March 30, 2013

Solid State Batteries will be the successor to Lithium ion Batteries

Toyota has long clung to the Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NiMH) batteries, claiming that lithium-ion batteries are too expensive. Toyota is looking to solid state and lithium-air batteries. By modifying liquefied electrolytes into solid electrolytes, it allows each cells to connect without the need for individual casing, which results in creating a more compact packaging. Solid state batteries could thus have one fifth the volume of current batteries. What makes that possible is the use of solid electrolytes. Rather than a liquid sloshing around, a solid state battery has blocks of solid material pressed together. This requires less packaging to achieve the same effect as the liquid electrolyte batteries.

With metal-air batteries, the cathode is "air", meaning that the battery weight is only the anode. The problem with this picture is that with current lithium-air battery research, the "air" must be pure oxygen, and cannot be any old air from the atmosphere. This is because of contaminants and especially humidity. Lithium-metal burns in certain conditions. To resolve this problem lithium-air battery researchers have gizmos to extract pure oxygen from the atmosphere to provide the proper stuff to the lithium-air battery. That gizmo adds to the packaging complexity of lithium-air batteries in a way that is not shown on Toyota's picture.

Ukrainian aircraft design expertise to the highest bidder

Ukraine exported major conventional arms worth $1.344 billion in 2012 becoming the fourth largest arms exporter in the world, according to the data published by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Three largest suppliers of major conventional weapons in 2012 were the United States ($8.760 billion), Russia ($8.003 billion), and China ($1.783 billion).

Antonov State a global leader in aircraft design

A major export is military aircraft designs. China bought the services of Antonov State to help build the Y-20 transport aircraft. The Antonov State Company, is a Ukrainian aircraft manufacturing and services company based in Kyiv. Antonov's particular expertise is in the fields of very large airplanes and airplanes insensitive to runway quality. Antonov is the most common airplane brand on the planet, with total of 22,000 aircraft built and thousands of planes currently operating in the former Soviet Union and the developing countries.

The Antonov 124 is the largest airplane that was ever mass produced and there are versions that can carry 150 tons.

Oleg Antonov died in 1984 but he left a legacy of superior aircraft design capability in the Ukrainian company.

China's Y-20 66 ton transport

China’s domestically-produced Y-20 transport aircraft successfully completed its maiden flight on Jan. 26, 2013 The Y-20’s first flight suggests that China is on the way to joining the U.S., Russia and Ukraine as the fourth nation to independently develop and fly a heavy military transport aircraft. Its development represents a meaningful step toward China being able to develop a more robust ability to project aerial power, both in the form of air transport and aerial refueling. It also offers a large airframe that could eventually provide a foundation for building airborne early warning aircraft and large air tankers capable of supporting long-range strike fighters. Finally, the Y-20 transport could eventually be exported to friendly nations, and perhaps beyond if AVIC can build and sell it for less than the cost of competitors such as the Russian IL-76. The PLAAF currently operates 20 IL-76s, and has reportedly ordered 30 more.

The Y-20 has three aircrew, a 15-meter height and 47-meter fuselage length, a 66-ton maximum load capacity and a maximum takeoff weight of just over 200 tons. Its capacious cargo hold can “carry the vast majority of combat and support vehicles of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), including the PLA’s heaviest tank, the 58-ton Type-99A2.

Vanadium graphene ribbons for fast charging and discharging batteries

Hybrid ribbons of vanadium oxide (VO2) and graphene may accelerate the development of high-power lithium-ion batteries suitable for electric cars and other demanding applications. The ribbons created at Rice are thousands of times thinner than a sheet of paper, yet have potential that far outweighs current materials for their ability to charge and discharge very quickly. Cathodes built into half-cells for testing at Rice fully charged and discharged in 20 seconds and retained more than 90 percent of their initial capacity after more than 1,000 cycles.

“This is the direction battery research is going, not only for something with high energy density but also high power density,” Ajayan said. “It’s somewhere between a battery and a supercapacitor.”

In testing the new material, Yang and Gong found its capacity for lithium storage remained stable after 200 cycles even at high temperatures (167 degrees Fahrenheit) at which other cathodes commonly decay, even at low charge-discharge rates.

“We think this is real progress in the development of cathode materials for high-power lithium-ion batteries,” Ajayan said, suggesting the ribbons’ ability to be dispersed in a solvent might make them suitable as a component in the paintable batteries developed in his lab.

Hydrothermal processing of vanadium pentoxide and graphene oxide creates graphene-coated ribbons of crystalline vanadium oxide, which show great potential as ultrafast charging and discharging electrodes for lithium-ion batteries.
Image Credit: Ajayan Group at Rice University.

March 29, 2013

New Nuclear Reactor Completions Expected Worldwide from 2013 to 2017

The World Nuclear association has an updated list of the new nuclear reactors that are expected from 2013 to 2017 There are in the range of 15 nuclear reactors expected each year.

Operation*     REACTOR         MWe (net)
2013    Iran, AEOI  Bushehr 1*        950
2013    India, NPCIL  Kudankulam 1    950
2013    India, NPCIL  Kudankulam 2    950
2013    China, CGNPC  Hongyanhe 1*   1080 (was grid connected Feb, 2013)
2013    China, CGNPC  Ningde 1*      1080 (was grid connected Dec, 2012)
2013  Korea, KHNP  Shin Wolsong 2    1000
2013  Korea, KHNP  Shin-Kori 3       1350
2013  Russia Leningrad II-1          1070
2013  Argentina, CNEA  Atucha 2       692
2013  China, CGNPC  Ningde 2         1080
2013  China, CGNPC  Yangjiang 1      1080
2013  China, CGNPC  Taishan 1        1700
2013  China, CNNC  Fangjiashan 1     1080
2013  China, CNNC  Fuqing 1          1080
2013  China, CGNPC  Hongyanhe 2      1080

The Age of Reusable Rockets Could Begin in the middle of 2014 with a Spacex Propulsive Landing

At a joint press conference with NASA yesterday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the company will try a water landing of its Falcon 9 first stage later year. The landing will be the start of a series of flight tests that could culminate with an attempted propulsive landing of a first stage back at its launch site in the middle of 2014, Musk said.

