September 14, 2013

China heading to 150 gigawatts of installed wind capacity at the end of 2015

In 2012, China surpassed 50 gigawatts of grid-connected wind capacity and is on its way to add a record amount of new wind capacity, increasing the total installed capacity by roughly 18 gigawatts, representing a 40 percent growth rate. China also currently supplies roughly one-fourth of all the wind energy injected into the grid worldwide.

Yet the sector faces some immense challenges, from ongoing problems with grid connection, ever-growing amounts of curtailed wind generation, new restrictions from State Grid on who can connect, and, perhaps most importantly, uncertainty about whether policymakers will do as they have done in the past to ensure the sector continues its rapid growth.

According to the GTM Research-Azure International report, China’s wind industry is on track for a cumulative 80 gigawatts by the end of 2012 and 150 gigawatts of installed capacity by the end of 2015.

Bill Gates was wrong - Google Cellphones can be used to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa

Google has brought Internet connectivity and access to less-developed countries with cheap android smartphone and a plan for high speed internet with communication via balloons. Google has said this can lead to all sorts of secondary benefits. Bill Gates has said when you’re dying of malaria he is not sure how internet access would help. When a kid gets diarrhea, no, there’s no website that relieves that.

However Seth Berkley, CEO of the the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership based in Geneva, Switzerland, that spends billions of dollars making vaccines more accessible to children in developing countries has said that cellphones can save many lives in Africa.

Cellphones are being used to create an accurate and detailed public health picture where one did not exist. This can be used to accurately track and model the spread and occurrence of disease. This will allow for more precise and effective public health response. 1% improvement in monitoring and effectiveness would result in 69000 lives saved each year.

Nuclear reactor costs in China

China's nuclear reactors tend to cost from $1500 to $2500 per KW. This is a far lower cost than in Europe or the US. Controlled cost is a good reason that China is building about 28 out of the 69 nuclear reactors under construction in the world. China, Russia, India and South Korea are where 50 out of the 69 world nuclear reactors are being built. They all have construction costs under control and tend to be 2 to 3 times cheaper than in Europe or the USA.

Two 1700 MW EPR reactors Taishan Nuclear Power Plant are to finish late in 2013 and in 2014 and cost CNY 49.85 billion ($7.3 billion). This is $2147 per KW.

The CPR-1000 is a significantly upgraded version of the 900 MWe-class French M310 three-loop technology imported for the Daya Bay nuclear power plant in the 1980s and also built at Ling Ao. Known as the 'improved Chinese PWR' and designated Generation II+, it features digital instrumentation and control and a design life of 60 years. Its 157 fuel assemblies (4.3 m long) have calculated core melt frequency of 1x10^-5 and a release probability an order of magnitude lower than this.

Standard construction time is 52 months, and the claimed unit cost was under CNY 10,000 (US$ 1600) per kilowatt, though 2013 estimates put it at about $2300/kW domestically. With a capacity of 1080 MWe gross (1037 MWe net), Ling Ao Phase II is the first plant to be designated as the CPR-1000 design

Yangjiang Nuclear Power Station (YNPS) is a nuclear power plant in the Guangdong province of China. The site is Dongping Town, Yangjiang City in western Guangdong Province. The station will have six 1,080 megawatt (MW) CPR-1000 pressurized water reactors. The cost is US$10.2 billion. This is $1570 per KW.

Spermidine induces autophagy in multiple species and mimics calorie restriction and increases longevity in mice by 10%

Spermidine induced autophagy was presented at SENS6.

Spermidine is a natural occurring polyamine that declines continuously during aging of organisms. They found that external administration of spermidine triggers autophagy across species and prolongs lifespan of yeasts, flies and worms in a autophagy dependent manner. Moreover, spermidine extends healthsspan of mice.

They propose that the anti-aging potential of spermidine roots in epigenetic transformation of the cell and indicate its therapeutic potential for the avoidance of age associated diseases.

Josh Mitteldorf information

Fed to yeast cells, it increases life span dramatically, with smaller but still significant effects in flies and worms. Life span of mice can be increased by about 10% with spermidine in the diet. The mechanism seems to be stimulation of the process called autophagy, by which each cell cleans up its waste products, digesting them in organelles called lysosomes. Spermidine is part of the body’s metabolism, but its concentration declines with age. The best dietary source is a Japanese fermented soy product called natto, which is famous for its vile flavor. Other dietary sources include soy products and wheat germ. And yes, it is found at high concentrations in semen.

Spermidine: a novel autophagy inducer and longevity elixir.

SENS6 - A potential revolution in antiviral therapy by killing any cell infected with a virus

PANACEA broad-spectrum antiviral therapeutics was presented at Strategies for Engineering Negligible Senescence SENS-6.

Although there is great concern over emerging viruses and viruses on the category A-C priority pathogen lists, there are relatively few prophylactics or therapeutics for these viruses, and most which do exist are highly pathogen-specific or have undesirable side effects or other disadvantages. As part of our PANACEA program, we have developed a radically new and very broad-spectrum antiviral therapeutic/prophylactic that has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of viral infections, including those due to emerging, category A-C, and common clinical pathogens. Our Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) Activated Caspase Oligomerizer (DRACO) approach selectively induces apoptosis in cells containing viral dsRNA, rapidly killing infected cells without harming uninfected cells. We have demonstrated that DRACOs are nontoxic in all 11 cell types tested thus far, and effective against 15 different viruses, including DNA and RNA viruses, enveloped and nonenveloped viruses, viruses that replicate in the nucleus and in the cytoplasm, and viruses that use a variety of receptors. Among the viruses against which DRACOs have proven effective in vitro are dengue hemorrhagic fever virus, multiple arenaviruses, and multiple bunyaviruses. In mice, we have demonstrated that DRACOs rapidly penetrate into all organs tested, persist for over 24 hours after each dose, and are nontoxic. We have shown that DRACOs rescue mice from lethal challenges with H1N1 influenza, Tacaribe arenavirus, Amapari arenavirus, and Guama bunyavirus. We hope to optimize our DRACO designs and demonstrate them against additional viruses and in additional animal models. This work should greatly advance DRACOs toward ultimate utility as safe, broad-spectrum therapeutics/prophylactics for priority and emerging viral pathogens, filling a large gap in existing therapeutics.

Researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Lab have developed technology that may someday cure the common cold, influenza and all viral infections.

Plos One - Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Therapeutics

More viable donated organs by using vitrification organ banking

Stephen van Sickle outlined his work at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence SENS6 meeting in Cambridge, UK. Stephen has frozen pig kidneys. CT scans revealed a lot less fracturing than with vitrification alone. The next stage is to rewarm the organs to see if they remain viable.

Cryopreservation by vitrification is the current state of the art in experimental organ preservation for transplant. Unlike methods in currently clinical use which only preserve large vascular organs in transplantable condition for hours, vitrification and storage below the glass transition temperature (~-130C) would enable safe storage for years or decades. Success with organ cryopreservation by vitrification would permit true banking of organs, increasing the number available, improving immune matching, and reducing wait list times. Two major limitations to this method are thermomechanical fracturing and the inherent biochemical toxicity of vitrification solutions. Arigos Biomedical is developing new technology that can both eliminate fracturing and reduce the effective toxicity of vitrifiable cryoprotectants. Preliminary experiments have demonstrated elimination of fractures in vitrified swine kidneys, as well as dramatically improved cooling rates from 0 to -100C, which reduce exposure time to cryoprotectant solutions.

Nearly 1 in 5 donor kidneys is discarded in the US each year, because a suitable recipient or clinic cannot be found in time.

September 13, 2013

How many jobs are most endangered by new technology and changing economies ?

A recent report from the Oxford Martin School’s Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology attempts to quantify what jobs are must vulnerable to computerization. It concludes that 45 percent of American jobs are at high risk of being taken by computers within the next two decades.

1) Computers will start replacing people in especially vulnerable fields like transportation/logistics, production labor, and administrative support. Jobs in services, sales, and construction may also be lost in this first stage. Then, the rate of replacement will slow down due to bottlenecks in harder-to-automate fields such engineering.

2) This “technological plateau” will be followed by a second wave of computerization, dependent upon the development of good artificial intelligence. This could next put jobs in management, science and engineering, and the arts at risk.

The rate of computerization depends on several other factors, including regulation of new technology and access to cheap labor.

California's nuclear power is being replaced by natural gas

The state of California, once home to three major nuclear power plants, weathered an early July heat wave in good shape despite having only one operating reactor, Unit 2 at Diablo Canyon Power Plant. Unit 1 at Diablo Canyon was forced to shut down for about a week on June 27 after a minor leak was discovered in the residual heat removal system. The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station north of San Diego, out of service since early 2012, was officially retired earlier this summer by its owners.

Despite the lost capacity, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) only needed to ask customers in Northern California to conserve power during the heat wave. Reserve margins remained within safe territory.

The reason is in part the substantial amount of gas-fired capacity that has been added to the CAISO grid in the past few years. The newest plant to come online is NRG’s 720-MW Marsh Landing Generating Station, near Antioch on the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. The four-unit simple cycle plant entered commercial operation on May 1, replacing the 1950s-era Contra Costa Power Plant on the same site.

Large Scale Renewable Energy

A post debunks the idea that renewable energy is better positioned than nuclear energy to replace coal. It was written by Jessica Lovering who created a graduate course in nuclear energy, which she co-taught in the Spring of 2012 with a nuclear physics professor.

Nuclear provided America with about 180 times more energy than solar last year, and is one of our cheapest, safest baseload sources of zero-carbon energy.

Shaped teflon can hide objects from microwaves from one direction

Look out for mass-produced invisibility cloaks thanks to an entirely new way of designing and manufacturing them out of materials such as Teflon. The new approach is to create a computer model of the cloak in the form of a conventional material with fixed light bending properties. The model simulates how this conventional material distorts light as it passes by. The computer then changes the shape and topology of the material to reduce this distortion. By repeating this process many times, it is possible to find a topology that minimises the distortion of light so that it remains more or less unchanged as it passes by. The result is an invisibility cloak; not a perfect one but one that can hold its own against many of those made of metamaterials.

Today, Lu Lan at Zhejiang University in China and a few pals have actually created the first invisibility cloak designed using topology optimisation. They carved it out of Teflon and it took them all of 15 minutes using a computer-controlled engraving machine. “The fabrication process of a sample is substantially simplified,” they say.

The resulting “Teflon eyelid” invisibility cloak hides a cylindrical disc of metal the size of poker chip from microwaves. But crucially, its performance closely matches the prediction of the computer simulation

The same approach can work in optical wavelengths. “Such a cloaking setup won’t be a big problem to replicate in the THz or even optical spectrum,” they say.

Next the researchers want to develop the technique to create cloaks that work over a range of frequencies and at a range of angles.

Arxiv - Experimentally demonstrated an unidirectional electromagnetic cloak designed by topology optimization (10 pages)

Multinationals and Economists see Postive Signs on China's Economy

Global brands from Nestle SA (NESN) to Porsche AG said the worst has passed for China’s economy as wage increases and consumption in cities in the country’s interior drive sustained growth. China is “still an amazing opportunity,” Roland Decorvet, Nestle’s Greater China chairman, said at the World Economic Forum in Dalian, China. Porsche AG’s China Chief Executive Officer Deesch Papke said the country is likely to surpass the U.S. next year as its largest market.

