November 14, 2014

China Will have Two-Child Policy within 2 Years

All Chinese couples will be allowed to have a second child in two years, said a researcher who advises the government on birth control policies.

“We will fully relax the policy” in two years after an experiment allowing some couples to have a second baby, Cai Fang, a vice director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the government’s research arm, said in a brief interview yesterday after a speech in Beijing. “People wish to choose the number of children they want to have, and they should be given the choice, at least for two children.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping relaxed China’s family-planning policy last year by allowing couples to have two children if either parent is an only child. The change failed to deliver a baby boom in the world’s most populous country -- less than 3 percent of the 11 million Chinese couples eligible for another child applied for permission in the first six months, according to data from the National Health & Family Planning Commission.

China had 690,000 couples seeking approval for a second child by the end of August and 620,000 were granted, according to a statement from the nation’s family planning commission.

Cai said allowing second children won’t significantly raise the fertility rate to bolster a population the United Nations predicts will start shrinking by 2030. China’s fertility rate of 1.66 per woman compares with the 2.1 level needed to sustain population levels, according to the UN.

United States, China, Europe and Japan race to the Exaflop Supercomputer

1. The United States Department of Energy has commissioned two supercomputers: one is a system codenamed "Summit", and it will be installed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. It is designed to peak at 150 to 300 petaFLOPS in 2017 – that's 300 quadrillion calculations per second, or about five times faster than the 54 PFLOPS Tianhe-2.

The other system is codenamed "Sierra", which is designed to peak at more than 100 petaFLOPS.

The systems will cost $325 million to build. The DoE has set aside a further $100 million to develop "extreme scale supercomputing", or an exaFLOP machine in other words.

Assuming the 300 petaflop system is delivered on time and with the desired performance then the next system iteration with another 3X improvement in energy efficiency and performance would deliver an exaFLOP system in about 2019 or 2020.

China has two 100 petaflop supercomputer projects for 2015

*  China's 100PetaFLOP projects will have more than double their supercomputer investment compared the previous five year supercomputer project

– MOST (863)
– Local government

*  Tianhe-2 33.86/54.9PFlops now, 2015 ~100PFlops
*  Shenwei-x ~100PFlops

China will then have two 100 Petaflop class supercomputers.

China is targeting over 50GFlops/watt for its exascale architecture

China would be on track to an exaFLOP system in 2017 or 2018.

The DOE system would mainly be using parts from IBM and Nvidia so any other country that was willing to invest about $600 million should also be able to get an exaFLOP system in 2020.

US Dept of Energy will spend $425 million for 300 petaFLOP and 100 petaFLOP supercomputers by 2017

The Department of Energy has commissioned two supercomputers: one is a system codenamed "Summit", and it will be installed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. It is designed to peak at 150 to 300 petaFLOPS – that's 300 quadrillion calculations per second, or about five times faster than the 54 PFLOPS Tianhe-2.

The other system is codenamed "Sierra", which is designed to peak at more than 100 petaFLOPS.

The systems will cost $325m to build. The DoE has set aside a further $100m to develop "extreme scale supercomputing", or an exaFLOP machine in other words.

The US's fastest publicly known supercomputer is the Cray-built 27 petaFLOPS Titan at Oak Ridge, which is number two in the world rankings. Number three is the 20 teraFLOPS Sequoia at the Lawrence Livermore.

This rendering shows a few of the cabinets that ultimatly will comprise IBM's Sierra supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. IBM

Researchers may be able to engineer superconductors with over 50% higher critical temperature

A study at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory suggests for the first time how scientists might deliberately engineer superconductors that work at higher temperatures.

In their report, a team led by SLAC and Stanford University researchers explains why a thin layer of iron selenide superconducts -- carries electricity with 100 percent efficiency -- at much higher temperatures when placed atop another material, which is called STO for its main ingredients strontium, titanium and oxygen.

In the new study, the scientists concluded that natural trillion-times-per-second vibrations in the STO travel up into the iron selenide film in distinct packets, like volleys of water droplets shaken off by a wet dog. These vibrations give electrons the energy they need to pair up and superconduct at higher temperatures than they would on their own.

"Our simulations indicate that this approach - using natural vibrations in one material to boost superconductivity in another - could be used to raise the operating temperature of iron-based superconductors by at least 50 percent," said Zhi-Xun Shen, a professor at SLAC and Stanford University and senior author of the study.

This work could be leveraged to raise the operating temperature of iron based superconductors above 77 degrees which can be reached with liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen cooling is far cheaper and can be used for more practical applications. Other advances have enabled iron based superconductors to achieve current density above 100,000 amps per square centimeter which is also needed for practical applications.

While that's still nowhere close to room temperature, he added, "We now have the first example of a mechanism that could be used to engineer high-temperature superconductors with atom-by-atom control and make them better."

The new results "point to a new direction that people have not considered before," Moore said. "They have the potential to really break records in high-temperature superconductivity and give us a new understanding of things we've been struggling with for years."