During the initial test, the first stage will continue on a ballistic arc and execute a velocity reduction burn to cushion its re-entry into the atmosphere, the SpaceX chief said. Just before splashdown, the rocket will light up its engines again.

Musk said he expected to lose first stages during the initial recovery attempts. The company is looking to gain the experience and data needed to bring a first stage back to the launch site next year for a propulsive landing using retractable legs. He said that attempt could occur in mid-2014.

This confirmed the rumor (from March 22, 2013) of an attempt to recover a first stage from a water landing.

A successful propulsive landing would enable reusable rockets which could lower the cost of launching to space by 100 times.

DNA made into Complex 2D and 3D DNA nanostructures made from DNA wireframe meshes using new adaptable junctions

University of Arizona researcher Hao Yan has made new 2-D and 3-D objects that look like wire-frame art of spheres as well as molecular tweezers, scissors, a screw, hand fan, and even a spider web.

The twist in their 'bottom up,' molecular Lego design strategy focuses on a DNA structure called a Holliday junction.

In nature, this cross-shaped, double-stacked DNA structure is like the 4-way traffic stop of genetics – where 2 separate DNA helices temporality meet to exchange genetic information. The Holliday junction is the crossroads responsible for the diversity of life on Earth, and ensures that children are given a unique shuffling of traits from a mother and father's DNA.

In nature, the Holliday junction twists the double-stacked strands of DNA at an angle of about 60-degrees, which is perfect for swapping genes but sometimes frustrating for DNA nanotechnology scientists, because it limits the design rules of their structures.

"In principal, you can use the scaffold to connect multiple layers horizontally," [which many research teams have utilized since the development of DNA origami by Cal Tech's Paul Rothemund in 2006]. However, when you go in the vertical direction, the polarity of DNA prevents you from making multiple layers," said Yan. "What we needed to do is rotate the angle and force it to connect."

The fundamental unit in Hao Yan's new nanostructures rely on modifying a 4-arm DNA junction. The relaxed DNA geometry found in a 4-arm junction (B) can be rotated 150 degrees clockwise or 30 degrees counterclockwise (C) to form the right angles needed to make a DNA Gridiron (D and E).
Photo by: Biodesign Institute

Science - DNA Gridiron Nanostructures Based on Four-Arm Junctions

Hypersonic Electric Acceleration for Launching to Space and for accelerating commercial hypersonic planes that is cheaper than maglev and more efficient

Alexander Bolonkin proposes a hypersonic ground based electric engine that is several times more efficient than railguns and more economical than maglev rail.

The main idea of the offered ground hypersonic electric engine is segmentation of the acceleration track on small special closed-loop sections (12.5 – 100 meters) and a system of special switches which allow return of the magnetic energy to the system transferring it to apparatus movement. This increases the efficiency of hypersonic engine up 90% (instead of 20-40% for a railgun). It avoids the burning of rails when using the engine for long periods of time. The same idea may be used in a conventional Rail Gun.

The feasibility and practicality of this invention was designed for the purpose of using it as a space launcher for astronauts and space load, as method for hypersonic long distance aviation and as method for supersonic passenger ground rail transportation. The offered system will be significantly cheaper than the currently used MagLev (Magnetic Levitation) systems, because the vehicle employs conventional wings for levitation and the hypersonic engine is very simple. The offered system may be also used for mass launch of projectiles as a weapon.

The suggested launcher is
* very simple
* uses conventional iron rails
* does not generate high heating
* can be produced with present technology.
* A large conventional power plant is enough for launching over ten tons into orbit.

Thermonuclear Micro-Bomb Propulsion for Fast Interplanetary Missions by Friedwardt Winterberg

To reduce the radiation hazard for manned missions to Mars and beyond, a high specific impulse-high thrust system is needed, with a nuclear bomb propulsion system the preferred candidate. The propulsion with small fission bombs is excluded because the critical mass requirement leads to extravagant small fission burn up rates. This leaves open the propulsion with non-fission ignited thermonuclear micro-explosions, with a compact fusion micro-explosion igniter (driver), and no large radiator. It should not depend on the rare He3 isotope, and only require a small amount of tritium. This excludes lasers for ignition. With multi-mega-amperegigavolt proton beams and a small amount of tritium, cylindrical deuterium targets can be ignited. The proton beams are generated by discharging the entire spacecraft as a magnetically insulated gigavolt capacitor. To avoid a large radiator, needed to remove the heat from the absorption of the fast neutrons in the spacecraft, the micro-explosion is surrounded by a thick layer of liquid hydrogen, stopping the neutrons and heating the hydrogen to a temperature of ~ 100,000 Kelvin, which as a fully ionized plasma can be repelled from the spacecraft by a magnetic mirror.

This is a new nuclear fusion microbomb propulsion design for a spaceship to Mars that would travel at 200,000 miles per hour. This would enable a travel time of about 2 weeks.

Winterberg is well-respected for his work in the fields of nuclear fusion and plasma physics, and Edward Teller has been quoted as saying that he had "perhaps not received the attention he deserves" for his work on fusion. His thermonuclear microexplosion ignition concept was adopted by the British Interplanetary Society for their Project Daedalus Starship Study. His work was the theoretical basis of the global positioning system.