“China has stepped out of the bottom of this economic cycle,” said Ma Jun, chief China economist at Deutsche Bank in Hong Kong, who raised his 2014 growth forecast this week to 8.6 percent, the highest among estimates compiled by Bloomberg. “I believe the recovery will be sustained for one year or even more than one year.”

Nestle spent almost 3 billion yuan ($490 million) to open two factories in mainland China this year. The Vevey, Switzerland-based foodmaker opened its second coffee extraction plant and another food factory in the world’s most populous nation this July.

“You have 350 million people who will not grow their own food and who will come into the city,” Decorvet said yesterday on the forum’s sidelines. “They have to buy food.”

Alliance Boots GmbH, owner of the U.K.’s largest drugstore chain, said it will seek acquisitions in China and could have as many as 5,000 pharmacies in the Asian nation in two years if it succeeds in closing enough deals.

Alliance Boots has 29 stores through a joint venture in mainland China, the world’s fastest-growing major pharmaceutical market. Industry sales in the nation are forecast to rise as much as 18 percent a year to about $165 billion by 2016, according to consulting firm IMS Health Inc.

$1.5 trillion in Gulf of Mexico oil from ultra deep water drilling and more ultra deep oil off the coast of Africa and Latin America

In spite of the BP oil spill, new technology is unlocking more oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

A key breakthrough has been new seismic tools that allow companies to see through layers of salt deposits that previously blocked their vision, opening up new parts of the formation to exploration. Conventional wisdom among geologists was that there would never be oil found beneath the salt -- a belief blown apart as wells such as Jack and St. Malo proved oil was hidden there, after all.

Engineering innovations enable them to drill five miles into the earth through waters more than 10,000 feet deep, where temperatures are more than hot enough to boil water and high pressures approach the weight of four cars resting on one square inch.

The success rate in the Lower Tertiary so far has been about 60 percent, with 40 percent of discoveries having commercial potential -- a “tremendous” rate considering that 30 percent is considered good, Chevron’s Ryan said.

The value of the Lower Tertiary extends far beyond the Gulf of Mexico as companies tackle similar ultra-deep projects and formations off the coasts of Africa and Latin America. The engineering, seismic technology and basic experience obtained in the Gulf can be leveraged to lower costs and raise success rates in those regions.

The Gulf is heading for record deep-water output equivalent to almost 2 million barrels of oil a day in 2020, according to industry researchers Wood Mackenzie Ltd. The U.S. estimates about 15 billion barrels of recoverable oil remain to be found in the Lower Tertiary.

While most U.S. shale fields have now been identified and mapped, the Gulf is seen as having much bigger yet-to-be-discovered potential -- 48 billion barrels of oil compared to the 13 billion barrels estimated for onshore and coastal oilfields, according to U.S. data.

Brillouin Energy provides an update on their LENR work and announce a licensing deal

Brillouin Energy Corporation (BEC) has been developing low energy nuclear energy power generation (aka cold fusion) (H/T E-cat World

A video interview with Robert Godes and Robert George from Brillouin Energy starts at around the 30:00 minute mark. The audio at the beginning of the video is messed up, but it gets fixed.

On the Brillouin Energy website they announced that Brillouin has entered into its first international licensing agreement covering three nations and is involved in on-going negotiations for other potential international partners. The Brillouin revenue model is fee based. The plan centers on a strategy of global licensing and royalties. Qualified manufacturing firms would pay annual license fees and a percentage of sales on products using the technology.

At 44:45 onwards Robert George says “Robert [Godes] has had scientists out from engineers from the Naval Research Lab and from Google. They’ve had their gamma detectors there, we’ve checked for all types of radiation”

They also indicate:
* patent attorneys are accepting equity in lieu of their fees
* 3.1 COP and viability in the Japanese Market because of the high cost of Natural Gas.

September 12, 2013

IDC High Performance Computing Conference validates Quantum Computing as entering the mainstream

Yesterday the first time the IDC HPC user forum has had a session on quantum computing. There an entire session on quantum computing and the keynote speaker at the event was Charlie Bennett, an IBM Fellow who is well-known to quantum information folks, as (among other things) he co-invented quantum cryptography.

* Geordie Rose (CTO of DWAve Systems) presented their 512 qubit adiabatic quantum annealing computer
* Hartmut Neven from Google talked about their D-Wave machine and their commercial application
* Dave Wecker from Microsoft gave an overview of his group’s work on building software for programming, compiling and visualizing quantum circuits.
* Jay Gambetta from IBM Yorkton Heights gave a talk about the IBM work on transmon qubits.

Self-assembling hybrid diamond-biological quantum devices at room temperature

Researchers have begun to self-assemble quantum components on the nanometer scale. This is beginning of a multi-decade process to revolutionize the computing.

An international team of physicists say they’ve used biological self-assembly techniques to make diamond-based prototypes of the quantum information storage devices of this type. That’s a development that has the potential to profoundly influence the future of computing.

The key to all this is nitrogen-vacancy centres in diamond which behave like single atoms. They can store photons, emit them again and interact with other nitrogen-vacancy centres nearby. In fact, their photon storage ability is legendary, holding them, and the information the carry, for periods stretching to milliseconds. At room temperature.

That’s significantly longer and more robust than other quantum information storage devices.

They modified a well known ring-shaped protein called SP1 so that it binds to diamond. In fact, they created 12 binding sites on this ring allowing it to hold six nanodiamonds in hexagonal formation.