He added that SLAC is developing a new X-ray beamline at SSRL with a more advanced ARPES system to create and study these and other exotic materials. "This paper predicts a new pathway to engineering superconductivity in these materials," Moore said, "and we're building the tools to do just that."

Caption: In this illustration, a single layer of superconducting iron selenide (balls and sticks) has been placed stop another material known as STO for its main ingredients selenium, titanium and oxygen. The STO is shown as blue pyramids, which represent the arrangement of its atoms. A study at SLAC found that when natural vibrations (green glow) from the STO move up into the iron selenide film, electrons in the film (white spheres) can pair up and conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency at much higher temperatures than before. The results suggest a way to deliberately engineer superconductors that work at even higher temperatures. Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

So far unable to find genetic basis for supercentenarians but better long DNA read capability helping to uncover overlooked genetic variation

Thousands of never-before-seen genetic variants in the human genome have been uncovered using a new genome sequencing technology. These discoveries close many human genome mapping gaps that have long resisted sequencing.

The technique, called single-molecule, real-time DNA sequencing (SMRT), may now make it possible for researchers to identify potential genetic mutations behind many conditions whose genetic causes have long eluded scientists, said Evan Eichler, professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington, who led the team that conducted the study

To date, scientists have been able to identify the genetic causes of only about half of inherited conditions. This puzzle has been called the "missing heritability problem." One reason for this problem may be that standard genome sequencing technologies cannot map many parts of the genome precisely. These approaches map genomes by aligning hundreds of millions of small, overlapping snippets of DNA, typically about 100 bases long, and then analyzing their DNA sequences to construct a map of the genome.

This approach has successfully pinpointed millions of small variations in the human genome. These variations arise from substitution of a single nucleotide base, called a single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNP. The standard approach also made it possible to identify very large variations, typically involving segments of DNA that are 5,000 bases long or longer. But for technical reasons, scientists had previously not been able to reliably detect variations whose lengths are in between -- those ranging from about 50 to 5,000 bases in length.

The SMRT technology used in the new study makes it possible to sequence and read DNA segments longer than 5,000 bases, far longer than standard gene sequencing technology.

So far unable to find the genetic secret of supercentinarians

If supercentenarians have a magic gene that helps them reach this age, it is lying low. A thorough search for longevity gene variants in 17 supercentenarians – average age 112 (the oldest was 116) – has so far drawn a blank. This research may not have tried the SMRT technology.

November 13, 2014

Supercritical-Water-Cooled Reactor

Supercritical-Water-Cooled Reactor (SCWR) are high temperature, high-pressure, light-water-cooled reactors that operate above the thermodynamic critical point of water (374°C, 22.1 MPa).

The reactor core may have a thermal or a fast-neutron spectrum, depending on the core design. The concept may be based on current pressure vessel or on pressure tube reactors, and thus use light water or heavy water as moderator. Unlike current water-cooled reactors, the coolant will experience a significantly higher enthalpy rise in the core, which reduces the core mass flow for a given thermal power and increases the core outlet enthalpy to superheated conditions. For both pressure vessel and pressure-tube designs, a once through steam cycle has been envisaged, omitting any coolant recirculation inside the reactor. As in a boiling water reactor, the superheated steam will be supplied directly to the high pressure steam turbine and the feed water from the steam cycle will be supplied back to the core. Thus, the SCWR concepts combine the design and operation experiences gained from hundreds of water-cooled reactors with those experiences from hundreds of fossil-fired power plants operated with supercritical water (SCW). In contrast to some of the other Generation IV nuclear systems, the SCWR can be developed incrementally step-by-step from current water-cooled reactors.

Canada, Japan, Russia, Europe and China have supercritical water reactor designs.

The construction cost of SCWR plants has been targeted at $900/kW in the GIF Roadmap. This could be up to half the cost of reactors in China and over three times cheaper than reactors in the United States.

The Nuclear Power institute of China said it had identified four stages of development, continuing until 2025. Further technology development will begin this year, followed by engineering research and development from 2017-2021, construction from 2019 -2023, and commissioning between 2022 and 2025.

IAEA looked at SCWR

NASA Innovative and Advanced Concepts Introduction

NASA 360 looks at NIAC (NASA Innovative and Advanced Concepts)

* suspended animation
* 3D print whole buildings and launchpads on the moon
* Exploring under the miles of ices to the ocean of Europa

USA crude oil production over 9 million barrels per day for the first time in over 40 years

United States crude oil production is above 9 million barrels per day for the first time in over forty years.

USA crude oil production was at 9.06 million barrels per day.
USA crude oil and natural gas liquid production was over 12.15 million barrels per day.
USA all liquids oil production was 14.27 million barrels per day.

USA crude oil production has increased by over 4 million barrels per day since 2009.
USA Ccrude oil production has increased by over 3 million barrels per day since April, 2012.

Google CEO Larry Page uses $375 billion company to transform the world

Google CEO Larry Page pushes for a constant stream of technological moonshots

In the movie Inception a character says- "You must not be afraid to dream bigger".
Archimedes - "Give me a fulcrum, and I shall move the world".