China Spending $269 billion on High Voltage Direct Current Grid Construction from 2011 to 2015 as part of a massive Smart Grid and Home Automation Plan

China is by far the biggest consumer of HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) technology. The government has said it wants to spend $269 billion through 2015 on building about 200,000 kilometers of new 330-kilovolts-and-up transmission lines -- almost the equivalent of rebuilding the United States' 257,500-kilometer transmission network from scratch. Of that, State Grid Corp. of China plans to spend a staggering $80 billion on 40,000 kilometer of ultra-high voltage (UHV) DC lines from 2011 to 2015.

China is adding so much new transmission capacity and so many power lines that it could build three quarters the length of a new American transmission grid in just five years. When the dust settles, there will be over 200,000 kilometers of new 330-kilovolts-and-up transmission lines built, for a total of 900,000 kilometers of transmission lines, compared to 257,500 kilometers of transmission lines presently in the U.S.

China's smart grid development includes six key areas: power generation, transmission, transformation, distribution, consumption, and dispatching. The smart grid covers all voltage levels to achieve the optimum power flow, information flow, and business flow, along with a high degree of integration. China is currently in the second stage of its smart grid deployment, according to the State Grid Corporation of China. Lasting from 2011-2015, this is the full construction phase. Pike Research forecasts that cumulative smart grid revenue in China will reach $127 billion by 2020. China represents 70% of the Asian smart grid market, and will invest close to US$250 billion into its grid over the next five years. There are major plans in motion in the areas of transmission, distribution automation, smart meters, electric vehicles (EV), and EV charging technologies, and over 263 smart grid pilot projects already underway

European High Voltage Direct Current Supergrid Roadmap

There is a High Voltage DC supergrid technology roadmap. (107 pages. Mar 2013.) Direct Current becomes more cost effective at longer distances versus alternating current. At similar voltage level, a DC line can transmit more than double the power at about half the losses compared to an AC line for a 1000 kilometer line.

Phases for Developing Supergrid

Today – 2015
The period from today to 2015 is determined by renewable energy starting to replace older coal fired power plants as well as nuclear power, the latter especially in Germany. Europe's first large scale near shore and far shore wind parks are commissioned, typically in the power range of 500 to 1,000 MW. AC transmission is used as far as possible to connect the wind parks to the onshore grid. Projects that are more than 100 km away from their onshore connection point are connected by radial VSC based HVDC point-to-point links. To transmit the energy generated offshore to the load centres, the existing transmission system reaches its capacity limits and planning is underway for system strengthening and expansion. Studies such as the Offshore Grid Study and the Climate Foundation 2050 Road Map alongside initiatives such as North Seas Countries Offshore Grid (NSCOGI) and ENTSO-E’s 2050 Electricity Highways Working Group all point to the need for higher levels of
network integration.

DARPA developing sensor tattoos for monitoring vital signs

DARPA is developing skin-adherent sensors are to monitor troops vital signs possibly in real time. Military scientists believe that using the device — preferably a tattoo — to track heart-rate, temperature or bio-electric response during various training situations will help them crack the code of combat fatigue. The solicitation, which opened last month, hopes new technologies can transcend the current paradigm of patient monitoring of needles, gels and electrodes. And advanced materials make it possible to integrate everything from the sensors to the transmitter into thumb-sized membranes that can stick to skin — like temporary tattoos.

Darpa is hoping that whichever company wins the research contract will be able to use a relatively new technology known as epidermal electronic systems (EES) to make sensors that are both unobtrusive and durable enough for modern combat training. Using state-of-the-art, highly flexible materials, researchers can coil sensors, electronics, and transmitters into serpentine shapes that form a stretchable net. “This innovative design contains all of the necessary components in an ultrathin layer about the thickness of a human hair,” writes Zhenqiang Ma, an electrical engineer at the University of Wisconsin, in a review of the technology.

Stories of Hunt Brother Billionaire Again and Madonna

These are a couple of off topic stories of wealth.

1. H.L. Hunt was a billionaire Texas oil tycoon who was the inspiration for the character of JR Ewing on the TV show Dallas.

Two of his 14 children were William Herbert and Nelson Hunt. They were the billionaire Hunt brothers who tried to corner the world silver market back in the 1970s and 1980.

Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt, the sons of Texas oil billionaire Haroldson Lafayette Hunt, Jr., had for some time been attempting to corner the market in silver. In 1979, the price for silver jumped from $6 per troy ounce to a record high of $48.70 per troy ounce, which represents an increase of 712%. The brothers were estimated to hold one third of the entire world supply of silver (other than that held by governments).

But on January 7, 1980, in response to the Hunts' accumulation, the exchange rules regarding leverage were changed, when COMEX adopted "Silver Rule 7" placing heavy restrictions on the purchase of commodities on margin. The Hunt brothers had borrowed heavily to finance their purchases, and as the price began to fall again, dropping over 50% in just four days, they were unable to meet their obligations, causing panic in the markets. The Hunt brothers went bankrupt.

William Herbert Hunt is once again a billionaire, this time with oil. In October, he sold 43 percent of the North Dakota petroleum assets owned by his closely held Petro-Hunt LLC for $1.45 billion to Houston-based Halcon Resources The cash and stock deal made Hunt Halcon’s largest shareholder and boosted his net worth to $4.2 billion.

March 28, 2013

By 2018 High Temperature Superconductors will have similar market size to low temperature superconductors

High Energy high repetition Pulse lasers for space propulsion, accelerators and power generation

If we can get petawatt picosecond lasers that shoot 75 million times per second then we will have laser fusion space propulsion with an ISP of 900,000

There is a 55 review from 2012 of the current status of high energy laser systems.