They then used a laser to generate nanodiamonds just 5 nanometres across by blasting them off a larger crystal. They placed the resulting crystals in a liquid which they poured onto a layer of the modified SP1 rings.

Nanodiamond (ND)-SP1 arrays and clusters
(a) DF-STEM (Dark eld scanning transmission electron microscopy) image of ND structures on an SP1-ordered monolayer (ND diameter 5nm). The hexagonal arrangement in the white dashed square is magni ed in part (b). Yellow and red circles show diamond dimers and trimers, respectively, with inner distances of 11 nm.
(b) Enlarged section of the white dashed square of (a) showing a hexagonal structure formed of 7 NDs.
The symmetry and distances are determined by the underlying SP1-layer.
(c) SP1-protein ring: The inner linkers (binding
sites) are genetically modi fied to enable graphite speci c binding.
(d) Schematic of an ordered hexagonal array of SP1-NDs hybrids consisting of a ND attached to the SP1 inner cavity. Here the SP1-monolayer serves as a structural scaff old.
(e)SEM image of larger (ND diameter 30nm) clusters connected by SP1 and obtained in solution.

Arxiv - Self-assembling hybrid diamond-biological quantum devices (35 pages)

Caltech engineers focus on the nano to create strong, lightweight materials

The lightweight skeletons of organisms such as sea sponges display a strength that far exceeds that of manmade products constructed from similar materials. Scientists have long suspected that the difference has to do with the hierarchical architecture of the biological materials—the way the silica-based skeletons are built up from different structural elements, some of which are measured on the scale of billionths of meters, or nanometers. Now engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have mimicked such a structure by creating nanostructured, hollow ceramic scaffolds, and have found that the small building blocks, or unit cells, do indeed display remarkable strength and resistance to failure despite being more than 85 percent air.

At the nanometer scale, solids have been shown to exhibit mechanical properties that differ substantially from those displayed by the same materials at larger scales. For example, Greer’s group has shown previously that at the nanoscale, some metals are about 50 times stronger than usual,, and some amorphous materials become ductile rather than brittle. “We are capitalizing on these size effects and using them to make real, three-dimensional structures,” Greer says.

Three-dimensional, hollow titanium nitride nanotruss with tessellated octahedral geometry. Each unit cell is on the order of 10 microns, each strut length within the unit cell is about three to five microns, the diameter of each strut is less than one micron, and the thickness of titanium nitride is roughly 75 nanometers.
Credit: Dongchan Jang and Lucas Meza

Nature Materials - Fabrication and deformation of three-dimensional hollow ceramic nanostructures

What good is an old brain in a young body – a strategy for regenerating the neocortex

2013 Abstract on regenerating the neocortex

The neocortex is the seat of our highest cognitive functions. Neocortical projection neurons, the principle neurons of the become dysfunctional with age and can be lost due to neurodegeneration or insults such as stroke or trauma. The highly plastic nature of neocortical neuronal networks suggests that they could in theory withstand a slow turnover of neurons over time without significantly compromising function or memory. Therefore cell replacement may be a viable approach to rejuvenating the neocortex. We have recently shown that endogenous stem or precursor cells have little or no ability to replace projection neurons when they are lost in the adult neocortex (Diaz et al., April 2013, J. Neuroscience). Moreover, previous attempts at replacing these projection neurons using several types of transplanted neural stem or precursor cells have not provided viable strategies. One limitation of previous attempts is that the transplanted cells remained primarily in the transplant site or only migrated a short distance away from it. Therefore, to achieve the goal of functionally integrating new projection neurons throughout broad areas of the neocortex and to minimize the number of injection sites, a novel strategy is required that takes into account cell dispersion. Our goal is to develop an approach for introducing new, widely dispersed, projection neurons in the adult neocortex, providing a paradigm for testing whether they can functionally integrate. One way in which we are attempting to accomplish this is by using embryonic cells that are inherently migratory when transplanted into the adult mouse neocortex. However, because these particular migratory precursor cells generate interneurons rather than projection neurons, we engineer them with lentiviruses with which we can induce expression of transcription factors that will reprogram them to the desired fate once they have dispersed.

Video from 2012 talk

Antiaging conference SENS6

The SENS6 (strategies for engineered negligible senescence, engineered repair of aging damage) conference was held Sept 3-7, 2013.

The purpose of the SENS conference series, like all the SENS initiatives, is to expedite the development of truly effective therapies to postpone and treat human aging by tackling it as an engineering problem: not seeking elusive and probably illusory magic bullets, but instead enumerating the accumulating molecular and cellular changes that eventually kill us and identifying ways to repair - to reverse - those changes, rather than merely to slow down their further accumulation. This broadly defined regenerative medicine - which includes the repair of living cells and extracellular material in situ - applied to damage of aging, is what we refer to as rejuvenation biotechnologies.

Here are selection of abstracts from the SENS 6 conference.

Engineering stem cells for liver and gut regeneration

Marrow stromal cells (MSC) have several unique properties, which make them well suited both for regenerative medicine and gene delivery. These include the ease of isolation and the ability to be considerably expanded in culture without losing engraftment capacity. Furthermore, MSC have been reported to reduce local inflammation, blunt immune response, and counteract the chemotactic signals released to recruit immune cells to the site of injury/inflammation.

Nevertheless, controversy still remains whether these cells, upon transplantation, would be able to be recognized in an allogeneic setting, lessening their therapeutic potential when compared with their autologous counterpart. Since MSC express negligible amounts of HLA-II, but display variable levels of HLA-I on their surface, and harbor several ligands to activating NK cell receptors, it is likely that MSC can become a target of NK and CTL. We genetically engineered MSC to express the HCMV proteins US2, US3, US6, and US11, since they were shown to reduce HLA-I surface levels on somatic cells. Moreover, this reduction in HLA-I levels prevented CTL recognition thereby preventing activation and killing of infected cells during a normal HCMV infection.

