecture. Goldfeld (1996) described the abc conjecture as "the most important unsolved problem in Diophantine analysis".

In August 2012, Shinichi Mochizuki released a paper with a serious claim to a proof of the abc conjecture. Mochizuki calls the theory on which this proof is based inter-universal Teichmüller theory, and it has other applications including a proof of Szpiro's conjecture and Vojta's conjecture.

Here is the 61 page working paper of the proof. Inter-Universal Techmuller Theory IV: Log-Volume Computations and
Set-Theoretic Foundations

Some consequences

The abc conjecture has a large number of consequences. These include both known results, and conjectures for which it gives a conditional proof.

* Thue–Siegel–Roth theorem on diophantine approximation of algebraic numbers
* Fermat's Last Theorem for all sufficiently large exponents (proven in general by Andrew Wiles)
* The Mordell conjecture (Elkies 1991)
* The Erdős–Woods conjecture except for a finite number of counterexamples (Langevin 1993)
* The existence of infinitely many non-Wieferich primes (Silverman 1988)
* The weak form of Marshall Hall's conjecture on the separation between squares and cubes of integers (Nitaj 1996)
* The Fermat–Catalan conjecture, a generalization of Fermat's last theorem concerning powers that are sums of powers (Pomerance 2008)
* The L function L(s,(−d/.)) formed with the Legendre symbol, has no Siegel zero (this consequence actually requires a uniform version of the abc conjecture in number fields, not only the abc conjecture as formulated above for rational integers)
* P(x) has only finitely many perfect powers for integral x for P a polynomial with at least three simple zeros.[5]
* A generalization of Tijdeman's theorem
* It is equivalent to the Granville–Langevin conjecture.
* It is equivalent to the modified Szpiro conjecture, which would yield a bound of \operatorname{rad}(abc)^{\frac{6}{5}+\epsilon} (Oesterlé 1988).
* Dąbrowski (1996) has shown that the abc conjecture implies that n! + A= k2 has only finitely many solutions for any given integer A.[clarification needed]

While the first group of these have now been proven, the abc conjecture itself remains of interest, because of its numerous links with deep questions in number theory.

Lunar Space elevator kickstarter at $107,500 with 2 hours to go

With 2 hours to go the Liftport Lunar space elevator kickstarter is at $107,500

Different Fund Raising Levels in Brief

$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

The Skycube Kickstarter made it to $116,890

On August 30th, 2012, Skycube are announced a new stretch goal of $110,000. They made it.

September 12, 2012

North Dakota hits another oil production record with 674,066 bpd in July

iPhone 5 Announced and will be available September 21

Apple has officially introduced the iPhone 5 and has a comparison to other iPhones.

iPhone 5 on the left and compared to the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4.

In the US, all three iPhones will be available on AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

The iPhone 5 has a 4-inch (diagonal) Retina display with 1136-by-640 resolution.

The iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S had 3.5-inch (diagonal) Retina display and 960-by-640 resolution.

Inducing superconductivity in a semi-conductor with Scotch Tape

An international team led by University of Toronto physicists has developed a simple new technique to induce high-temperature superconductivity in a semiconductor for the first time - using Scotch Tape.

The method paves the way for new devices that could be used in quantum computing and to improve energy efficiency.

“Who would have thought simply sticking things together can generate entirely new effects?” said team leader and U of T physicist Ken Burch.

High-temperature superconductors are materials that conduct electricity without heating up or losing energy at liquid nitrogen temperatures. Used to transmit electricity with low loss, these superconductors are also the building blocks of the next generation of devices such as quantum computers.

Nature Communications - Proximity-induced high-temperature superconductivity in the topological insulators Bi2Se3 and Bi2Te3

China High Speed Rail Sufficiently Profitable for the New Expansions

Four of the nation’s 14 high-speed rail lines have been profitable eversince bullet trains started full-speed, intercity service in China two years ago, giving impetus to a Ministry of Railways expansion.

Passenger ticket revenues have so far matched expenses — including debt payments — for the busy Beijing-Tianjin, Shanghai-Nanjing, Beijing-Shanghai and Shanghai-Hangzhou lines, a source at the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) told Caixin.

The financial health of the Beijing-Shanghai line exceeded expectations during its first operating year, which ended in June.

Evidence for granular room-temperature superconductivity in water-treated graphite powder

Arxiv - Can doping graphite trigger room temperature superconductivity? Evidence for granular high-temperature superconductivity in water-treated graphite powder Trying to dope graphite flakes we found that the magnetization of pure, several tens of micrometers grain size graphite powder and after a simple treatment with pure water shows clear and reproducible granular superconducting behavior with a critical temperature above 300K. The observed magnetic characteristics as a function of temperature, magnetic field and time, provide evidence for weakly coupled grains through Josephson interaction, revealing the existence of superconducting vortices.