If the fiber lasers could shoot 1000 times more frequently then we would the fusion space propulsion system.

High repetition high energy lasers for commercial power generation would need even more power to generated. Although a certain level of joule production from the laser pulses could produce high levels of fusion energy if the fused material produces a high level of energy gain (say 1000 times or 10000 times.) Then the number of pulses per second times the joules of a pulse times the energy gain needs to get to say 10 million or 100 million joules for one second.

10 kilohertz high power array of fiber lasers for Large Hadron class next Particle Collider and on the path to 75 megahertz lasers for fusion propulsion and fusion power

The International Coherent Amplification Network (ICAN) has proposed a new laser system composed of massive arrays of thousands of fibre lasers, for both fundamental research at laboratories such as CERN and more applied tasks such as proton therapy and nuclear transmutation.

Lasers can provide, in a very short time measured in femtoseconds, bursts of energy of great power counted in petawatts or a thousand times the power of all the power plants in the world.

There are two major hurdles that prevent the high-intensity laser from becoming a viable and widely used technology in the future.
1. A high-intensity laser often only operates at a rate of one laser pulse per second, when for practical applications it would need to operate tens of thousands of times per second.

2. Ultra-intense lasers are notorious for being very inefficient, producing output powers that are a fraction of a percent of the input power. As practical applications would require output powers in the range of tens of kilowatts to megawatts, it is economically not feasible to produce this power with such a poor efficiency.

The plan is to harness the efficiency, controllability, and high average power capability of fibre lasers to produce high energy, high repetition rate pulse sources.

The aim is to replace the conventional single monolithic rod amplifier that typically equips lasers with a network of fibre amplifiers and telecommunication components.

The next semiconductor node only provides 25% boost so Efficient Chip Stacking is a path forward

The difference between 28 and 20 nm is about 20 to 25 percent accord to Nvidia's Chief Scientist Dally. Therefore, process doesn't matter that much anymore. If Nvidia is clever about architecture and circuit design, then can make up for the fact that Nvidia has competitors [Intel] that are a node ahead.

Chip stacking is increasingly seen as an alternative to moving to the next semiconductor node at a time when process technology is providing less bang for the buck.

Nvidia says it will roll in 2015 Volta, a graphics chip using stacked memory.

March 27, 2013

Nebel making DC Transformer which can enable a worldwide electrical grid and eliminate energy storage for solar and wind power

Rick Nebel used to run the IEC fusion project at EMC2. EMC2 fusion is a promising approach to commercial nuclear fusion. Richard Nebel was interviewed in May, 2009 by Nextbigfuture on EMC2 fusion. Rick left the EMC2 Fusion project a few years ago.

He left for a multi-billion opportunity for a DC Transformer.
∙ Dynamo Drive can be Used to Make DC-DC Transformers.
∙ A Proof of Principle Experiment is Presently Being Built.
∙ With HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) One Could Make a World-Wide Electrical Grid.
∙ Eliminates the Need For Energy Storage in PV and Wind Systems
∙ There would be less transmission losses than AC
∙ They estimate that this is potentially a $10,000,000,000/year business.
∙ Nebel filed a provisional patent last November.
∙ He is presently building/operating a proof-of-principle experiment
∙ They have signed a deal with the utility Exelon ($20 billion in revenue, $55 billion in assets, $29 billion market capitalization)

In January, Rick Nebel provided a presentation on his development of a DC transformer.

In the War of Currents era in the late 1880s, George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison became adversaries due to Edison's promotion of direct current (DC) for electric power distribution over alternating current (AC) advocated by several European companies and Westinghouse Electric.

AC won solely on the basis that it is easy to move the voltages and currents up and down with AC power using transformers.

This made long distance transmission possible. Although it is now possible to do this with DC power, it is neither cheap nor simple.

Nebel has invented is an inexpensive and simple way to transform (efficiently change the voltage up or down while maintaining the power available) DC voltages and currents.

Instead of using wires and iron cores like AC transformers do, his DC transformer uses a plasma, helical electrodes and an axial magnetic field.

The transformation of the DC voltages and currents relies on newly discovered physics that is based on MHD dynamo behavior.

Tibbar Technologies, Nebel's company, has signed an agreement with Exelon Corporation, a very large east coast power company, to pursue this technology.

They estimate that this is potentially a $10,000,000,000/year business. Nebel filed a provisional patent last November. He is presently building/operating a proof-of-principle experiment (in the back of Village Arts on DP Road) to test this concept.

A 2012 paper describes the basis of Rick Nebel's DC Transformer

Dynamo Current Drive

∙ Velocity BCs (boundary conditions) Show the Same Principle of the Magnetic Field Trying to Align with the Electrodes.
∙ States Are Single Helicity With Significant Radial Magnetic Field?
∙ All Other Modes Are Stabilized By the Flow.
∙ The Stronger the Driving E Field, the Smaller the Radial magnetic Field.

Laser-powered terahertz source and detector system that is 1,500 times more powerful systems for imaging and sensing applications

The University of Michigan has developed a laser-powered terahertz source and detector system that transmits with 50 times more power and receives with 30 times more sensitivity than existing technologies. This offers 1,500 times more powerful systems for imaging and sensing applications.

"With our higher-sensitivity terahertz system, you could see deeper into tissues or sense small quantities of illegal drugs and explosives from a farther distance. That's why it's important," said Mona Jarrahi, U-M assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science and leader of the project.

Jarrahi's research team accomplished this by funneling the laser light to specifically selected locations near the device's electrode that feeds the antenna that transmits and receives the terahertz signal.

