April 11, 2015

Breakthrough magnetocaloric material could be key enabler for more energy efficient magnetic refridgeration

Louisiana State University researchers could enable the next generation of magnetic cooling technologies, which are simpler in design, quieter and more environmentally friendly than conventional compressed-gas systems currently used.

“LSU’s basic research into low temperature physics and materials science has potential applications in areas related to energy, electronics and the environment,” said Michael L. Cherry, chair and professor, LSU Department of Physics and Astronomy. “Professor Stadler’s magnetocaloric materials program is an example of this research that appears to be directly relevant to energy development and Louisiana’s economy. It also provides excellent training opportunities for Louisiana’s students.”

The team of researchers led by LSU Physics Professor Shane Stadler has discovered a breakthrough magnetocaloric material that may change the energy industry, including air conditioning and food refrigeration.

“The world refrigeration market is expected to increase by about $7-8 billion by 2018,” Stadler said. Therefore, his breakthrough has a significant economic impact as well as an impact on the energy industry and environment.

In this new technology, a magnetic field magnetically orders the material at ambient temperature, which raises its temperature above ambient. The excess heat is removed through a thermal medium, such as water or air, bringing the material back to ambient temperature. The magnetic field is then removed, the material becomes magnetically disordered and its temperature drops below ambient temperature leading to a cooling effect. This “solid state” cooling process is significantly more energy efficient than the conventional, compressed gas systems currently on the market today.

NASA projects to boost oxygen recovery from 50% to over 75% efficient for better life support systems

NASA has selected four partners to develop game changing technologies with the potential to increase the oxygen recovery rate aboard human spacecraft to at least 75 percent while achieving high reliability. These oxygen recovery and recycling technologies will drive exploration and enable our human journey to Mars and beyond.

"Improving oxygen recovery while achieving high reliability is critical for any long-duration human spaceflight missions where oxygen resupply from Earth isn't available," said NASA Associate Administrator for Space Technology Michael Gazarik. "NASA recognizes that sustained technology investments must be made to mature the capabilities required to reach the challenging destinations that await exploration; such as cis-lunar space, an asteroid, and Mars. These ambitious projects will enable the critical life support systems needed for us to venture further into space and explore the high frontier and are another example of how technology drives exploration."
In October 2010, aboard the International Space Station, NASA astronaut and Expedition 25 commander Doug Wheelock installed the Sabatier system, which extracts more water out of the ISS atmosphere. Sabatier creates water from the byproducts of the station’s Oxygen Generation System and Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly.
Image Credit: NASA

At least ten planets, moons and dwarf planets have liquid oceans in our solar system and they likely have at least microbial life

NASA has found many moons and dwarf planets with life-sustaining liquid water.

At least ten planets, moons and dwarf planets have liquid oceans in our solar system and there is frozen water ice on the moon, Mars and all over the asteroids and other moons.

NASA spacecraft have also found signs of water in permanently shadowed craters on Mercury and our moon, which hold a record of icy impacts across the ages like cryogenic keepsakes.

Speaking at a public panel on Tuesday in Washington D.C., NASA scientists discussed the likelihood of finding organic life in our solar system. Given the surprising number of oceans residing throughout our celestial home, they say "it's definitely not an if, it's a when."

"I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years," Ellen Stofan, NASA's Chief Scientist, said at the panel.

Most likely, any life that NASA finds within our solar system will be simple microbes, the essential building blocks for more complicated creatures yet to come.

NASA researchers say these revelations upend the earlier idea that, to find life, we need to look for planets within stars’ “habitable zones.” That theory suggests that in order for a space rock to harbor life, it needs to be at a certain "perfect" distance from a warm body (like Earth is from our sun). That way, the temperature is just right so that water can exist on the planet in liquid form.

But on Europa, liquid water exists even though the frigid moon is more than 400 million miles away from our star. It’s because the gravitational pull from Jupiter jerks the satellite around, causing enough friction and energy to heat up the liquid beneath the surface. Thus, the moon's water can remain as a liquid when it's so far from a light source.

"We now recognize that habitable zones are not just around stars, they can be around giant planets too," Green said. "We are finding out the solar system is really a soggy place."

Stanford develops 3D nanometer scale imaging with cathodoluminescence tomography

Engineers at Stanford and the FOM Institute AMOLF, a research laboratory in the Netherlands, have developed a technique that makes it possible to visualize the optical properties of objects that are several thousandths the size of a grain of sand, in 3-D and with nanometer-scale resolution.

The technique, called cathodoluminescence tomography, could assist in the development of high-efficiency solar cells and LEDS, or improve the way biological systems are visualized.

The technique involves a unique combination of two technologies, cathodoluminescence and tomography, enabling the generation of 3-D maps of the optical landscape of objects, said study lead author Ashwin Atre, a graduate student in the lab group of Jennifer Dionne, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering.

The target object in this proof-of-principle experiment was a gold-coated crescent 250 nanometers in diameter – several hundred times as thin as a human hair. To study the optical properties of the crescent, they first imaged it using a modified scanning electron microscope. As the focused electron beam passed through the object, it excited the crescent energetically, causing it to emit photons, a process known as cathodoluminescence.