When the leader of the Google internet balloons project posited that if all went well, Google might be able increase the Internet’s total bandwidth by 5%, Google CEO Larry Page asked why they couldn’t double or triple the global network’s capacity. “He wanted to make sure there was a moon shot after the moon shot,” says Astro Teller, who heads Google X. “Reminding us that his ambitions are this high,” Teller says, raising his hand well above his head, “helps people aspire to more.”

Apple today considers Google its No. 1 competitor. But tellingly, so do Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, and a long list of lesser-known tech firms. “I don’t think we’ve seen a company like Google in technology,” says John Battelle, a serial entrepreneur and the author of The Search, a seminal book about the company’s early years. “It’s the whole package: the financial results, the reach in terms of what markets they touch, and the ambition.”

Tesla Battery Report Predictions

There is a 39 page Tesla Battery Report by Total Battery Consulting Inc.

Tesla Gigafactory

* It represents a huge risk and a tremendous amount of cash investment
* It depends largely on Panasonic’s willingness to invest
* If 35 GWh are indeed installed and utilized, pack pricing for the 2025 time scale could be as low as $167/kWh, $8,400 for a 50-kWh battery and $11,700 for a 70-kWh pack
* Battery cost per kWh will go up slightly in 2017 due to high depreciation charges, but larger capacity per cell will neutralize the increase by 2018
* Tesla’s 35-GWh plant will be about 10X larger than any existing plant

* Pack cost much below $200/kWh is unlikely before 2020, which brings the cost of the proposed 70-kWh pack for a 240-mile D class EV to $14,000 (or higher). Tesla could offer an entry-level version with 45-50kWh (at $9K to $10K per pack) but such a vehicle would not quite attain 200 miles per charge in most real-life driving conditions

In 2025, they could get to a cost of $117 per kWh.

Improved lithium ion, solid state lithium ion and lithium Sulphur batteries

Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen discussed the challenges of energy density, cost, reliability and lifespan for batteries enabling longer range electric mobility.

Volkswagen spends roughly 13 billion Dollars on research and development each year.

Winterkorn sees increasing the specific energy of lithium-ion cells to as much as 380 Wh/l will reduce driving range drawbacks. Lithium ion with a higher nickel content will get to even high energy density.

He sees great potential with solid-state batteries possibly boosting the range to as much as 700 kilometers (1,000 Wh/l).

Solid state lithium ion batteries replace the organic liquid electrolyte with a nonflammable and more reliable inorganic solid electrolyte (SE). This can provide higher energy density and simplify the battery design and improves safety and durability of the system.

Another matter is cost:
Lowering the price of battery cells to 100 euros ($120) per kilowatt hour would significantly increase the market potential of electric vehicles.

Toyota targets batteries better than gasoline which they call the Sakichi battery

Toyota established a research division to work on “revolutionary batteries.” At that time, the company talked about a “Sakichi battery,” named after Sakichi Toyoda, the inventor of Japan’s first power loom. He is sometimes referred to as the father of the Japanese industrial revolution. In 1925, Sakichi reportedly set oblamlut a (yet-to-be-claimed) prize of 1 million yen for the invention of a storage battery that would produce more energy than gasoline. Toyota’s goal is to make the Sakichi battery very durable and very quick to charge.

November 12, 2014

Oxis on track to commercializing lithium sulfur batteries with twice the energy density of lithium ion in 2016

Oxis Energy has developed its largest Lithium Sulfur cell achieving in excess of 300Wh/kg. This outperforms Lithium ion technology that has dominated the performance battery market for many years. In addition OXIS has achieved an increase in cell capacity to a 25Ah cell – a world first.

This achievement is a twelve fold improvement in 18 months which gives OXIS the confidence to predict that it will achieve a cell capacity of 33Ah by mid 2015.

Lithium–sulfur batteries may succeed lithium-ion cells because of their higher energy density and reduced cost from the use of sulfur. Currently the best Li-S batteries offer energy densities on the order of 500 W·h/kg, significantly better than most lithium-ion batteries which are in the 150 to 200 range. Li-S batteries with up to 1,500 charge and discharge cycles have been demonstrated, yet are not commercially available.

Oxis is the leader in commercializing lithium sulfur batteries. Li-S battery manufacturing can use existing, excess battery manufacturing facilities with minimal modifications. Li-S batteries could scale to over batteries for over 100,000 electric vehicles and get costs down to $65/kwh.

China is passing the EU on PPP Research dollars next year and should pass the USA in 2019

An OECD report shows that China is already spending twice as much as Japan for research and development and should pass the United States in 2019 (based on Purchasing power parity) China has pulled ahead of the European Union (EU) in the ratio of R&D spending to gross domestic product (GDP), reporting 2% in 2013 against the EU's 1.9%.

The OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2014 reviews key trends in science, technology and innovation (STI) policies, and performance in more than 45 economies, including OECD countries and major emerging economies.