Their approach enables light to hitch a ride with free electrons on the surface of the metallic electrodes to form a class of surface waves called surface plasmon waves. By coupling the beam of light with surface plasmon waves, the researchers created a funnel to carry light into nanoscale regions near device electrodes.

Nature Communications - Significant performance enhancement in photoconductive terahertz optoelectronics by incorporating plasmonic contact electrodes

Santa Clara California installs free City Wi-Fi through upgraded smart meters

The city of Santa Clara flipped on a big Internet switch this week, becoming what it says is the first in the country to use wireless, digital “smart meters” on homes as channels for free citywide outdoor Wi-Fi.

“This is just one of the major benefits our community will enjoy as a result of our advanced metering technology,” said John Roukema, director of Silicon Valley Power, the community’s utility provider. “Now our residents, visitors and local workforce can get Internet access while waiting for a train, shopping downtown, getting their car washed or relaxing in their yard.”

The new meters send electricity and water usage reports via wireless network, but in Santa Clara, a city of 118,000 in the heart of the Silicon Valley, they also have an unusual separate channel that provides free, outdoor Internet.

Doubling CO2 May Cause 20-50% Less Warming

Over the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO₂ put there by humanity since 1750. And yet, as James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observes, “the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.”

The term scientists use to describe the way the climate reacts to changes in carbon-dioxide levels is “climate sensitivity”. This is usually defined as how much hotter the Earth will get for each doubling of CO₂ concentrations. So-called equilibrium sensitivity, the commonest measure, refers to the temperature rise after allowing all feedback mechanisms to work (but without accounting for changes in vegetation and ice sheets).

An unpublished report by the Research Council of Norway, a government-funded body, which was compiled by a team led by Terje Berntsen of the University of Oslo, uses a different method from the IPCC’s. It concludes there is a 90% probability that doubling CO₂ emissions will increase temperatures by only 1.2-2.9°C, with the most likely figure being 1.9°C. The top of the study’s range is well below the IPCC’s upper estimates of likely sensitivity.

China is recognized as a Great Power, Can India Gets its Act Together ?

The Economist magazine says that nobody doubts that China has joined the ranks of the great powers.

India is often spoken of in the same breath as China because of its billion-plus population, economic promise, value as a trading partner and growing military capabilities.

But whereas China’s rise is a given, India is still widely seen as a nearly-power that cannot quite get its act together.

That is a pity, for as a great power, India would have much to offer. Although poorer and less economically dynamic than China, India has soft power in abundance. It is committed to democratic institutions, the rule of law and human rights. As a victim of jihadist violence, it is in the front rank of the fight against terrorism. It has a huge and talented diaspora. It may not want to be co-opted by the West but it shares many Western values. It is confident and culturally rich. If it had a permanent Security Council seat (which it has earned by being one of the most consistent contributors to UN peacekeeping operations) it would not instinctively excuse and defend brutal regimes. Unlike China and Russia, it has few skeletons in its cupboard. With its enormous coastline and respected navy (rated by its American counterpart, with which it often holds exercises, as up to NATO standard) India is well-placed to provide security in a critical part of the global commons.

More Combat Drones

Teal Group’s 2012 market study estimates that UAV spending will almost double over the next decade from current worldwide UAV expenditures of $6.6 billion annually to $11.4 billion, totaling just over $89 billion in the next ten years. The U.S. will account for 62% of the worldwide research and development spending on UAV technology over the next decade, and 55% of the procurement.

Darpa announced a program to design something called the TERN, for Tactically Exploitative Reconnaissance Node, a surveillance and strike drone that can fly up to 900 miles from the deck of a destroyer or Littoral Combat Ship. Darpa wants it to be “substantially beyond current state-of-the-art aviation capabilities from smaller ships,” according to the full, formal solicitation for the drone.

The Navy and the Air Force are working on a master concept for future partnered operations called AirSea Battle. Pentagon architects have yet to articulate how specifically long-range bombers and stealth jets are supposed to work alongside carrier strike groups, submarines or close-to-shore fighters like the Littoral Combat Ship.

The TERN program points to a potential solution: Design the data links on a long-endurance drone at sea to be bilingual. It surely won’t be easy to build a software layer that can communicate with both Air Force planes and Navy ships. But it’s probably easier, and cheaper, than retrofitting the communications systems on planes, subs and ships for maximum compatibility or demanding that defense companies build future flying and sailing platforms with that goal in mind.

March 26, 2013

Over 200 million electric bikes in China in 2013 and What to Look for in a $1000 E-bike

People in China rode more than 180 million e-bikes (electric bikes) by the end of last year, up 36 percent since 2010, according to Wood Mackenzie Ltd. Average lead content in a two-wheel e-bike has dropped from about 13 kilograms (29 pounds) in 2010 to 11 kilograms last year, according to the Edinburgh-based researcher. There will be about 33 million electric bikes sold in China in 2013. China will have about 210 million electric bikes at then end of 2013.

Two- and three-wheeler e-bikes account for more than half of all lead consumption in China and about 20 percent of global demand, Huw Roberts, a founder of CHR Metals, said at a Metal Bulletin conference in Istanbul today. The nation used 4.63 million metric tons of refined lead last year, or 44 percent of global demand, Standard Bank Plc says. Batteries are the biggest use for the metal.

The worldwide market for e-bicycles is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5% between 2012 and 2018, resulting in global sales of more than 47 million vehicles in 2018. China is anticipated to account for 42 million of these e-bicycles that year, giving it 89% of the total world market. The e-bicycle market is anticipated to generate $6.9 billion in worldwide revenue in 2012, growing to $11.9 billion in 2018. If the 10% forecast for 2013 electric bike growth holds then the world e-bike total could be on track to 51 million in 2018.