Technology Review has coverage.

September 11, 2012

China's central and local governments plans 12.6 trillion RMB (Over US$2 trillion) in spending

Forbes - Weak economic data from the world’s second largest economy continues to stoke fears that as China slows down, it will exacerbate the cooling of the global economy. But it shouldn’t be all gloom and doom, according to Nomura’s economic research team, which suggests Chinese output will rebound sharply in the fourth quarter on the back of a stimulus plan worth about one trillion RMB ($158 billion) and monetary easing by the People’s Bank of China.

While GDP is expected to grow only 7.7% in the third quarter, Nomura’s research team forecasts a sharp rebound in the fourth quarter, with output expanding 8.8%. Infrastructure investment will play a prominent role in this recovery. Total planned investment for new projects started in August rose 33% year-over-year in August, up from 25% in the previous month; it’s forecasted to grow more than 40% this year.

Power stations, wind farms, airports, water supply, sewage treatment, and waste incineration power plant projects have also been announced, worth together around one trillion RMB, Nomura’s estimates show, or 2.1% of GDP. These projects take an average of four years to complete, and are normally started with a three to four month lag, they explained.

Local governments have also pledged about 11.6 trillion RMB in development projects that last anywhere from three to five years to complete. That translates into $1.83 trillion or 23% of GDP, dwarfing the four trillion RMB 2008 fiscal stimulus. While it isn’t entirely clear that these projects will indeed go through in the long run, Nomura expects investments in several of these to pick up over the coming months.

China's local government and central government infrastructure and development projects are going to be about US$2 trillion over four years.

The United States has an eleven month budget deficit of 1.17 trillion. The United States will likely have another $4 trillion in new deficit spending for the next four years.

25 kilometer tall towers for single stage to orbit launches

High Altitude Launch for a Practical SSTO (6 pages, 2003 by Geoffrey A. Landis and Vincent Denis)

Existing engineering materials allow the construction of towers to heights of many kilometers. Orbital launch from a high altitude has significant advantages over sea-level launch due to the reduced atmospheric pressure, resulting in lower atmospheric drag on the vehicle and allowing higher rocket engine performance. High-altitude launch sites are particularly advantageous for single-stage to orbit (SSTO) vehicles, where the payload is typically 2% of the initial launch mass. An earlier paper enumerated some of the advantages of high altitude launch of SSTO vehicles. In this paper, we calculate launch trajectories for a candidate SSTO vehicle, and calculate the advantage of launch at launch altitudes 5 to 25 kilometer altitudes above sea level. The performance increase can be directly translated into increased payload capability to orbit, ranging from 5 to 20% increase in the mass to orbit. For a candidate vehicle with an initial payload fraction of 2% of gross lift-off weight, this corresponds to 31% increase in payload (for 5-km launch altitude) to 122% additional payload (for 25-km launch altitude).

Example calculations of mass required for a fifteen-km tower sized to support a 2000 ton launch weight:
Structural material: Graphite epoxy:
LL = 107.5 km No taper needed
tower mass 280 tons

Cast steel:
LL = 15.4 km taper required
tower mass 5300 tons
(area taper ratio 2.6)

Osamu Tabata – DNA origami for assembling nanomachines - Cells, receptor proteins, enzymes and DNA have outstanding properties. The question is, can they also be used as building blocks in computer processors, sensor systems and other micromachines in next generation microelectronics? In cooperation with his research group at the University of Kyoto and his partners in Freiburg, Prof. Dr. Osamu Tabata, microengineer and External Senior Fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) is working on the development of a new generation of micromachines based on folded DNA molecules that is smaller, more intelligent and better than the previous generation.

Prof. Osamu Tabata, External Senior Fellow at the School of Soft Matter Research at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) is a pioneer of MEMS.

The future of the art of engineering

Biological elements such as cells, receptor proteins, enzymes and DNA have amazing properties: they can recognize individual molecules, conduct light energy and catalyze chemical reactions, to name just a few properties. “Can they be used as components of next-generation microelectronics systems such as computer processors, sensor systems, MEMS and other micromachines?” asks Tabata, who is a professor in the Department of Microengineering Sciences at Kyoto University in Japan. “And how can biological elements be combined with microelectronic systems?” Tabata is certain that bionanotechnology will have a huge impact on engineering in the future. Currently focused on the basic aspects, it is such visions that have driven his research from the very beginning back in the day when the term “microelectromechanical systems” had not yet been coined.

The DNA origami method enables the researchers to fold DNA molecules into complicated scaffolds. (© Prof. Dr. Osamu Tabata)

Estimate of 81.8 million new cars and trucks in 2012 and just over 1 billion old and new vehicles on the roads of the world

Production of passenger vehicles (cars and light trucks) rose from 74.4 million in 2010 to 76.8 million in 2011—and 2012 may bring an all-time high of 80 million or more vehicles, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute ( for its Vital Signs Online service. Global sales of passenger vehicles increased from 75.4 million to 78.6 million over the same period, with a projected 81.8 million in 2012.