Metal–dielectric crescents.

Nature Nanotechnology - Nanoscale optical tomography with cathodoluminescence spectroscopy

Stanford brings commercial fast recharging aluminum batteries closer

Stanford University scientists have invented the first high-performance aluminum battery that's fast-charging, long-lasting and inexpensive. Researchers say the new technology offers a safe alternative to many commercial batteries in wide use today.

"We have developed a rechargeable aluminum battery that may replace existing storage devices, such as alkaline batteries, which are bad for the environment, and lithium-ion batteries, which occasionally burst into flames," said Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford. "Our new battery won't catch fire, even if you drill through it."

Aluminum has long been an attractive material for batteries, mainly because of its low cost, low flammability and high-charge storage capacity. For decades, researchers have tried unsuccessfully to develop a commercially viable aluminum-ion battery. A key challenge has been finding materials capable of producing sufficient voltage after repeated cycles of charging and discharging.

Schematic drawing of the Al/graphite cell during discharge, using the optimal composition of the AlCl3/[EMIm]Cl ionic liquid electrolyte

Nature - An ultrafast rechargeable aluminium-ion battery

April 10, 2015

US will make 180 petaflop supercomputer in 2018 and is blocking China from a 110 petaflop upgrade to Tianhe-2 this year

Under the joint Collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne, and Lawrence Livermore (CORAL) initiative, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a $200 million investment to deliver a next-generation supercomputer, known as Aurora, to the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF). When commissioned in 2018, this supercomputer will be open to all scientific users – drawing America’s top researchers to Argonne National Laboratory. Additionally, Under Secretary Orr announced $10 million for a high-performance computing R and D program, DesignForward, led by DOE’s Office of Science and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

CORAL was established to leverage supercomputers that will be five to seven times more powerful than today’s top supercomputers and help the nation accelerate to next-generation exascale computing. DOE earlier announced a $325 million investment to build state-of-the-art supercomputers at its Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore laboratories. Aurora should have 180 peak petaflops.

Intel will work with Cray Inc. as the system integrator sub-contracted to provide its industry-leading scalable system expertise together with its proven supercomputing technology and HPC software stack. Aurora will be based on a next-generation Cray supercomputer, code-named “Shasta,” a follow-on to the Cray® XC™ series.

The US government has refused to let Intel help China update the world's biggest supercomputer. The Tianhe-2 uses 80,000 Intel Xeon chips to generate a computational capacity of more than 33 petaflops. This year the Chinese machine was due to undergo a series of upgrades to boost its number-crunching abilities past 110 petaflops. The upgrades would depend largely on new Intel Xeon chips. The chipmaker informed US authorities of its involvement with the upgrade programme and was told to apply for an export licence.

In a notice published online the US Department of Commerce said it refused Intel's application to export the chips for Tianhe-2 and three other Chinese supercomputers because the machines were being used for "nuclear explosive activities".

China is now believed to be accelerating its own home-grown chipmaking efforts to boost the power of the four supercomputers and complete the upgrade programme.

Human volunteer for Head transplant surgery

Valery Spiridinov has volunteered to be the first head (aka full body transplant) transplant patient. Valery has a rare genetic Werdnig-Hoffman disease, which gradually wastes away muscles — says that he is willing to undergo the risky procedure to give himself a chance at living in a healthy body. Sergio Canavero is the surgeon who would lead the teams that would perform the work.

Nextbigfuture covered Sergio Canavero's proposed surgery several times in 2013 and in 2015.

Dr Canavero gave a TEDx talk on his proposed surgery and wrote a paper on it. Canavero has had medical successes.

He worked out the mechanism of one of the most intractable medical mysteries ever, central pain syndrome.
He restored partial consciousness in patients in the persistent vegetative state and introduced motor cortex stimulation for the treatment of movement disorders and stroke rehabilitation.

In 2013, he made worldwide news with his project of cerebrosomatic anastomosis (Head Transplant) and again in 2014 with his cortical stimulation proposal for the treatment of psychopaths.

Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero announce a project perform a human head transplant at a keynote lecture at the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons annual conference this June. He sees the procedure as being possible as soon as 2017 and believes it should be pursued as a means of saving people with, say, multi-organ cancer.

He believes the patient would be able to speak in his own voice upon waking and that walking could be achieved within a year. "If society doesn't want it, I won't do it," Canavero says. "But if people don't want it in the US or Europe, that doesn't mean it won't be done somewhere else.

Most other surgeons do not believe the procedure will be successful.

April 09, 2015

Russian third generation Armata Tank Specfications

The US Army's Foreign Military Studies Office has a graphic from the Kremlin Tass translated with specifications of the third generation Russian Armata tank.

Large-scale deliveries of the new tanks and infantry vehicles are possible in 2017-2018. The advanced T-14
tank, a heavy infantry vehicle and an armored evacuation vehicle are being designed on the basis of Armata.

The tank’s main armament is the 2A82 125-mm smoothbore cannon, capable of firing high-powered munitions, including armor-piercing discarding sabot, guided missile, shaped-charge, and other types of munitions.