In conclusion, we are able to genetically engineer MSC to have an enhanced survival advantage in the presence of an exacerbated inflammatory microenvironment and/or in an allogeneic transplantation setting, as a result of decreased rejection by the immune system. This should extend their survival time and thereby enhance their therapeutic potential.

September 11, 2013

Jury is in. Microsoft had vision. Just massive incompetence.

In mid-2000 (Just after Ballmer took over as CEO), Microsoft held a daylong series of sessions during which the company announced what it called the .NET strategy. To regain its place within the vanguard of personal computing, Ballmer's Microsoft promised to deliver an interconnected set of Web services that could serve up relevant information to users across multiple devices and let them share with family, friends and co-workers. In a statement then, Ballmer said Microsoft would create a "unified platform through which devices and services cooperate with each other."

Watch the edited version of the videos below. Cheesiness aside, it's pretty spot-on. There's personalized content for each family member synchronized across PCs, televisions, tablets, mobile phones and cars; location-aware devices that tell you when friends are nearby; photo-sharing; voice controls -- all years before Facebook, Foursquare, or Apple's iCloud and Siri.

Microsoft failed to execute on nearly all of it.

* Microsoft tablets failed
* Netdocs were scrapped
* Microsoft failed to get the promised interoperation

US oil production reaches a new record and crude oil production reaches another post 1989 record

The US has reached 7.745 million barrels per day in crude oil production and all oil liquids reached 12.308 million barrels per day.

Crude oil 7.745 million barrels per day
Crude oil and natural gas liquids 10.243 million barrels per day
All oil liquids 12.308 million barrels per day

Propulsion lasers for large scale deployment of solar power space satellites and reducing the startup costs and the costs to launch

Keith Henson has a new paper on Space based solar power satellites. It is called Rays of Hope: Propulsion lasers to get parts up, Microwaves to get energy down and the effect of large-scale deployment of power satellites on CO2.

Previously Keith Henson examined power satellites mostly as proposals to solve the big economic problem, the cost of transporting parts to orbit. There were unsolved problems in the last article such as how to return the launch vehicle to its runway.

Nextbigfuture covered Keith Henson's space based solar power proposal in 2011

There was also an article at theOildrum

September 10, 2013

Structureless antenna and inflatable antennas for cubesats

1. MIT have come up with a design that may significantly increase the communication range of small satellites, enabling them to travel much farther in the solar system: The team has built and tested an inflatable antenna that can fold into a compact space and inflate when in orbit.

The antenna significantly amplifies a radio signal, allowing a CubeSat to transmit data back to Earth at a higher rate. The distance that can be covered by a satellite outfitted with an inflatable antenna is seven times farther than that of existing CubeSat communications.

“With this antenna you could transmit from the moon, and even farther than that,” says Alessandra Babuscia, who led the research as a postdoc at MIT. “This antenna is one of the cheapest and most economical solutions to the problem of communications.”

An inflatable antenna is not a new idea. In fact, previous experiments in space have successfully tested such designs, though mostly for large satellites: To inflate these bulkier antennae, engineers install a system of pressure valves to fill them with air once in space — heavy, cumbersome equipment that would not fit within a CubeSat’s limited real estate.

They needed to find a new inflation mechanism.

The team landed on a lighter, safer solution, based on sublimating powder, a chemical compound that transforms from a solid powder to a gas when exposed to low pressure.

Skin cancer vaccine in clinical trials was able to get complete regression in 50% of animals

Harvard scientists, engineers, and clinicians announced that they have begun a Phase I clinical trial of an implantable vaccine to treat melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer.

The technology was initially designed to target cancerous cells in skin, but might have application to other cancers. In the preclinical study reported in Science Translational Medicine, 50 percent of mice treated with two doses of the vaccine — mice that would have otherwise died from melanoma within about 25 days — showed complete tumor regression.

VW going all Electric and Hybrid by 2018 and the 2014 BMW 94 MPG Plug in Hybrid

1. The 2014 BMW i8 will have a manufacturer’s suggest retail price of $135,700 plus destination and handling when it arrives in US showrooms in spring of 2014. This is before any federal or state incentives for which the i8 may qualify.

This will be the first combination of BMW TwinPower Turbo and BMW eDrive technology plus intelligent energy management produce system output of 266 kW/362 hp (max. torque: 570 Nm / 420 lb-ft) and give the BMW i8 the performance characteristics of a pure-bred sports car (0 – 100 km/h / 62 mph in 4.4 seconds) combined with fuel economy and emissions comparable to a small car - EU fuel consumption: 2.5 litres per 100 km / 94 mpg (US); “glued-to-the-road” AWD driving experience with torque distribution geared towards optimized dynamics.

2. The Volkswagen Group is aiming for global market leadership in electric mobility. “We are electrifying all vehicle classes, and therefore have everything we need to make the Volkswagen Group the top automaker in all respects, including electric mobility, by 2018”, said Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen AG.

Initially, a total of 14 models from several Volkswagen Group brands will be available with electric or hybrid drive technology by 2014. If there is sufficient demand, up to 40 new models could be fitted with alternative drivetrains.

Next Bigger Future - City sized factories

This site has looked at the technologies of a Mundane Singularity which looks at the fastest ways to get to higher rates of economic growth and wealth. Several of the technologies relate to construction that is over ten times faster and vastly improved robotics for factories and transportation. A new transformation of factories will use the most advanced technologies to enable greater economies of scale while still enabling customization and modifications and efficient changes to product lines. Advanced robotics and artificial intelligence will be needed to remove the logistical complexity of operations with unprecedented scale.