An estimated 691 million passenger cars were on the world’s roads in 2011. When both light- and heavy-duty trucks are included, the number rises to 979 million vehicles, which was 30 million more than just a year earlier. By the end of 2012, the global fleet could top 1 billion vehicles—one for every seven people on the planet.

September 10, 2012

Harold White Warp Field Mechanics Update

Space Warp equations are being tested using an instrument called the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer. At Johnson Space Center, Eagleworks has initiated an interferometer test bed that will try to generate and detect a microscopic instance of a little warp bubble. Although this is just a tiny instance of the phenomena, it will be existence proof for the idea of perturbing space time—a “Chicago pile” moment, as it were. Recall that December of 1942 saw the first demonstration of a controlled nuclear reaction that generated a whopping half watt. This existence proof was followed by the activation of a ~ four megawatt reactor in November of 1943. Existence proof for the practical application of a scientific idea can be a tipping point for technology development.

In the past, the literature has quoted Jupiter amounts of exotic matter/negative pressure necessary to implement a “useful” warp bubble, making the idea mostly of academic interest at best. However, sensitivity analysis started by White in 2011 and completed this year has shown that the energy requirements can be greatly reduced by first optimizing the warp bubble thickness, and further by oscillating the bubble intensity to reduce the stiffness of space time. The results, to be presented at the 2012 100 Year Starship Symposium in Houston, will discuss the findings in detail, but have yielded a reduction from Jupiter amount of exotic matter to an amount smaller than the Voyager 1 spacecraft (500kg) for a 10-meter bubble with an effective velocity of 10c, which is a handy improvement.

The Eagleworks Q-thruster experiment attempts to utilize applied scientific research in the fields of quantum vacuum, gravitation, the nature of space-time, and other fundamental phenomenon to realize the possibility of an ultra-high Isp propulsion solution. Through these underpinnings, it is mathematically possible to employ the vacuum particle/anti-particle “sea” and utilize it as propellant reaction mass. Previous QVPT tests have generated possible thrust signals in the milli-Newton range and hinted at Isp’s on the order of 10^12 seconds. This iteration aims to validate or refute the present evidence in order to push forward in pursuit of breakthrough propulsion physics. For the exhibit, we will present a conceptual visualization of these effects, and provide a summary of present data and future plans.

Talk Polywell comment -

A "boost" of 100, combined with a 'starter velocity' of 0.1c, yields an apparent velocity of 10c.

100 * 0.1 = 10

Talk Polywell has a comment from Paul March who has worked on Mach Effect propulsion and nuclear propulsion.

If Dr. White's 4D+ theoretical conjecture on this warp field topic is correct, and I say if for we have no data yet to back it up until our back-ordered replacement laser shows up in the lab, we should be able to make the required inertially exotic mass requirement as small as desired dependent on the selected starting velocity, desired boost factor and how fast we can vary the warp-field's potential energy field about its mean value, which is dependent on how much power our RF generators can handle. However the higher the effective boost velocity becomes, the more ac potential energy one has to store in the warp-field and we all know what can happen to pressure vessels when they are pushed too far...

We have covered the initiation of this project 6 months ago.

Skycube Kickstarter

Skycube is a nano-satellite that lets you take Earth images and "tweet" from space, then inflates a visible balloon, and de-orbits cleanly.

They have 25 hours left on their kickstarter.

Friend of Nextbigfuture, Chris Phoenix is writing the onboard software for Skycube.

Who Are We? And What is SkyCube?

We're the makers of the SkySafari astronomy apps for iOS, Android, and Mac OS X, and the SkyFi wireless telescope controller. With our mobile apps, we've revolutionized the way people observe the night sky. Now, we want to do for space exploration what we've done for amateur astronomy.

SkyCube will take low-resolution pictures of the Earth and broadcast simple messages uploaded by sponsors. After 90 days, it will use an 8-gram CO2 cartridge to inflate a 10-foot (3-meter) diameter balloon coated with highly reflective titanium dioxide powder. SkyCube's balloon will make the satellite as bright as the Hubble Space Telescope or a first-magnitude star. You'll be able to see it with your own eyes, sailing across the sky. But SkyCube's balloon isn't just for visibility. It will - within 3 weeks - bring SkyCube down from orbit due to atmospheric drag, ending the mission cleanly in a fiery "grand finale" that avoids any buildup of space debris.
SkyCube: Your Eye in the Sky

SkyCube won't just let you broadcast messages from space. It will also let you look back at the Earth from orbit. You can request images from the satellite using our smartphone or web app. SkyCube's images will be transmitted to our ground stations when the satellite passes over them - and then forwarded to you across the internet. You might just see your entire state (or country!) in one image from space, or catch a sunrise from orbit.