There are foldable e-bikes with 48volt lithium ion 1000 watt power with a range of 30 miles and a top speed of 36 mph (on a flat road).

Maximum e-bike speeds vary by state from about 20 mph to 40 mph and the maximum engine power also varies by state.

$100-million quantum computing fund established in Canada

BlackBerry co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin say they have established a $100-million fund for the development and commercialization of quantum computing.

They say the new Quantum Valley Investments fund in Waterloo, Ont., will be a catalyst for breakthroughs in an emerging field that could revolutionize information technology.

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco finds that Chinese GDP numbers match independent US, EU and Japan Trade Data

A new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco finds that Chinese GDP numbers do tend to reflect data provided by more independent sources—namely the exports and imports of China’s trading partners, which are immune from any Beijing manipulation. The Fed study first studied trade with China and its biggest trading partners: the US, the EU and Japan

Some commentators have questioned whether China’s economy slowed more in 2012 than official gross domestic product figures indicate. However, the 2012 reported output and industrial production figures are consistent both with alternative Chinese indicators of the country’s economic activity, such as electricity production, and trade volume measures reported by non-Chinese sources. These alternative domestic and foreign sources provide no evidence that China’s economic growth was slower than official data indicate.

Carnival of Space 294

The Carnival of Space 294 is up at Dear Astronomer

The Meridiani Journal wonders Are alien oceans common?

One of the unique characteristics of Earth which sets it apart from other known planets is its oceans. Such large bodies of surface water have not yet been found elsewhere, although a number of moons, including Europa, Enceladus and Titan and possibly others, are thought to have subsurface oceans and or seas.

As it turns out however, water oceans may be common on rocky planets, at least in their early stages of formation, according to a new study announced on March 18, 2013 at the 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas.

The process is relatively simple: the water for the oceans comes from the original material clumping together to form the planets, according to Elkins-Tanton (water from comets may be a secondary source). First, water evaporates out of the hot, molten rock which the young planet is initially composed of. The released water then forms a thick, steamy atmosphere. Later, as the planet gradually cools and hardens, that atmosphere collapses, allowing the water to collect on the surface as an ocean.

If rocky worlds tend to at least start out with oceans though, that would increase the chances of life being able to gain a foothold. “Habitability is going to be much more common than we had previously thought,” according to Elkins-Tanton.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 149

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 149 is up at the ANS Nuclear Cafe

The ANS Nuclear Cafe has an update and perspective on Small Modular Reactor Development

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has a $452 million program to share development and licensing costs for selected small modular reactor (SMR) designs. The DOE’s goal is to have an operating SMR by ~2022.

Jim Hopf takes a close look at the current development and licensing status, safety advantages, and economic tradeoffs of small modular reactors. And he explores a very important question: Will the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission allow SMRs to succeed?

March 25, 2013

Nexus S SPHERES satellite on the space station

Two and a half years ago, the Human Exploration and Telerobotics Project (HET) equipped a trio of these floating robots with Nexus S handsets running Android Gingerbread. (HET is a project at NASA's Ames Research Center that uses SPHERES, which stands for “Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites," and that project itself is called SmartSPHERES). Despite their name, these SPHERES aren't traditional satellites—they're currently being used inside the International Space Station (ISS) to investigate applications like telerobotic cameras and high-latency control, and to measure sound and radiation levels.

In Nov 2011, a free-flying robot on the International Space Station successfully gathered and delivered motion data to its astronaut handler via a new smartphone controller. The compact, free-flying satellites -- known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES -- with a Samsung Nexus S™ handset that features Google’s open-source Android™ platform.

73.7 terabits per second and 30% lower latency using new hollow core fiber design

Researchers at the University of Southampton in England have produced optical fibers that can transfer data at 99.7% of the universe’s speed limit: The speed of light. The researchers have used these new optical fibers to transfer data at 73.7 terabits per second — roughly 10 terabytes per second, and some 1,000 times faster than today’s state-of-the-art 40-gigabit fiber optic links, and at much lower latency.

The researchers overcame issues with vacuum transmission by fundamentally improving the hollow core design, using an ultra-thin photonic-bandgap rim. This new design enables low loss (3.5 dB/km), wide bandwidth (160nm), and latency that blows the doors off normal optic fiber — light, and thus the data, really is travelling 31% faster down this new hollow fiber. To achieve the transmission rate of 73.7 terabits per second, the researchers used wave division multiplexing (WDM) to transmit 37 40-gigabit signals down the hollow fiber. As far as we’re aware, this is one of the fastest ever transmission rates in the lab.

As for real-world applications, loss of 3.5 dB/km is okay, but it won’t be replacing normal glass fiber any time soon. For short stretches, though, such as in data centers and supercomputer interconnects, these speed-of-light fibers could provide a very significant speed and latency boost.

This will be rapidly adopted because the lower latency will be very valuable for computerized financial trading. It will also go into supercomputer data centers and cloud computer centers.

Nature Photonics - Towards high-capacity fibre-optic communications at the speed of light in vacuum

The Great Ages of Humanity Past and Future

What are the great ages of humanity that relate to science, technology, intellectual advancement or exploration ?

The Renaissance (Europe, 14th century – 16th century)

The Renaissance was a cultural movement that profoundly affected European intellectual life in the early modern period. Beginning in Italy, and spreading to the rest of Europe by the 16th century, its influence was felt in literature, philosophy, art, music, politics, science, religion, and other aspects of intellectual inquiry. Renaissance scholars employed the humanist method in study, and searched for realism and human emotion in art. In all, the Renaissance could be viewed as an attempt by intellectuals to study and improve the secular and worldly, both through the revival of ideas from antiquity, and through novel approaches to thought.