The composite multilayered passive armor protection of the T-14 tank is built with steel made by electroslag remelting and is combined with new composites to protect the T-14 against the most advanced modern weaponry. The T-14 also has the Afganit active protection complex, capable of intercepting shaped-charged grenades, antitank missiles, and subcaliber projectiles.

The Armata’s active defense deserves special discussion. In fact this is an individual anti-missile and anti-projectile tank defense system. It defends the vehicle from strikes, including those from the air. Thus, even the most modern Apache helicopter will not have a 100 percent chance of destroying a T-14 with its missiles. Active defense is situated along the entire perimeter of the turret at various levels, which ensures complete protection of the tank’s most important elements.

Magnetron powered EM-drive construction expected to take two months

Paul March indicates that Eagleworks NASA has started the build of their 1.2kW magnetron powered EM-Drive prototype in a tetter-totter balance system. It is being built to replicate the thrust magnitudes of the Shawyer tests and the Chinese replication of same. Estimated build time should in the 2 month time period with the limited manpower available. A picture of the chaotic magnetron spectra that will be used on this system is attached along with the TE011 mode that will be driven.

The group has contracts going to the end of September 2015. Management still wants them to perform and independently verify at Glenn Research Center (GRC), but appears to be willing to wait a few months more until they can get our arms around increasing the current test setup's thrust up to a repeatable 100+uN force every time they apply power. Right now its about every third time that Paul March can find the "Just-So" conditions needed to evoke the thrust signature in the reversed thrust mode.

NBF would expect 2-6 more months for tests to be run and the results to become available. So in the Sept, 2015 to Jan, 2016 timeframe would be a reasonable time to expect results of the magnetron powered EM-drive.

Sonny White formulated a compressible quantum vacuum conjecture that requires us to live in a portion of the universe that is immersed in a false vacuum that apparently has a ground or zero-energy level much smaller than science first assumed. However what will drive this debate is experimental data first and foremost. Experimental data like what just came out of the Eagleworks Lab's latest warp-field interferometer tests based on 27,000, 1.5 second long on/off data samples that indicates we have finally observed the first spacetime contraction effects that we are fairly confident are the real deal. We again are looking for more possible false positives as well as ways of increasing the signal to noise ratio above its current ~2-to-3 sigma level, which I've already suggested several ways to do so to Dr. White. However what is really interesting about these new test results is that the laser interferometer observed spacetime contractions are being developed in a TM010 RF resonant cavity that is driving ac E-field levels over 900kV/m at a 1.48 GHz rate. A similar RF resonant system used to implement the EM-Drive and Q-thruster designs, for these spacetime contraction effects are paramount to the operation of both.

150 trillion cubic meters of water ice on Mars in glaciers covered by thick layer of dust

Mars has distinct polar ice caps, but Mars also has belts of glaciers at its central latitudes in both the southern and northern hemispheres. A thick layer of dust covers the glaciers, so they appear as surface of the ground, but radar measurements show that underneath the dust there are glaciers composed of frozen water. New studies have now calculated the size of the glaciers and thus the amount of water in the glaciers. It is the equivalent of all of Mars being covered by more than one meter of ice. The results are published in the scientific journal, Geophysical Research Letter.

Several satellites orbit Mars and on satellite images, researchers have been able to observe the shape of glaciers just below the surface. For a long time scientists did not know if the ice was made of frozen water (H2O) or of carbon dioxide (CO2) or whether it was mud.

Using radar measurements from the NASA satellite, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, researchers have been able to determine that is water ice. But how thick was the ice and do they resemble glaciers on Earth?

A group of researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute have now calculated this using radar observations combined with ice flow modelling.

Mars distinct polar ice caps, but Mars also has belts of glaciers at its central latitudes – between the blue lines, in both the southern and northern hemispheres. A thick layer of dust covers the glaciers, so they appear as the surface of the ground, but radar measurements show that there are glaciers composed of frozen water underneath the dust. (Credit: Mars Digital Image Model, NASA/Nanna Karlsson)

Geophysical Research Letters - Volume of Martian mid-latitude glaciers from radar observations and ice-flow modelling

Brontosaurus determined to exist as distinct member of one of 15-18 Diplodocid dinosaur species

A team of paleontologists led by Emanuel Tschopp at the New University of Lisbon in Portugal has just completed a massive computer analysis of fossils in a group of dinosaurs called Diplodocids. They found that Brontosaurus are its own group. Its fossils share distinct, incomparable bone features—enough for it to reclaim its iconic genus name.

A specimen-level phylogenetic analysis and taxonomic revision of Diplodocidae (Dinosauria, Sauropoda)

According to Tschopp, there are seven specific bone differences that make the body of the original Brontosaurus its own species and genus, not just some other big dino that's been mislabeled. Most of are rather subtle, including facts like this: The tail vertebrae in dinosaurs related to Brontosaurus have spiny prominences called "neural spines," he says, "and for most of these dinosaurs these spines project kind of backwards, but in Brontosaurus they're more straight up." Brontosaurus's hips are unusual, with two bones (the ilium and pubis) meeting a curious junction. And its lower leg fibula meets its ankle bones in an equally unusual manner. Like we said, we're talking about subtle differences. But these are the differences that make a species.