Built-in Germanium Lasers could make Computer Chips faster

Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) researchers have investigated how they could make the semiconductor Germanium emit laser light. As a laser material, Germanium together with Silicon could form the basis for innovative computer chips in which information would be transferred partially in the form of light. This technology would revolutionise data streaming within chips and give a boost to the performance of electronics. The researchers have demonstrated that Germanium must be put under strain by an external force in order to turn it into a laser material.

Low energy and highly efficient onchip photonic communications is a key technology to enable zettaflop supercomputers

Physical Review Letters - Direct-Gap Gain and Optical Absorption in Germanium Correlated to the Density of Photoexcited Carriers, Doping, and Strain

Details of the NASA NIAC Water Walls Proposal

Space Architect - Water Walls Architecture: Massively Redundant and Highly Reliable Life Support For Long Duration Exploration Missions (14 pages, 2010)

This project has received phase 1 NASA NIAC funding in 2012.

The history of life support systems in space shows that mechanical life support systems have high duty cycles and consequent failure rates that make them problematic for long duration missions. Water Walls offers the potential for a largely passive system based on forward osmosis processes that will be much more reliable for long duration human exploration missions. Water Walls can also provide nutrient production and radiation shielding

Water Walls (WW) presents a new approach to long duration life support. Instead of providing one or two heavy, excessively complex and, sensitive, expensive, and failure-prone pieces of mechanical equipment, the WW approach provides a large number of simple units based on forward osmosis (FO) to handle the same functions as conventional systems – and more.

Instead of continuously active mechanical systems, WW is mostly passive, with only valves and small pumps as active elements – no compressors, evaporators, sublimators, distillers, adsorbers, or desorbers. Instead of the failureprone mechanical Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) equipment that must operate continuously, WW modules are designed to have their capacity consumed gradually throughout the mission. As one unit is used up, the next in line takes over. In the case of the blackwater/solids cells, they leave a residue of dry biomass and CaCO3 that can continue to provide radiation shielding.

An interplanetary spacecraft would launch with its WW modules dry, then in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) or at an Earth-Moon Lagrange Point, they would be primed with water to “fuel” the life support. WW offers the promise of an inexpensive, modular, simple, low maintenance, highly reliable, and massively redundant system to outfit human interplanetary spacecraft, lunar, and Mars bases. Between interplanetary missions or for scheduled maintenance at a lunar/planetary base, crewmembers refurbish the Water Walls systems simply by replacing the disposable FO bags or membranes.

Metamaterial Antenna Satellite Internet hotspot company

Metamaterials Surface Antenna Technology (MSA-T) was invented by Intellectual Ventures, where a dedicated team of engineers performed significant research and development to de-risk the technology.
and this has been spunoff into Kymeta Corporation.

They want to use satellites to create Internet hotspots. The first application will be for airlines sometime in 2015. Kymeta would then develop products for trains and ships. They also want to create a small, backpack-sized satellite hot spot that could be used by the average consumer

Kymeta wants to be able install broadband satellite antennas onto planes, ships and trains in 24 hours. This will give mobile broadband to passengers (who are willing to pay for the privilege.).

Carnival of Space 266

September 09, 2012

Infrared LEDs made from Quantum dots

A new process developed by Dr. Liangfeng Sun and his team holds promise for improving the production and capabilities of the infrared light emitting diode, or LED, for use in technologies ranging from communications to night vision devices used by the military.

Sun, a Bowling Green State University assistant professor in physics and astronomy who also joined BGSU’s Center for Photochemical Sciences last year, and his team have pioneered a chemistry-based method of creating infrared LEDs in the lab using nanocrystals in solution, which has produced record brightness and better performance at a dramatically lower cost.

Brayton Cycle Supercritical turbine

Sandia National Laboratories is seeking an industry partner to market a turbine system that could substantially improve energy efficiency in small modular nuclear reactors.

The system uses carbon dioxide in a closed-loop “Brayton-cycle” turbine to crank up electric conversion from heat, said Gary Rochau, manager of the advanced nuclear concepts group at Sandia’s Nuclear Energy and Fuel Cycle Technologies Center.

A supercritical CO2 Brayton-cycle system can reach 50 percent conversion efficiency. Typically, you only get 30 percent conversion with an [air-based] steam engine.

The system is much less expensive to build because it’s very compact, Rochau said. Given its size, it can’t be used in large power plants like coal-fired generators. But it’s well-suited for tiny plants, such as small modular nuclear reactors.

Sandia researchers have worked with this single compressor €œresearch loop to build a closed-loop Brayton-cycle turbine that uses supercritical carbon dioxide to increase the conversion of heat to electricity in turbine generators

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