There are opportunities for greater economies of scale annual smartphone sales go from one billion to four billion and with the emergence of the global middle class. There were 1.8 billion in the global middle class in 2009. The projections are for 3.2 billion in the global middle class in 2020 and 4.9 billion in 2030.

There was also a recent detailed cost analysis which found that the biggest factor contributing to China’s ability to make solar panels for about 23 percent less than U.S. companies turned out to be economies of scale. Typical Chinese PV factories are four times larger than those in the United States, the study found. That leads to economies in several ways: Those factories can negotiate better contracts with suppliers. Also, their manufacturing equipment can be used more efficiently, since machines can be scheduled to run more of the time by allowing flexibility in matching up the production rates of machines at different stages in the process.

The key to making solar panels competitive is to bring the cost of installed panels to a level competitive with the current cost of electricity from the grid, without subsidies or tax benefits. Once that goal is achieved — which the researchers estimate will likely occur by the end of the decade — then much larger PV factories will become economically viable worldwide.

There are several technologies which will enable larger and more productive factories to be built. These will capture even larger economies of scale while still enabling flexibility and rapid modification of products and product lines.

Carbon nanotubes on a spider silk scaffold could create tough, biocompatible, implantable electronics

Understanding the compatibility between spider silk and conducting materials is essential to advance the use of spider silk in electronic applications. Spider silk is tough, but becomes soft when exposed to water. Here we report a strong affinity of amine-functionalised multi-walled carbon nanotubes for spider silk, with coating assisted by a water and mechanical shear method. The nanotubes adhere uniformly and bond to the silk fibre surface to produce tough, custom-shaped, flexible and electrically conducting fibres after drying and contraction. The conductivity of coated silk fibres is reversibly sensitive to strain and humidity, leading to proof-of-concept sensor and actuator demonstrations.

The immense demand for electronics, and thus the electronic waste and environmental pollution it generates, poses a growing problem that will require innovative solutions1. Many toxic elements and non-biodegradable plastics are commonly found in conventional electronics, and efforts to develop new eco-friendly electronic designs are therefore desirable. Incorporation of natural materials into these designs is advantageous to reduce the quantity of toxic components of the electronic devices. Moreover, natural materials often possess complex and robust physical properties that can be harnessed for electrical and sensor applications. Spider silk (SS) is one such material and the combination of its toughness and bio-compatibility makes the material strategically important for implant, electrical, sensor and actuating applications.

Single f-CNT-SS fibre surface profiles.

Nature Communications - Carbon nanotubes on a spider silk scaffold

DNA Glue could help reconnect injured organs or build functional human tissues

Researchers at the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University has found a way to self-assemble complex structures out of gel “bricks” smaller than a grain of salt. The new method could help solve one of the major challenges in tissue engineering: creating injectable components that self-assemble into intricately structured, biocompatible scaffolds at an injury site to help regrow human tissues.

The key to self-assembly was developing the world’s first programmable glue. The glue is made of DNA, and it directs specific bricks of a water-filled gel to adhere only to each other.

“By using DNA glue to guide gel bricks to self-assemble, we’re creating sophisticated programmable architecture,” said Peng Yin, a core faculty member at the Wyss Institute and senior co-author of the study. Yin is also an assistant professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS). This novel self-assembly method worked for gel cubes as tiny as a piece of silt (30 microns diameter) to as large as a grain of sand (1 millimeter diameter), underscoring the method’s versatility.

Nature Communications - DNA-directed self-assembly of shape-controlled hydrogels

Graphyne and graphene approaches to better desalination

Technology Review describes graphyne sheets for filtering salt from seawater at rates several orders of magnitude faster than conventional desalination techniques. The new technique involves a material known as graphyne, a two-dimensional sheet of carbon atoms connected together much like graphene but with an altered structure because of double and triple bonds in certain places. Graphyne is interesting because these double and triple bonds create holes between the carbon atoms that are large enough for water molecules to pass through. However, these holes are not big enough for sodium and chloride ions, which are larger because they attract a shell of water molecules since they are charged.

Water passes through graphyne at a rate some two orders of magnitude faster than through the polymer membranes used in conventional reverse osmosis techniques. They are in the lab stage for production of graphyne.

Conventional desalination plants that rely on reverse osmosis require 1.5 kiloWatt-hours of electricity to produce 1 tonne of freshwater.

Arxiv - Exceptionally Fast Water Desalination at Complete Salt Rejection by Pristine Graphyne Monolayers

September 09, 2013

Adopted sub-species of bees become genetically like their adopting colony and there are human implications for genetic changes from social isolation for the elderly

A scientist has tested the genetic effect of swapping baby sweet tempered European honeybees with aggressive African killer bees. (H/T Chris Phoenix)

They took 250 of the youngest bees from each hive, and painted marks on the bees’ tiny backs. Then they switched each set of newborns into the hive of the other subspecies.

He didn’t expect the bees’ actual DNA to change: Random mutations aside, genes generally don’t change during an organism’s lifetime. Rather, he suspected the bees’ genes would behave differently in their new homes—wildly differently.

This notion was both reasonable and radical. Scientists have known for decades that genes can vary their level of activity, as if controlled by dimmer switches. Most cells in your body contain every one of your 22,000 or so genes. But in any given cell at any given time, only a tiny percentage of those genes is active, sending out chemical messages that affect the activity of the cell. This variable gene activity, called gene expression, is how your body does most of its work.