The quality of Chinese science is still behind the world average, which is reflected by citation indicators and the share of PhDs among researchers. China spends more on buildings and infrastructure than actual work.

A folding electric bike that can fit in a backpack

There is a kickstarter for a folding electric bike that weighs less than 5 kilograms (11 pounds) and can fit into a backpack.

They have used a carbon fiber as the primary material in the frame, making both extremely light and very durable. The “connecting box” in the middle of the frame is one of the handful of pieces made of heavier steel. This steel box can easily bear the weight of the rider and withstand the shocks associated with everyday use. In its current incarnation, Impossible can carry up to 85 kilograms or 180 pounds.

The disc motor of Impossible is both lightweight and powerful. With ten 2900mah 10A 3.6V 44.5g batteries, Impossible can travel up to 12.4 mph for 45 minutes (9 mile range at faster speed) or at normal speed for up to 15.6 miles.

Memristors and memcapacitors for printable electronics

Nature - Layered memristive and memcapacitive switches for printable electronics

Novel computing technologies that imitate the principles of biological neural systems may offer low power consumption along with distinct cognitive and learning advantages. The development of reliable memristive devices capable of storing multiple states of information has opened up new applications such as neuromorphic circuits and adaptive systems. At the same time, the explosive growth of the printed electronics industry has expedited the search for advanced memory materials suitable for manufacturing flexible devices. Here, we demonstrate that solution-processed MoOx/​MoS2 and WOx/​WS2 heterostructures sandwiched between two printed ​silver electrodes exhibit an unprecedentedly large and tunable electrical resistance range from 10^2 to 10^8 Ω combined with low programming voltages of 0.1–0.2 V. The bipolar resistive switching, with a concurrent capacitive contribution, is governed by an ultrathin (less than 3 nm) oxide layer. With strong nonlinearity in switching dynamics, different mechanisms of synaptic plasticity are implemented by applying a sequence of electrical pulses.

Solution-processed memristors.

Easy and Efficient Human Genome engineering with CRISPR-Cas

Researcher can easily edit multiple spots at the same time in human genes. Other scientists believe that there are identified genetic changes that can be made to enable significant anti-aging treatments using genome editing.

1. Nature Scientific Reports - Multiplex genome engineering in human cells using all-in-one CRISPR/Cas9 vector system

Here, researchers report an easy and efficient construction system for all-in-one CRISPR/Cas9 vectors expressing Cas9 protein and up to seven gRNAs. The expression cassettes of the gRNAs are tandemly ligated into a single vector using the Golden Gate cloning method. Furthermore, they demonstrate simultaneous multiple targeted mutagenesis and chromosomal deletions mediated by not only Cas9 nuclease, but also Cas9 nickase. In Cas9 nuclease-mediated genome editing, we constructed an all-in-one vector expressing Cas9 nuclease and seven gRNAs, and targeted seven genomic loci. In Cas9 nickase-mediated genome editing, they constructed an all-in-one vector expressing Cas9 nickase and six gRNAs, and targeted three genomic loci.

CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing is a next-generation strategy for genetic modifications, not only for single gene targeting, but also for multiple targeted mutagenesis. To make the most of the multiplexity of CRISPR/Cas9, we established a system for constructing all-in-one expression vectors containing multiple guide RNA expression cassettes and a Cas9 nuclease/nickase expression cassette. We further demonstrated successful examples of multiple targeting including chromosomal deletions in human cells using the all-in-one CRISPR/Cas9 vectors constructed with our novel system. Our system provides an efficient targeting strategy for multiplex genome/epigenome editing, simultaneous activation/repression of multiple genes, and beyond.

Schematic overview of the all-in-one CRISPR/Cas9 vector construction system for multiplex genome engineering.

November 11, 2014

Big Climate Deal Between US and China would require China to build 1000 Gigawatts of Nuclear or other zero emission energy by 2030

U.S. President Barack Obama announced a climate change agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping that would cut both countries' greenhouse gas emissions by close to a third over the next two decades.

Under the agreement, the United States would cut between 26-28% of the level of its carbon emissions set in 2005 by 2025, and China would do the same by 2030. The administration hopes the announcement by the two superpowers will spur other nations to do the same. The White House said the ultimate target is to "achieve deep economy-wide reductions on the order of 80% by 2050."

The announcement marks the first time China has agreed to cut its carbon emissions, and said the Chinese are calling for "an energy revolution" that would include a broad economic reform program that would address air pollution. China has agreed to provide an "additional 800-1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero emission generation capacity by 2030, more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today and close to total current electricity generation capacity in the United States.

The United States will need to double the pace of carbon pollution reduction from 1.2 percent per year on average from 2005 to 2020 to 2.3 to 2.8 percent per year between 2020 and 2025.

Nanodaisies can carrier a drug combination with more precision for improved cancer treatment

NC State researchers have developed a potential new weapon in the fight against cancer: a daisy-shaped drug carrier that’s many thousands of times smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.