New Air independent propulsion subs at less than half the cost eliminate the reasons for nuclear submarines

Nuclear submarines had certain advantages over diesel submarines. Nuclear submarines had greater submerged endurance of 90-100 days versus 3 days for conventional submarines. This was limited by the amount of food that could be carried. Nuclear submarines also had higher speed.

Air independent propulsion (AIP) submarines use fuel cells, stirling engines, batteries or liquid oxygen storage for closed cycle diesel engines or close cycle steam.

AIP submarines are quieter

While nuclear submarines have measures to reduce sound and magnetic signatures, nature of nuclear propulsion (steam turbine) makes them far more noisy than AIP submarine of same size. They also tend to be larger on a whole, making them even more detectable through either acoustic, infrared or magnetic sensors. Further weakness of nuclear submarine is that it has to cool down nuclear reactor, with hot water being dumped into ocean, leaving long trail behind the submarine; as such, it is even more detectable by IR sensors than just size difference suggests.

Nuclear submarines have cruise speeds of 20 – 25 knots, compared to 10 – 15 knots for AIP subs. Combining slower cruise speed with bursts of high speed can allow AIP subs to cover relatively large area. They can deny access to enemy nuclear submarines. HDM and MESMA systems used in AIP subs (submarines using them typically cost 250 million USD) are far quieter than nuclear plant.

Using traditional diesel engines, a fuel cell, large lithium-ion battery pack, and liquid oxygen to replace the air normally used in combustion engines, the SMX-Ocean sub concept could stay off-shore in deepwater operations for 90 days at a time. The AIP system also allows the sub to remain submerged for up to 21 days at a time, and gives it a range of about 18,000 miles at an average speed of about 10 knots.

Here is details of AIP technology and capabilities.

Submarine snorkling for oxygen can be detected with new radar

Batteries continue to improve

The Lithium ion batteries for the Soryu and SMX-ocean are getting higher energy densities and lower costs because of the success of electric cars like the Telsa Model S. These will further increase the advantages of the AIP submarines.

AIP submarines cost $100 million to 900 million. The AIP models with the greatest market success are the Japanese Soryu ($600 million), Russian Kilo ($350 million), Swedish Gotland ($365 million), Spanish Scorpene ($500-800 million). They can be submerged for about 14-21 days.

The Gotland and the other AIP are very capable submarines.

The nuclear submarines are $1.3 billion to 3 billion. The equivalent AIP submarines are half to four times cheaper.

April 07, 2015

LPP Fusion's tungsten cathode already has microcracking and needed an attachment brace

LPP Fusion has its newest monthly report on its dense plasma fusion energy project.

The new tungsten monolithic cathode, key to LPPFusion’s next set of experiments, arrived at our laboratory in Middlesex, NJ on Feb. 27. Careful acceptance tests confirmed that it is 99.95% pure tungsten and is within the 150 micron tolerances that we specified, a significant accomplishment by the manufacturer Tungsten Heavy Powder and their colleagues in Beijing where the tungsten factory is located. To manipulate the 35-kg cathode, LPPF’s research team erected a gantry, which they used to lift the tungsten cathode, protected by a steel “hat”, out of its box.

An independent laboratory report, which arrived almost simultaneously with the cathode, showed that the tungsten failed under a tension of only 4,000 psi (pounds per square inch), far less than the anticipated tensile strength of around 40,000 psi. The test was based on testing samples cut from a tungsten cathode blank produced in the same way as the tungsten cathode. The reason for the low strength is that the height of the tungsten cathode made it impossible for the manufacturer to fully compress the powder into a seamless piece of metal. The density of the cathode is 18.3 gm/cc, while a fully compressed tungsten part will have a density of 19.3 gm/cc. LPPFusion was aware of this difference in density, but did not expect it would result in such a low tensile strength.

The tensile strength —the strength for slow, long acting forces—has a considerable effect on how the tungsten cathode is to be attached to the steel plate that hooks it into the circuit and to the vacuum chamber that hangs beneath it. Thus the original plan for using the thin tungsten rim to attach the cathode to the steel plate was no longer workable as the rim was simply too weak to withstand the stress applied once the assembly was completed. Chief Scientist Lerner made an error in not concluding from the laboratory tests that the assembly would fail, an error not caught by other team members. So after the cathode was attached to the steel plate in an assembly, a gradual fracture of the supporting tungsten rim took place overnight, starting with localized weak points on the rim.

However, the inner electrical current contact was on the innermost, unbroken part of the rim and remained functional. But cracks were identified that, if allowed to grow, could compromise that vital function.

Mechanical Engineer Tony Ellis succeeded in quickly proposing a replacement attachment method. In place of the tungsten rim, he designed a steel brace fit over the outer flange of the cathode to attach it to the steel plate. A high strength resin will fill the small space between the brace and the cathode flange. In this way, the force needed to press the tungsten and steel pieces together will be spread over the 1-inch-thick tungsten flange, not the 1/4-inch-thick rim. To stabilize the edge of the tungsten bottom of the cathode, and to prevent any further micro cracks, Rudy Frisch, an engineer and member of the LPPFusion Advisory Board, designed a fiber reinforced composite whose nylon fibers will be wound around the tungsten to compress it, while epoxy resin will be used to stabilize the fibers.