The rediscovery of ancient texts and the invention of printing democratized learning and allowed a faster propagation of ideas. In the first period of Italian Renaissance, humanists favored the study of humanities over natural philosophy or applied mathematics. And their reverence for classical sources further enshrined the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic views of the universe.

The willingness to question previously held truths and search for new answers resulted in a period of major scientific advancements. Some have seen this as a "scientific revolution", heralding the beginning of the modern age. Others as an acceleration of a continuous process stretching from the ancient world to the present day.

One important development was not any specific discovery, but rather the further development of the process for discovery, the scientific method. It focused on empirical evidence, the importance of mathematics, and discarded Aristotelian science. Early and influential proponents of these ideas included Copernicus and Galileo and Francis Bacon. The new scientific method led to great contributions in the fields of astronomy, physics, biology, and anatomy

Age of Discovery (or Exploration) (Europe, 14th century – 17th century)

Colonial Era (1500-1900)

Industrious Revolution, (Europe, 16th - 18th century)

The basic picture painted of the pre-Industrial Revolution is that the Industrial Revolution was the result of a surplus of money and crops, which led to the development of new technology. This new technology eventually developed into factories. The Industrious Revolution addresses this belief, saying instead, that the overwhelming desire for more goods directly preceded the Industrial Revolution. The theory states that during the Industrious Revolution there was an increase in demand for goods, but that supply did not rise as quickly. Eventually some achievements of industry and agriculture, as well as the decisions made by households, helped to increase the supply, as well as the demand for goods. These behaviors, when combined constitute an Industrious Revolution.

The Age of Enlightenment (or Reason) (Europe, 18th century)

The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals in the 17th and 18th centuries, which began first in Europe and later in the American colonies. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method. It promoted scientific thought, skepticism and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition intolerance and some abuses of power by the church and the state.

Industrial Revolution (Europe, United States, elsewhere 18th and 19th centuries)

The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes that occurred in the period from about 1760 to some time between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power, the increasing use of steam power and development of machine tools. The transition also included the change from wood and other bio-fuels to coal. The Industrial revolution began in Britain and within a few decades spread to Western Europe and the United States. The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. Most notably, average income and population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth.

Age of Oil (after 1901)

Atomic Age (after 1945)

Space Age (after 1957)

Uranium from Seawater is over 3000 times the energy of Methane Hydrate in the Ocean

Japan has extracted gas from offshore deposits of methane hydrate — sometimes called “flammable ice” — a breakthrough that officials and experts said could be a step toward tapping a promising but still little-understood energy source. Japan hopes to make methane hydrate commercially viable in 5 years.

With specialized equipment, the team drilled into and then lowered the pressure in the undersea methane hydrate reserve, causing the methane and ice to separate. It then piped the natural gas to the surface. The surrounding area in the Nankai submarine trough holds at least 1.1 trillion cubic meters, or 39 trillion cubic feet, of methane hydrate, enough to meet 11 years’ worth of gas imports to Japan.

A separate rough estimate by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology has put the total amount of methane hydrate in the waters surrounding Japan at more than 7 trillion cubic meters, or what researchers have long said is closer to 100 years’ worth of Japan’s natural gas needs.

The EIA estimates the naturally occurring gas hydrate resource vary from 10,000 trillion cubic feet to more than 100,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The 100,000 trillion cf would be an energy resource of 105,000 EJ. Tapping such resources would require significant additional research and technological improvements

There is about 4.4 billion tons of uranium in seawater. Deep burn nuclear fission (where reactors that can burn all of the uranium for energy) would enable 217 million EJ of energy to be produced.

There has been progress towards making extracting uranium from seawater affordable.

Japan has found rare earth reserves in the Pacific Seabed that are 1000 times all land based deposits

Japanese scientists have found vast reserves of rare earth metals on the Pacific seabed that can be mined cheaply, a discovery that may break the Chinese monopoly on a crucial raw material needed in hi-tech industries and advanced weapons systems.

"We have found deposits that are just two to four metres from the seabed surface at higher concentrations than anybody ever thought existed, and it won't cost much at all to extract," said professor Yasuhiro Kato from Tokyo University, the leader of the team.

While America, Australia, and other countries have begun to crank up production of the seventeen rare earth elements, they have yet to find viable amounts of the heavier metals such as dysprosium, terbium, europium, and ytterbium that are most important.

Beijing shocked the world when it suddenly began to restrict exports in 2009, prompting furious protests and legal complaints by both the US and the EU at the World Trade Organisation. China claimed that it was clamping down on smuggling and environmental abuse.

"Their real intention is to force foreign companies to locate plant in China. They're saying `if you want our rare earth metals, you must build your factory here, and we can then steal your technology," said professor Kato.

The team of scientists from Japan's Agency for Marine-Earth Science and the University of Tokyo first discovered huge reserves in the mid-Pacific two years ago. These are now thought to be 1000 times all land-based deposits, some of it in French waters around Tahiti.

Off topic - As I predicted 18 months ago Tiger Woods regains his #1 world golf ranking

I predicted back in October 2011 that Tiger Woods would his regain world number one golf ranking.

In October, 2011 Tiger Woods had fallen to 51st in the world rankings and many golf and sports experts questioned if Tiger would win again on the tour.

As I noted back then, it would only take about 3 wins per year to regain the #1 world golf ranking.

Some currently still doubt that Tiger will pass Jack Nicklaus for major victories in a career.

Tiger Woods is again putting well and I predict Tiger Woods will get the most career major victories record and the career PGA wins record.

BTW this is somewhat on topic in that I make and track predictions about the future on various topics.