Once injected into the bloodstream, millions of these “nanodaisies” sneak inside cancer cells and release a cocktail of drugs to destroy them from within. The approach is more precise than conventional methods, and it may also prove more effective. By ensuring anti-cancer drugs reach their target in controlled, coordinated doses, nanodaisies could cut down on the side effects of traditional chemotherapy.

“By using one nanocarrier to contain two different drugs, we can potentially reduce their dose and toxicity,” said Dr. Zhen Gu, assistant professor in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill. “And meanwhile their anti-cancer efficacy is enhanced.”

Understanding the mechanisms of CRISPR-Cas gene editing

Customized genome editing – the ability to edit desired DNA sequences to add, delete, activate or suppress specific genes – has major potential for application in medicine, biotechnology, food and agriculture.

Now, in a paper published in Molecular Cell, North Carolina State University researchers and colleagues examine six key molecular elements that help drive this genome editing system, which is known as CRISPR-Cas.

Researchers use CRISPR-Cas to take aim at certain DNA sequences in bacteria and in human cells. CRISPR stands for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” and Cas is a family of genes and corresponding proteins associated with the CRISPR system that specifically target and cut DNA in a sequence-dependent manner.

Essentially, the authors say, bacteria use the system as a defense mechanism and immune system against unwanted invaders such as viruses. Now that same system is being harnessed by researchers to quickly and more precisely target certain genes for editing.

A new paper in Molecular Cell advances knowledge underpinning an important gene cut-and-replace system called CRISPR-Cas.

Molecular Cell Journal - Guide RNA Functional Modules Direct Cas9 Activity and Orthogonality

Cyborg Cockroaches can help in search and rescue

North Carolina State University researchers have developed technology that allows cyborg cockroaches, or biobots, to pick up sounds with small microphones and seek out the source of the sound. The technology is designed to help emergency personnel find and rescue survivors in the aftermath of a disaster.

The researchers have also developed technology that can be used as an “invisible fence” to keep the biobots in the disaster area.

Flexible organic solar cells with record 10.8% efficiency

Researchers from North Carolina State University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have found that temperature-controlled aggregation in a family of new semi-conducting polymers is the key to creating highly efficient organic solar cells that can be mass produced more cheaply. Their findings also open the door to experimentation with different chemical mixtures that comprise the active layers of the cells.

Ade, Ma and a team of chemists from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology led by He Yan show that size scale and aggregation within these devices are strongly temperature dependent. They also show that record efficiencies of up to 10.8 percent – as opposed to the currently published 9.8 percent – are achievable with the substitution of numerous fullerenes. Additionally, this performance can be achieved in thick film devices.

Nature Communications - Aggregation and morphology control enables multiple cases of high-efficiency polymer solar cells

Tungsten Electronics upon Bullet-Proof Kevlar

A group of North Carolina State University researchers is exploring novel ways to apply semiconductor industry processes to unique substrates, such as textiles and fabrics, to "weave together" multifunctional materials with distinct capabilities.

During the AVS 61st International Symposium and Exhibition, being held November 9-14, 2014, in Baltimore, Maryland, the researchers will describe how they were able to "weave" high-strength, highly conductive yarns made of tungsten metal on Kevlar -- aka body armor material -- by using atomic layer deposition (ALD), a process commonly used for producing memory and logic devices.

The group's tungsten-on-Kevlar yarns are expected to find applications in multifunctional protective electronics materials for electromagnetic shielding and communications, as well as erosion-resistant antistatic fabrics for space and automated technologies.

Scientific Prospects for Curing Aging

Joao Pedro de Magalha looks at scientific prospects for curing aging in the Rejuvenation Research Journal.

Joao Pedro de Magalha does not consider the breakthroughs in gene and genome editing that are occurring with CRISPR.

His conclusion :
At the current rate of progress, radical life extension will take centuries. A revolution in medicine will be necessary to develop the combination of therapies necessary to stop human aging in this century. If information, analytic, and synthetic technologies continue to improve exponentially, our capacity to understand biological systems will eventually reach a turning point, in which case a scientific revolution will indeed occur.

CRISPR is the revolution to enable genome editing and the bio-information revolution is happening

CRISPRs (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) are DNA loci containing short repetitions of base sequences. Editas Medicine, a $43 million startup, aims to develop treatments that employ CRISPR/Cas to make edits to single base pairs and larger stretches of DNA. Inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis and sickle-cell anemia are caused by single base pair mutations; CRISPR/Cas technology has the potential to correct these errors.

The Journal Science discusses the gene editing revolution from CRISPR-Cas9

CRISPR is ten to one hundred time better and cheaper than older methods of gene editing

CRISPR-Cas9 offers several key benefits over competing endonuclease technologies. First, while mega-nucleases, ZFNs, and TALENs can be thought of as bespoke single-function machines, Cas9 is basically a programmable enzyme. All that is required is a construct expressing the generic Cas9 nuclease and a set of instructions in the form of a “single-guide RNA” (sgRNA) complementary to the desired target. The system is simple and inexpensive to implement and thus more attractive to researchers who might have been skittish of ZFNs and TALENs.