To minimize future errors when experimenting with the newly designed FF-1 components, the team has added new quality assurance procedures. In particular, a “checker” will be designated at all design development points and during assembly, to question decisions about device assembly before they are implemented.

The good news is, the low tensile strength will not affect the cathode’s ability to stand up to the shocks it receives when FF-1 fires.

Electric Solar Sails for mission to Uranus and for de-orbiting satellites

1. Coulumb Drag Devices: Electric Solar Wind Sail Propulsion and Ionospeheric Deorbiting

* Plasma brake thrust is 16 times larger in pure oxygen plasma than in pure proton plasma
* There is an altitude dependence. Below 700 km the thrust would continue to increase until 400-500 km (provided there is the right hardware design)

A charged tether or wire experiences Coulomb drag when inserted into owing plasma. In the solar wind the Coulomb drag can be utilised as efficient propellantless interplanetary propulsion as the electric solar wind sail (electric sail, E-sail). In low Earth orbit (LEO) the same plasma physical effect can be utilised for efficient low-thrust deorbiting of space debris objects (the plasma brake). The E-sail is rotationally stabilised while the deorbiting Coulomb drag devices can be stabilised either by spinning or by Earth's gravity gradient. According to numerical estimates, Coulomb drag devices have very promising performance figures, both for interplanetary propulsion and for deorbiting in LEO. Much of the technology is common to both applications. E-sail technology development was carried out in ESAIL FP7 project (2011-2013) which achieved TRL 4-5 for key hardware components that can enable 1 N class interplanetary E-sail weighing less than 200 kg. The thrust of the E-sail scales as inverse solar distance and its power consumption (nominally 700 W/N at 1 au) scales as the inverse distance squared. As part of the ESAIL project, a continuous 1 km sample of E-sail tether was produced by an automatic and scalable \tether factory". The manufacturing method uses ultrasonic wire to wire bonding which was developed from ordinary wire to plate bonding for the E-sail purpose. Also a \Remote Unit" device which takes care of deployment and spin rate control was prototyped and successfully environmentally tested. Our Remote Unit prototype is operable in the solar distance range of 0.9-4 au.

E-sail has potentially revolutionary performance level in comparison to other propulsion systems. The tether weighs only 10 grams per kilometer and produces a thrust of 0.5 mN/km at 1 au distance. The E-sail thrust scales as proportional to 1/r where r is the solar distance. The reason is that while the solar wind dynamic pressure decays as 1/r^2, the plasma Debye length (by which the electric field penetration distance and hence the virtual sail size scales) varies as r, thus giving an overall 1/r dependence for the thrust. For example, hundred 20 km long tethers would weigh 20 kg and they would produce 1 N thrust at 1 au which gives a 30 km/s velocity change per year for a 1000 kg spacecraft.

Our current plan for the next step is to fly a 3U CubeSat experiment (ESTCube-3) in solar wind intersecting orbit which measures the E-sail effect with a 1 km long tether using 5-10 kV voltage. Because launch opportunities to solar wind intersecting orbit (for example a lunar orbit) are less frequent than ordinary LEO CubeSat launches, to ensure mission success we plan to prove the satellite's technologies by first flying an identical satellite (ESTCube-2) in LEO. ESTCube-2 also naturally demonstrates a 1 km long plasma brake. After ESTCube-3, we will have a measurement of the strength of the E-sail effect in the actual environment (solar wind), a demonstration of deploying a 1 km long tether and a demonstration of using the E-sail effect for spacecraft propulsion. After ESTCube-3, we need an E-sail \pathfinder" mission (comparable to SMART-1 in its philosophy) which tests the use of E-sail propulsion for going to some target and carries some payload. For example, it could be a NEO mission equipped with imaging instruments

Eagleworks NASA updated EMDrive models show possible scaling to 2000 Newtons of propellantless propulsion with multikilowatt magnetron

Paul March provides updates on the EMdrive and Cannae drive experiments at Eagleworks NASA.

If one envisions the quantum vacuum (Q-V) as a semi-virtual electrical plasma as Dr. White does, that would imply that the Poynting power flow vector would entrain the Q-V plasma and send it on its way toward the pillbox end of the cavity and then out of the cavity, the back-reaction on the cavity should be in the opposite direction towards the RF feed end of the Cannae test article, but the observed thrust vector is opposite to that surmise, i.e. toward the shorter RF sense antenna end of the cavity per the attached slide.

Now Per the newly authored Q-V plasma simulation code that Dr. White just finished, the equal bidirectional Q-V plasma flow for the Cannae cavity comes from the high-Q pancake section with a Q of ~9,000 for the un-slotted version of the cavity. However due to the high E-field region created n the throat of the RF feed, this cylindrically shaped high E-field volume acts as an obstruction to the Q-V plasma flow. This E-field obstruction created in the PTFE cylinder then accelerates the Q-V plasma around it in a Bernoulli like effect that accelerates the Q-V plasma flow coming from the main pillbox cavity. This unbalanced and accelerated Q-V plasma flow that goes away from the large pill box cavity in the direction of the RF input section is what generates the NET thrust in our model.