Where he went out on a limb was in questioning the conventional wisdom that environment usually causes fairly limited changes in gene expression. It might sharply alter the activity of some genes, as happens in cancer or digestion. But in all but a few special cases, the thinking went, environment generally brightens or dims the activity of only a few genes at a time.

Largest Railroad company in the USA is Testing Natural Gas-Powered Locomotives

BNSF Railway, the largest railroad in the U.S. and a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, will begin testing liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a locomotive fuel. (H/T Chris Phoenix)

BNSF estimates that, after the Navy, it is the second largest consumer of diesel in the U.S. With diesel prices at nearly $4 per gallon compared to just over $2 per gallon for large volume LNG users, the cost savings are game-changing.

Preliminary tests by General Electric and Caterpillar, which are developing the locomotives, indicate that trains powered by natural gas could also travel farther between refueling and have equivalent towing power to diesel. And because trains, like fleet vehicles, travel on fixed routes, building a fueling infrastructure for freight rail makes good economic sense.

Using natural gas would be significantly better for our nation’s air quality than conventional alternatives, with fewer nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (Sox) emissions and no diesel particulates.

Cigar Lake Uranium mine start-up delayed until 2014

Production from the Cigar Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan has been put back until early 2014 due to additional work on underground ore handling equipment. Modifications are also required at Areva's nearby McClean Lake mill before the ore can be processed.

Cameco has now announced that, with construction of the mine already 97% complete and commissioning of the mining systems underway, it does not expect ore production to begin until during the first quarter of 2014. The delay, it said, was due to unspecified problems with the ore handling facilities.

At the same time, Areva has told Cameco that additional modifications are required at McClean Lake and that the mill is now expected to start processing Cigar Lake ore by mid-2014.

Cameco said that as a result of the delay it will not meet its forecast of producing 300,000 pounds of U3O8 (115 tU) from Cigar Lake in 2013.

Cigar Lake is the world's second largest high-grade uranium deposit, with grades that are 100 times the world average. The orebody is being frozen prior to mining to improve ground conditions, prevent water inflow and improve radiation protection. The ore will be removed by a jet boring system, using water under high pressure to carve out cavities in the orebody and the resulting ore slurry collected through pipes. This will be taken to underground grinding and thickening circuits and then pumped to surface as slurry, which will be loaded into special containers for the 70 kilometre journey by road to McClean Lake.

RE.WORK Technology Summit

RE.WORK Technology Summit in London, September, 2013

The RE.WORK Technology Summit is a one-day event that brings together entrepreneurship, science and technology to re-work the future and tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges.

The event will showcase the opportunities of breakthrough technologies and their potential for a positive impact on business and society. Emerging technology is providing an unprecedented era of opportunity for entrepreneurs and scientists to progress business and solve global challenges. By 2050 there will be around 9 billion people on the planet, so understanding, knowledge and collaboration is vital to help steer the way to a better world.

RE.WORK is focused on generating innovative ideas and encouraging collaboration to solve big, global problems in areas such as increased urbanisation levels, efficient healthcare, sustainable energy solutions, and equal opportunities for all. Technology can have a revolutionary impact on these issues and some of the new products and advances explored at RE.WORK will include progress in the internet of things, sensors, 3D printing, wearable technology, nanotechnology, biotechnology, robotics and artificial intelligence.

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202,586 People paid to apply to become Mars Settlers

After the close of the first round of applications, there were 202,586 who paid registration fee ranging from about $5 to $73, depending on the country (it was $38 in the United States, $7 in India). This would be a one way trip to Mars. It is likely that Mars One has raised $5 million through non-refundable registration fees alone. They also sell t-shirts and other gear.

Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation that will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars in 2023. Human settlement on Mars is possible today with existing technologies. Mars One mission plan integrates components that are well tested and readily available from industry leaders worldwide. The first footprint on Mars and lives of the crew thereon will captivate and inspire generations; it is this public interest that will help finance this human mission to Mars.

The Mars One mission plan consists of cargo missions and unmanned preparation of a habitable settlement, followed by human landings. In the coming years, a demonstration mission, communication satellites, two rovers and several cargo missions will be sent to Mars. These missions will set up the outpost where the human crew will live and work.

The mission design takes into account the expansion of the human colony where a new crew arrive every two years.

Mars One will select and train the human crew for permanent settlement.

Each Round 1 applicant is now being screened by the Selection Committee, which is expected to take several months. Candidates selected to pass to the next round will be notified by the end of 2013. The second round of selection will start in early 2014, where the candidates will be interviewed in person by the Mars One Selection Committee.

Aspiring martians who have missed Round 1 or could not meet the age restriction can join subsequent Astronaut Selection Program

September 08, 2013

If Spacex gets a reusable booster they will be able to lower cost per launch by 25 per cent or more

SpaceX's latest Falcon 9 version 1.1 is 60 percent longer than the company’s five previous Falcon 9 boosters. Its launch is scheduled for Sept. 14.

The rocket’s extension, which makes it more susceptible to bending during flight, is the most visible of several upgrades intended to increase the booster’s lift capacity and simplify operations.

In addition to a new 5-meter payload fairing, the rocket has upgraded avionics and software as well as a new stage-separation system that cuts the number of attachment points from 12 to three.

Because it is a demonstration mission, SpaceX offered launch services at a cut-rate price. MDA Corp. of Canada bought the ride for its 500-kilogram Cassiope spacecraft, built in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency and Technology Partnerships Canada.

“Cassiope is a very small satellite. It takes up just a tiny fraction of the volume of the fairing. They paid, I think, maybe 20 percent of the normal price of the mission,” he added.

Once the payloads are put into orbit, SpaceX may try to restart the rocket’s upper-stage motor, depending on how much fuel is left. Also on tap is a highly experimental restart of the Falcon’s boost stage to slow its crash landing into the sea.