The second benefit is multiplexing. Since Cas9 is guided by its sgRNA, researchers can program it with multiple guide RNAs simultaneously. Feng Zhang and George Church, writing independently in Science, have both demonstrated the ability to target two sites simultaneously and Rudolf Jaenisch has targeted five.

Jaenisch found that 20 of 96 mouse embryonic stem cell clones tested using three sgRNAs simultaneously contained NHEJ-induced mutations at all six alleles of those three genes, a 20% success rate (5). Church observed HDR-mediated repair rates in human cells of 3% and 8% using two separate sgRNAs, compared to about 0.5% with a TALEN directed at the same location (4). That’s not to say CRISPR-Cas9 is perfect. Multiple studies have documented off-site targeting when using the system, for instance, at least in its original incarnation—something that could significantly limit potential clinical applications. Researchers have developed strategies to boost targeting specificity.

Technical and business leaders of ET3 answer questions from Nextbigfuture readers

Ralph Bakker and Colin Hicks of ET3 (vacuum tube maglev train company) are answering questions from readers of Nextbigfuture.

Southwest Jiaotong University developed the initial high temperature superconducting magnetic levitation test loop in March 2013, and the in may, 2014 they showed latest model which had the vacuum pipe that became the world's first evacuated tube transport system. When the train runs in the tube, the pressure inside is 10 times lower than outside and the train can use more power for driving at high speed, Deng said.

ET3 has been trading its Intellectual Property with China since 2002. Southwest Jiaotong University (SWJTU: a licensee of the ET3 consortia) has made mass improvements in HTSM (high temperature superconducting maglev) cryostats, PMG (permanent magnet guideway), LEM's (linear electric motors), software automation, YBCO bulk (YCBO is high temperature superconducting material), etc. China does not require proof that ET3 is economically viable and China has companies capable of building 1,000's of km of complete ET3 networks right now. ET3 is considered a 'vital organ' by the Chinese Government (almost never entitled to private companies).

Despite China's influence by the HSR (high speed rail) authority; there are written agreements and collaboration efforts being made from private Chinese companies and SWJTU (Southwest Jiaotong University) to implement ET3 across the globe. China has enough permanent magnet guideway material and superconducting wire for thousands of kilomters of ET3 network and millions ofcargo/passenger capsules.

USA and China have agreement for ten year visas

The USA and China have agreed to increase the validity of short-term tourist and business visas issued to each other’s citizens from one to ten years – the longest validity possible under U.S. law – and increase the validity of student and exchange visas from one to five years. The United States will begin issuing visas in accordance with the new reciprocal agreement on November 12, 2014.

Russia will build eight more nuclear reactors in Iran

1. Russia has agreed to build up to eight new nuclear power reactor units in Iran - four at Bushehr and four at another, yet to be determined site.

Unit 1 at the Bushehr nuclear power plant is a VVER V-446 pressurised water reactor unit, which began commercial operation in September 2013. After years of delay, the Bushehr plant was finally connected to the grid on 4 September 2011, supplying around 60 MWe. Output from the 1000 MWe reactor has since been gradually increased, reaching full capacity in September 2013. Russia is supplying fuel to Bushehr which, once used, will be returned to Russia for reprocessing and storage.

2. AFramework Joint Venture Agreement was signed between China's CNNC and Canada's Candu Energy to build AFCR (Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor) projects domestically and develop opportunities for that technology internationally.

The AFCR is described as "a 700 MW Class Generation III reactor based on the highly successful CANDU 6 and Enhanced CANDU 6 (EC6) reactors with a number of adaptations … [allowing] it to use recycled uranium or thorium as fuel." The present focus is on uranium recycled from conventional used fuel (RU) blended with depleted uranium (DU) to give natural uranium equivalent. Following the successful trials of this at Qinshan, next year both those reactors will be modified to become full AFCRs. Then the AFCR joint venture plans to build new AFCR units in China and beyond.

November 10, 2014

Inflatables can make exoskeletons ten time lighter while maintaining strength

Slashdot TV has a feature on Tim Swift at Otherlab Orthotics.

Otherlab is developing a new generation of robotic orthotics that are constructed entirely out of fabric. These devices omit the rigid materials used in traditional exoskeleton designs for inflatable structures using high-strength fabrics to greatly reduce part count and costs without sacrificing performance. The resulting orthotics systems provide power to weight ratios that are unmatched by existing exoskeleton systems at a fraction of the cost.

They are using inflatable systems to make exoskeletons ten times lighter while still maintaining power and strength.

Tim Swift has some description of his work at his linkedin profile

Big Hero 6 Inflatable Robot and Google Solve For X Inflatable Robots in fiction and reality

The Number one box office movie this weekend was Big Hero 6 which stars an animated inflatable robot.

Google Solve For X had a proposal for inflatable robots

Problem: Actuators in robots are heavy and clunky and limit mobility, dexterity and speed.

Solution: Create materials and actuators that are soft - that act more like muscles and tissues found in nature that can exert tremendous forces while being flexible and low weight.