Next, using this new Q-V plasma simulation tool that utilizes the instantaneous E&M fields from COMSOL for one complete RF cycle in 5 degree increments as its input file, we are now seeing why we need the PTFE or HDPE dielectrics in the frustum while using near pure sine wave power levels below ~100W in the ~2.0 GHz frequency range to generate detectable thrust, and why Shawyer and the Chinese didn't while pumping 80W to 2,500W using magnetron RF sources. We think the reasons are two fold.

The first is that Shawyer and the Chinese both used magnetron RF sources for their experiments. An RF source that generates large AM, FM and PM modulation of the carrier wave with typical FM modulation bandwidth on the order of at least +/-20 MHz. (These time rate to change of energy modulations increase the Q-V density in our model.)

The second reason we found running these 3D Q-V plasma simulations for the EMPTY copper frustum, was that increasing the input power tends to focus the Q-V plasma flow from near omnidirectional from the frustum at low powers, to a much more jet like beam at higher powers measured in kW to tens of kW-rf. In fact the simulation for the 100W run predicted only ~50uN for our pure RF system with dielectric, while the 10kW run predicted a thrust level of ~6.0 Newton without a dielectric in the cavity. And at 100kW-rf it was now up to ~1300 Newton, but the input power to thrust production nonlinearity was starting to taper off around 50kW. Of course these Q-V plasma thrust predictions are based on the Q-V not being immutable and non-degradable, a feature we admit is not widely accepted by the mainstream physics community, at least at the moment.

Due to the above non-linear thrust scaling with input power predictions, we have started the build up of a 100W-to-1,200W waveguide magnetron RF power system that will drive one of our aluminum RF frustum cavities. Initially the test rig will follow Shawyer's first generation test rig that used a tetter-totter balance system in air only to see if we can generate similar thrust levels that Shawyer reported using a hermetic sealed box, which were in the ~16 to 300 milli-Newton range dependent on the Q-Factor of the frustum.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 255

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 255 is up at Neutron Bytes

James Conca at Forbes has a positive opinion of the deal with Iran.

The agreement framework with Iran was better than James Conca had hoped it would be. The major points are:

- Iran will reduce the number of centrifuges from about 19,000 to 6,104 and those 6,104 will be the old ones, not their new, more efficient ones.

- Iran will reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium from about 20,000 lbs to only 600 lbs, a huge concession by Iran.

- Iran will stop U-enrichment at its bunkered underground Fordow U-enrichment facility for at least 15 years (Israeli buster bombs cannot reach this facility).

- Iran’s Natanz U-enrichment facility will only enrich U-235 to 3.67%, about the amount used in nuclear fuel for power plants, but not the same as the enrichment at Iran’s operating power plant at Bushehr (enrichment for a weapon needs to be over 93%).

Electric Space Sail plans for leveraging 1000 meter tethers for interesting near term cubesat missions

ESAIL: Electric SAIL propulsion technology was presented in late 2014

The ESAIL EU FP7 project (2011-2013) developed laboratory prototypes (TRL 4-5) of the key components of the E-sail. The project involved five countries, nine institutes and had a EU contributed budget of about 1.7 million euros

E-sail construction
• Positive tethers (10-20 km length made of 25-50 um wire, +20-40 kV voltage)
• Up to 1 Newton thrust (scales as 1/r) from 100-200 kg unit (30 km/s delta-v per year to 1000 kg spacecraft)
• Power consumption modest, scales as 1/r²
• Baseline approach uses non-conducting Auxiliary Tethers to stabilise flight without active control
• “Remote Units” at tips contain auxtether reels and spinup propulsion/spin control

Planned E-sail missions
• BCUBE: 3-U CubeSat in LEO with 1 km tether
– Demonstrate Plasma Brake deorbiting of the satellite
– Flight-validate hardware for ECUBE

• ECUBE: 3-U CubeSat in solar wind with 1 km tether
– Nearly identical with BCUBE, but different orbit
– Measure E-sail effect in solar wind (for example, lunar mission piggyback)
– Demonstrate simple E-sailing in solar wind

• OLCUBE: 3-U CubeSat near Lagrange L1 point for off-Lagrange solar wind monitoring

– First scientific/commercial application of E-sail: space weather prediction with longer warning time
•“Production-scale” E-sail demonstration mission (NEO?)

April 06, 2015

Air Independent propulsion diesels are game changers for low cost replacement of nuclear submarines

DCNS unveiled the SMX®-Océan conventionally powered attack submarine. The new vessel draws extensively on the design of a state-of-the-art nuclear- powered submarine, with a number of key innovations that give this diesel-electric adaptation truly outstanding performance. DCNS is a French industrial group specialised in naval defence and energy. The Group employs more than 13,000 people in 10 countries.

This innovative concept ship promises submerged endurance and deployment capabilities that are unprecedented for a conventional-propulsion submarine. With up to three months’ endurance, an SMX®-Océan could cross the Atlantic six times without surfacing. Its transit speed is up to 14 knots.