Diode and Atomic Layer Deposition approaches to nanoantenna solar energy and terahertz transistors

Infrared nanoantenna could in theory achieve 70% efficiency with solar energy conversion. There are several approaches to try to achieve that goal.

Diode Approach has had fundamental problems but adding a second insulator layer could help

The power conversion efficiency of broadband antennas, log-periodic, square-spiral, and archimedian-spiral antennas, coupled to Metal-Insulator-Metal and Esaki rectifying diodes has been obtained from both theoretical and numerical simulation perspectives. The results show efficiencies in the order of 10^−6 to 10^−9 for these rectifying mechanisms, which is very low for practical solar energy harvesting applications. This is mainly caused by the poor performance of diodes at the given frequencies and also due to the antenna-diode impedance mismatch. If only losses due to antenna-diode impedance mismatch are considered an efficiency of about 10^−3 would be obtained. In order to make optical antennas useful for solar energy harvesting new rectification devices or a different harvesting mechanism should be used.

MIM diodes use quantum tunneling, which permits electrons to jump from one metal electrode to the other without interacting with the intervening insulator layer -- hence the power and heat reductions. So far, their development has been slow going.

Now Oregon State University (OSU) researchers claim to have invigorated the technology by adding a second insulator layer to produce an MIIM device that aims to solve the problems with MIM devices and come closer to taking the technology mainstream.

The two insulator layers -- which for Conley's work was hafnium oxide and aluminum oxide -- enables what he called "step tunneling." Step tunneling allows more precise control of the diode asymmetry and thus its rectification capabilities at low voltages.

As a result, Conley sees his MIIM devices are poised to improve all sorts of electronic devices in wide use today, from liquid crystal displays to cell phones and televisions, as well as new types of devices such as infrared solar cells that convert radiant heat into electricity.

The researchers hope to optimize their process, then tackle applications that use even more metal-insulator layers, such as transistors.

Lead Free thermoelectric material with about 15% efficiency for capturing waste heat

Physicists at the University of Houston’s physics department and the Texas Center for Superconductivity are working on an innovation that could boost vehicle mileage by 5 percent and power plant and industrial processing performance as much as 10 percent.

Their research uses non-toxic materials – tin telluride, with the addition of the chemical element indium – for waste heat recovery.

A ZT of 1.1 for 800K is about 15% heat to electricity conversion efficiency

PNAS - High thermoelectric performance by resonant dopant indium in nanostructured SnTe

By 2025 the Shale Oil and Gas revolution could support 3.9 million jobs and add 533 billion in GDP to the US economy

Increased oil and gas production made possible by advances in shale technology is supporting millions of jobs, increasing household incomes, boosting trade and contributing to a new increase in U.S. competitiveness around the world.

Key report findings include the following:

* The combined upstream, midstream and downstream unconventional oil and gas production process, and the chemical industry benefiting from it, will support more than 460,000 combined manufacturing jobs by 2020, rising to nearly 515,000 by 2025.

* Unconventional oil and gas activity supports more than 2.1 million total jobs. By 2025, this number will reach nearly 3.9 million.

* Unconventional oil and gas activity increased disposable income by an average of $1,200 per U.S. household in 2012. This figure is expected to grow to just more than $2,000 by 2015 and reach more than $3,500 by 2025.

* The unconventional oil and gas value chain added $284 billion in contributions to GDP in 2012. This number is projected to increase to $468 billion by 2020 and $533 billion by 2025.

* Driven by a rise in domestic production and manufacturing that will displace imports, as well as a favorable export position for these industries, the trade deficit will be reduced by more than $164 billion by 2020.

Long term effort to develop capability to drill to the Earth's Mantle

The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) is an international marine research program dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of Earth by sampling, instrumenting and monitoring subseafloor environments. Through multiple platforms-JOIDES Resolution, Chikyu and Mission-Specific-Platforms-some of the world's preeminent scientists explore the deep biosphere and subseafloor; environmental change; Earth processes and effects; and solid earth cycles and geodynamics; and other themes.

One of the missions will be to drill 6 km (3.7 miles) beneath the seafloor to reach the Earth's mantle -- a 3000 km-thick layer of slowly deforming rock between the crust and the core which makes up the majority of our planet -- and bring back the first ever fresh samples.

They must first find a way to grind their way through ultra-hard rocks with 10 km-long (6.2 miles) drill pipes.

They have already identified three possible locations -- all in the Pacific Ocean -- where the ocean floor was formed at relatively fast spreading mid-ocean ridges, says Teagle.

The hole they will drill will be just 30 cm in width all the way from the ocean floor to inside the mantle -- a monumental engineering feat.

IODP's initial 10-year, $1.5 billion program is supported by two lead agencies, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT).

If Japanese support can be combined with other funding, Teagle says they could start drilling before the end of the decade, making it possible for humans to finally reach the Earth's mantle by the early 2020s.

America's Cup Racing Yachts have more than doubled in speed compared to 2007

The America's Cup is a 162 year old sail boat racing event. Oracle's Larry Ellison is defending champion after his team won in 2010.

Larry Ellison has gotten rid of the slow monohulls used in most prior Cups. Their top speed in the 2007 competition was about 20 mph. Ellison’s zippy boats can quickly pass one another like racehorses at over 50 mph.

Unlike monohulls, cats sail fast in light and strong winds, reducing start-time delays that can ruin TV broadcasts. Rather than have the vessels race miles offshore, Ellison’s team set the event in the natural amphitheater of San Francisco Bay on oval courses as close as 500 yards (460 meters) from land at some points so spectators can enjoy the race.

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