In 2013 they demonstrated an inflatable robot arm

Frictionless Maglev for transportation that is 50 times more efficient than Rail

Nextbigfuture has covered vacuum tube transportation (ET3) before and also covered low pressure tube transportation.

Evacuated Tube Transport Technology is magnetically levitated capsules in vacuum tubes.

Propulsion energy required is 100,000 times less than required by a car
ET3 will achieve 50 times more transportation per kWh (or ton of CO2) than electric cars or trains.
The cost is ten times less. They calculate they can build an ET3 system for about $7 million per mile.

ET3 Progress

ET3 has been awarded two recent patents. One is for the system and another patent is for the interchange methods. There was an original patent in 1999.

ET3 is speaking with various companies in China and South Korea.

Description of the system

ET3 is “Space Travel on Earth” where car sized passenger capsules travel in 1.5m (5') diameter tubes on frictionless maglev (magnetic levitated vehicle). Air is permanently removed from the two-way tubes that are built along a travel route. Airlocks at portals allow transfer of capsules without admitting air. Linear electric motors accelerate the capsules, which then coast through the vacuum for the remainder of the trip using no additional power. Most of the energy is regenerated as the capsules slow down where kinetic energy of the capsule is converted to electric power with a linear electric generator

DARPA wants to convert C130 and other planes into Drone carriers

DARPA wants to enable existing large aircraft to carry, launch and recover multiple unmanned air systems for a variety of missions.

Military air operations typically rely on large, manned, robust aircraft, but such missions put these expensive assets—and their pilots—at risk. While small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can reduce or eliminate such risks, they lack the speed, range and endurance of larger aircraft. These complementary traits suggest potential benefits in a blended approach—one in which larger aircraft would carry, launch and recover multiple small UAS. Such an approach could greatly extend the range of UAS operations, enhance overall safety, and cost-effectively enable groundbreaking capabilities for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other missions.

DARPA wants to explore the feasibility and potential value of an ability to launch and recover multiple small unmanned air systems from one or more types of existing large manned aircraft, such as C-130 transport planes.

DARPA is interested in proving the feasibility and potential value of the ability to launch and recover multiple small unmanned air systems from one or more types of existing large manned aircraft. The agency has issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking technical, security and business insights to support the agency’s pursuit of future distributed airborne capabilities.

Carnival of Space 379

Carnival of Space 379 is up at Cosmoquest

Watch Universe Today’s Fraser Cain School the Cast of ‘Interstellar’ on Black Holes The cast of Interstellar have a video of a Google+ Hangout live from Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

China could have 800 million outbound tourists over the next 5 years

China's President Xi outlined at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum how much the world stands to gain from a rising China. He said 500 million Chinese tourists will go abroad over the next five years. This is a conservative estimate.

In 2013, 98 million Chinese traveled abroad. That’s an increase of 18% compared to the year 2012, with the outbound expenditure reaching $128.7 billion USD, an increase of 26.8% on last year. In 2014, outbound tourism is set to rise to about 114 million and this will have an estimated total tourism expenditure of 140 billion USD.

China international travelers to the United States will grow 172% from 2013 to 2019, the largest total growth percentage according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

High growth rates and large growth volumes are expected for China (24%) and it is expected to increase a total of 3.1 million visitors, or 172% through 2019, and produce the third largest number of additional visitors to the United States behind Mexico and Canada.

China Could have massive investment in the outside world or create a large social safety net

China's President Xi outlined at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum how much the world stands to gain from a rising China. He said outbound investment will total $1.25 trillion over the next 10 years, 500 million Chinese tourists will go abroad, and the government will spend $40 billion to revive the ancient Silk Road trade route between Asia and Europe.

These were conservative statements for investment and for tourism. First looking at investment.

China's outbound direct investment is projected to be about $130 billion in 2014.

China's outbound investments could more than quadruple to $600 billion by 2025.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 234

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 234 is up at Neutron Bytes

Atomic Insights - Transatomic Power – Anatomy of Next

Dr. Leslie Dewan is a co-founder and the CEO of Transatomic Power, a venture capital-funded start-up based on research conducted at MIT. Along with Mark Massie, the other co-founder, Dewan is exploring a design that uses a molten salt fuel that enables materials currently classified as “nuclear waste” to provide the heat source for a steam power plant. As the company’s web site explains, the design requires fuel where fissile isotopes (U-235 or Pu-239) make up 1.8% of the total actinide fraction.

Here is the white paper on Transatomic power

Obama Says Internet is a Utility and Supports Strong Net Neutrality

President Obama has called for the Federal Communications Commission to “implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality” by reclassifying broadband networks as telecommunication services and bringing them under the same regulations as phone networks. In doing so, the president has cast his lot firmly on the side of those calling for aggressive new Internet rules.

From Obama’s statement:

“So the time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do. To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act—while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services. This is a basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone—not just one or two companies.”