To achieve this level of performance, DCNS teams have developed and combined a number of innovations including a high-performance air-independent propulsion (AIP) system using second- generation fuel cells for submerged endurance of up to three weeks.

The SMX®-Océan features the same combat system, provisions for special forces’ missions, masts and general layout as the Barracuda SSN.

The SMX Ocean and other air independent propulsion diesel submarines can replace nuclear submarines at lower cost for the subs and without costly infrastructure.

The first Barracuda Class submarine is still expected to enter service in 2017, with the other 4 following every two years (2019, 2021, 2023, 2025) and then the 6th and last boat due to be commissioned in 2026-2027.

A deployable 'virtual mast' system is built into the SMX-Ocean design. Basically, this is a buoy system fitted with electro-optical, signals intelligence, and even radar sensors, as well as data-link communications, that can be deployed while the sub is at great depth. Such a system can be used as a traditional periscope would, to visually survey the boat's surface surroundings and target craft if need be, or it could be used for communications, building an aerial and surface radar picture, or to relay information collected by a sub-launched UAV.

The "virtual mast" technology largely alleviates the most vulnerable situation for an attack sub. Traditional subs have to regularly breaking the surface of the water to prosecute an attack, communicate, or to simply see what is going on around it. The traditional periscope itself creates a radar return that many sub hunting radar systems are incredibly capable at detecting, and it is often a sub hunter's best clue as to a boat's location. In addition, all these technologies, including UUVs, UAVs and virtual masts are all expendable, as they can be abandoned on command or destroyed by the enemy without a major loss of the submarine they are supporting. It is a much better deal losing a $2M UUV instead of a $1B+ submarine, not even counting the cost in human life.

4D firepower: effective against underwater, surface, land and air threats

With a total of 34 weapons including torpedoes, mines, anti-ship missiles, cruise missiles and anti-air missiles, the SMX®-Océan’s firepower will be unprecedented for an SSK. The SMX®-Océan concept ship design also includes vertical launchers, another major innovation in SSK design, to provide a salvo capability for cruise missile strikes on land targets.

A reconfigurable multi-role submarine

The SMX®-Ocean offers more multi-role capabilities than any other submarine of its type. It can operate alone or as part of a carrier group or other naval deployment, and will be the only conventionally powered submarine with the ability to deploy special forces, combat swimmers, unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and even unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Scalable production method for inexpensive thermoelectrics that are nearly twice as efficient as industry standard

A joint South Korean and American research group has developed a scalable production method for a state of the art alloy for the use in solid state thermoelectric devices. This new alloy is nearly twice as efficient as existing materials and may lead to a new host of applications. Uses include refrigeration, consumer electronics, transportation as well as novel devices which have not been produced yet do to the inefficiencies of existing materials.

In the 1960’s, Peltier devices were primarily made from Bismuth-Telluride (Bi2Te3) or Antimony-Telluride (Sb2Te3) alloys and had a peak efficiency (zT, figure of merit) of 1.1, meaning the electricity going in was only slightly less than the heat coming out.

The joint team, including IBS researchers, used a process called liquid-flow assisted sintering which combined all three antimony, bismuth and telluride granules into one alloy (Bi0.5Sb1.5Te3). Additional melted tellurium was used as the liquid between the Bi0.5Sb1.5Te3 granules to help fuse them into a solid alloy, and excess Te is expelled in the process.

By creating the alloy this way, the joints between the fused grains, also known as the grain boundaries, took on a special property. Traditionally sintered Bi0.5Sb1.5Te3 have thick, coarse joints which have led to a decrease in both thermal and electrical conductivity. The new liquid-phase sintering creates grain boundaries which are organized and aligned in seams called dislocation arrays. These dislocation arrays greatly reduce their thermal conduction, leading to an enhancement of their thermoelectric conversion efficiency.

In tests, the efficiency (zT) reached 2.01 at 320 K within the range of 1.86 ±0.15 at 320 K (46.85° C) for 30 samples, nearly doubling the industry standard.

Science - Dense dislocation arrays embedded in grain boundaries for high-performance bulk thermoelectrics

April 05, 2015

You sank my battleship . . . with twice as much explosive as a ship eight times smaller

An unclassified Navy assessment called "Cruise missile warfare" described the relationship with the amount of explosives or missile hits too the size of the ship being disabled. Ship vulnerability is related to the cube root of displacement. This means a 100,000 ton displacement aircraft carrier needs to be hit with twice as much explosive to be sunk compared to a 12,500 ton ship. Displacement (volume) relates to length. So a ship 600 feet long needs twice as much explosive to be killed than a 300 feet long ship.

A Brookings Institute study found that one large warhead would incapacitate a 300 foot long ship and an additional warhead is needed for each additional 100 feet.

Amazon testing drones at "secret" location in British Columbia and other commerical drones

The FAA is years late in approving commercial use of drones and has violated numerous congressional deadlines. Mr. Bezos says regulatory inertia—not massive R and D—is blocking Amazon’s futuristic plan to have low-flying vehicles deliver within 30 minutes the 85% of its packages weighing less than five pounds.

The FAA added insult to injury by granting Amazon a useless certificate to test a model of drone that R and D had made obsolete.