Nanowires are improving quantum dot solar cell efficiency towards minimum commercial viability

Using exotic particles called quantum dots as the basis for a photovoltaic cell is not a new idea, but attempts to make such devices have not yet achieved sufficiently high efficiency in converting sunlight to power.

Zinc Oxide nanowires are conductive enough to extract charges easily, but long enough to provide the depth needed for light absorption. Using a bottom-up growth process to grow these nanowires and infiltrating them with lead-sulfide quantum dots produces a 50 percent boost in the current generated by the solar cell, and a 35 percent increase in overall efficiency, Jean says. The process produces a vertical array of these nanowires, which are transparent to visible light, interspersed with quantum dots.

Already, the test devices have produced efficiencies of almost 5 percent, among the highest ever reported for a quantum-dot PV based on zinc oxide. With further development, it may be possible to improve the devices’ overall efficiency beyond 10 percent, which is widely accepted as the minimum efficiency for a commercially viable solar cell. Further research will, among other things, explore using longer nanowires to make thicker films, and also work on better controlling the spacing of the nanowires to improve the infiltration of quantum dots between them.

Scanning Electron Microscope images show an array of zinc-oxide nanowires (top) and a cross-section of a photovoltaic cell made from the nano wires, interspersed with quantum dots made of lead sulfide (dark areas). A layer of gold at the top (light band) and a layer of indium-tin-oxide at the bottom (lighter area) form the two electrodes of the solar cell.
Images courtesy of Jean, Advanced Materials

Exoskeletons to boost manufacturing worker productivity by 30% part of $10 billion market over the next ten years

Exoskeletons are being adapted for heavy manufacturing work to boost productivity and reduce injury.

Human Augmentation System (HAS)
– Increases productivity and quality of work, with reduced injury

Lockheed's Mantis (industrial exoskeleton adapted from the military HULC exoskeleton), which the Bethesda, Md.-based company envisions as finding a home in any industry in which workers must hold heavy equipment that can cause fatigue and back injuries.

Mantis has a mechanical extension for a wearer's arm and absorbs the strain from hefting a grinder or sander, Maxwell said. Tests found productivity gains of more than 30 percent, he said, and wearers showed their Macarena footwork to demonstrate the suits' flexibility.

Lockheed Martin's (LMT) HULC and MANTIS prototypes, which look like leg braces and a large backpack, can significantly increase an individual's strength. The MANTIS is slated for sale later this year and can make wielding heavy equipment in a factory or shipyard nearly effortless. California-based Ekso Bionics, meanwhile, employs exoskeleton technology to make suits for paraplegics that allow some disabled people to walk for the first time. It says it has sold 29 of the $130,000 devices worldwide so far. The market for such technology is pegged at some $10 billion over the next 10 years.

The biggest problem? Power. Most exoskeletons are battery operated, so they don't have much range yet. Still, MIT professor Hugh Herr is convinced. "The era that we're now entering is the bionic age," he says.

zeroG - Exoskeletal Arm Systems:

– Allows operators to use heavy tools as if weightless
– Supports the tool through a wide range of motion
– Requires no power
– Can reduce vibration transmission to operator
– Single arm stabilize tools up to 40 lbs

MANTIS - Lower Body Exoskeleton

– Provides critical mobility platform
– Transfers loads through structure to the ground
– Anthropomorphic design maintains operator flexibility
– No power, electronics, actuation required
– Simple to operate and minimal training required

Initial Heavy Tool Application Targets:

– Grinding
– Sawzalls
– Heat Induction tools
– Blasting / Hydrolancing
– Needle Guns
– Impact Wrenches
– Torque Wrenches
– Painting

March 24, 2013

Russian Tycoon Promotes and Funds Immortality via Robotics and Uploads but has Concerns about Radical Biological Life Extension

32-year-old Dmitry Itskov is seeking investors to fund research for technology that will make eternal life possible by transferring human consciousness in an artificial form to avatars (robotic bodies).

Itskov is the founder of Initiative 2045, a non-profit organization focused on creating an international research center where scientists will research and develop the technologies to make eternal life possible.

Last year, Itskov wrote a public letter to individuals on Forbes billionaires list asking them to invest in his project. While Itskov did not receive any public responses, he did accomplish his goal of getting word out about the project and he is continually in talks with wealthy individuals about his project, he said.

"The goal was to get the public's attention," Itskov said. "I do communicate with some of the richest people in the world, but I can't share who they are."

This summer, Itskov will make a pitch to not only to the world's most wealthy individuals, but the entire business community, to invest in his project as well as research and development in areas that help further his cause.

In June, Itskov's organization will be hosting the second annual Global Future 2045 World Congress, an event where leading scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs will gather to discuss and demonstrate new technologies that are paving the way for life expansion.

Itskov on SENS

Nextbigfuture asked Itskov if he would support SENS as a Plan B for life extension in case the robotic avatar path has difficulties. Itskov position was that civilization was already overstressing the environment and biological life extension would put further stresses on resources and on the biosphere.

However, this line of reasoning is flawed. There is the technological means toclean up the environmental problems that exist now via electrification of transportation, engines and processes with lower emissions, clean nuclear energy and other means. Complete biological immortaility would cause less than a 1% per year increase in the population.

Robotic whole brain emulation would be able to increase economic growth to levels that are not limited to human population growth It would be tougher to keep 20% or higher per year economic growth (even if was mostly virtual or robotic) cleaner than 3-5% per year economic growth. Robin Hanson has extensively analyzed the effect and potential of robotics and whole brain emulation to radically boost economic growth.

If Itskov has success with whole brain emulation, robotics and uploading then there would be far more importance on decoupling growth from negative environmental impacts and from cleaning up existing pollution and emissions that are by products of economic activity.

First Commercial Products for Telecomm towers for rechargeable metal-air batteries

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