November 09, 2014

Unique Graphene Nanopores with Optical Antennas for DNA Sequencing

High-speed reading of the genetic code should get a boost with the creation of the world’s first graphene nanopores – pores measuring approximately 2 nanometers in diameter – that feature a “built-in” optical antenna. Researchers with Berkeley Lab and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have invented a simple, one-step process for producing these nanopores in a graphene membrane using the photothermal properties of gold nanorods.

“With our integrated graphene nanopore with plasmonic optical antenna, we can obtain direct optical DNA sequence detection,” says Luke Lee, the Arnold and Barbara Silverman Distinguished Professor at UC Berkeley.

Schematic drawing of graphene nanopore with self-integrated optical antenna (gold) that enhances the optical readout signal (red) of DNA as it passes through a graphene nanopore.

NanoLetters - Graphene Nanopore with a Self-Integrated Optical Antenna

Cheaper, faster and more accurate method for analysing protein synthesis in cells could transform antiaging research

Surrey researchers have been awarded £163,000 funding to develop a cheaper, faster and more accurate method for analysing protein synthesis in cells.

To function correctly, each cell in the body depends on thousands of proteins doing their jobs in the right place and at the right time. When proteins are made in the wrong place and at the wrong time, it can cause the cell to malfunction, and ultimately lead to the development of disease.

Currently, analysis of the translatome – the totality of proteins formed by translation of mRNA – is an expensive and complicated process requiring specialist equipment and millions of cells.

Professor Andre Gerber, Professor of RNA Biology, and postdoctoral researcher Dr Helen King, in collaboration with Dr Subrayal Reddy and Dr Raphaelle Winsky-Sommerer, are working to develop a fast and reliable new method for translatome analysis that would require only a small number of cells. This would make it easier to study the changes that occur in the translatome during ageing and the development of diseases such as cancer.

The new technique involves the capture of ribosomes – the protein production machine – from cellular extracts by affinity purification, followed by the investigation of the associated RNAs with standard transcriptomics tools such as next-generation sequencing.

Progress to fully optical computing and faster hybrid computing

New research has demonstrated how glass can be manipulated to create a material that will allow computers to transfer information using light. This development could significantly increase computer processing speeds and power in the future.

The challenge was to find a single material that can effectively use and control light to carry information around a computer. Much like how the web uses light to deliver information, we want to use light to both deliver and process computer data.

“This has eluded researchers for decades, but now we have now shown how a widely used glass can be manipulated to conduct negative electrons, as well as positive charges, creating what are known as ‘pn-junction’ devices. This should enable the material to act as a light source, a light guide and a light detector – something that can carry and interpret optical information. In doing so, this could transform the computers of tomorrow, allowing them to effectively process information at much faster speeds.”

The researchers expect that the results of this research will be integrated into computers within ten years. In the short term, the glass is already being developed and used in next-generation computer memory technology known as CRAM, which may ultimately be integrated with the advances reported.

CRAM is a kind of phase change memory Phase-change memory (also known as PCM, PCME, PRAM, PCRAM, Ovonic Unified Memory, Chalcogenide RAM and C-RAM) is a type of non-volatile random-access memory. PRAMs exploit the unique behaviour of chalcogenide glass. In the older generation of PCM heat produced by the passage of an electric current through a heating element generally made of TiN would be used to either quickly heat and quench the glass, making it amorphous, or to hold it in its crystallization temperature range for some time, thereby switching it to a crystalline state.

Nature Communication - n-type chalcogenides by ion implantation

3D Printed Quantum Dot Light-Emitting Diodes

Nanoletters - 3D Printed Quantum Dot Light-Emitting Diodes

Developing the ability to 3D print various classes of materials possessing distinct properties could enable the freeform generation of active electronics in unique functional, interwoven architectures. Achieving seamless integration of diverse materials with 3D printing is a significant challenge that requires overcoming discrepancies in material properties in addition to ensuring that all the materials are compatible with the 3D printing process. To date, 3D printing has been limited to specific plastics, passive conductors, and a few biological materials. Here, we show that diverse classes of materials can be 3D printed and fully integrated into device components with active properties. Specifically, we demonstrate the seamless interweaving of five different materials, including

(1) emissive semiconducting inorganic nanoparticles,
(2) an elastomeric matrix,
(3) organic polymers as charge transport layers,
(4) solid and liquid metal leads, and
(5) a UV-adhesive transparent substrate layer. As a proof of concept for demonstrating the integrated functionality of these materials, we 3D printed quantum dot-based light-emitting diodes (QD-LEDs) that exhibit pure and tunable color emission properties.

By further incorporating the 3D scanning of surface topologies, we demonstrate the ability to conformally print devices onto curvilinear surfaces, such as contact lenses. Finally, we show that novel architectures that are not easily accessed using standard microfabrication techniques can be constructed, by 3D printing a 2 × 2 × 2 cube of encapsulated LEDs, in which every component of the cube and electronics are 3D printed. Overall, these results suggest that 3D printing is more versatile than has been demonstrated to date and is capable of integrating many distinct classes of materials.

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