Amazon has a "secret" testing facility at a location 2,000 feet across the border in British Columbia, Canada.

“The largest Internet retailer in the world is keeping the location of its new test site closely guarded,” the Guardian reported. “What can be revealed is that the company’s formidable team of roboticists, software engineers, aeronautics experts and pioneers in remote sensing—including a former NASA astronaut and the designer of the wingtip of the Boeing 787—are now operating in British Columbia.”

Last year, Mr. Bezos told a business conference, “Technology is not going to be the long pole. The long pole is going to be regulatory.” He added, “I think it is sad but possible that the U.S. could be late” to the benefits of drones, which are allowed to fly more freely in Britain, Australia, Germany and Israel as well as Canada.

Fiber Reinforced plastic that is 20% lighter than aluminum

Efforts to produce lighter vehicles necessarily include engine parts, such as the cylinder casing, which could shed up to 20 percent of its weight if it were made of fiber-reinforced plastic rather than aluminum – without added costs. Such injection-molded parts are even suitable for mass production.

Until now, carmakers have relied on aluminum to reduce the weight of engine components such as the cylinder block. In the future, car manufacturers will be able to achieve further weight savings by designing cylinder blocks in which certain parts are made of fiber-reinforced plastics. An experimental engine developed by the Fraunhofer project group for new drive systems (NAS), which forms part of the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT, in collaboration with SBHPP, the high-performance plastics business unit of Sumitomo Bakelite Co. Ltd., Japan, demonstrates this principle. “We used a fiber-reinforced composite material to build a cylinder casing for a one-cylinder research engine,” reports Dr. Lars-Fredrik Berg, who is the project leader and manager of the research area Lightweight Powertrain Design at the Fraunhofer Project Group for new drive systems. “The cylinder casing weighs around 20 percent less than the equivalent aluminum component, and costs the same.” It seems an obvious solution, but getting there involved numerous technical challenges, because the materials used have to be able to withstand extreme temperatures, high pressure and vibrations without suffering damage.

The EPA says that for every 100 pounds taken out of the vehicle, the fuel economy is increased by 1-2 percent. A small car with a 1.6-liter engine
* reducing weight by five percent led to an increase in fuel economy of 2.1 percent on the EPA combined rating.
* reducing weight by 10 percent gave a 4.1 percent mileage boost
* reducing weight by 20 percent improved fuel economy by 8.4 percent.

New industrial bubble wrap material and metamaterial for manipulating or absorbing sound for stealthier submarines

1. Current subs use 1-inch-thick rubber foam to reduce sonar detection. Materials scientists at Université Paris-Diderot, the University of Manitoba, and PSL Research University are working on a technique to create a much thinner sheet of rubber populated by thousands of bubbles that work to deflect sonar while saving on weight over the bulky foam. Lab tests have shown that the material cuts down on radar wave detection by 10,000 times.

In practice, a 4-millimeter film of bubble material could dampen a sonar signal by as much as 99 percent.
A 0.16-inch-thick (4 millimeters) film with 0.08-inch (2 millimeters) bubbles could absorb more than 99 percent of the energy from sonar, cutting down reflected sound waves by more than 10,000-fold, or about 100 times better than was previously assumed possible.

In underwater experiments, the scientists bombarded a meta-screen placed on a slab of steel with ultrasonic frequencies of sound. They found that the meta-screen dissipated more than 91 percent of the incoming sound energy and reflected less than 3 percent of the sound energy. For comparison, the bare steel block reflected 88 percent of the sound energy.

There is the challenge of being able to economically produce durable bubble material to cover an entire submarine.

Physical Review B - Superabsorption of acoustic waves with bubble metascreens

A bubble metascreen, i.e., a single layer of gas inclusions in a soft solid, can be modeled as an acoustic open resonator, whose behavior is well captured by a simple analytical expression. We show that by tuning the parameters of the metascreen, acoustic superabsorption can be achieved over a broad frequency range, which is confirmed by finite element simulations and experiments. Bubble metascreens can thus be used as ultrathin coatings for turning acoustic reflectors into perfect absorbers.

2. Imagine a material that wicks sound across its surface like water droplets sliding over a windowpane. For submarines, such a coating would mean an entirely new way to slip past sonar without detection as sound waves pass harmlessly around the vessel.

Physicist Baile Zhang and his colleagues at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore think they may have found a way to design such a coating, which could work for any 3D shape—sharp corners included.

Sound waves like sonar hit his proposed coating, they strike an acoustically tuned material called a phononic crystal. That crystal bends the waves so that when they bounce off the hull, they loops around—smacking right back onto the surface to bounce over and over again. Zhang likens the process to a professional soccer player curving the ball.

Asia has an arms race in submarines

Over half of the world’s submarines will be in Asia by 2030, as Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, India, China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Singapore, modernize their militaries and look to hedge against instability by building undersea fleets.

* Pakistan is buying eight submarines from China and is looking for surplus European submarines
* Vietnam has getting delivery of six Russian Kilo Submarines
* China has more attack submarines than the USA (US has 71) and is building about ten per year
* Japan is expanding its navy and submarine fleets
* Australia is getting 8-12 new submarines
* India is expanding its submarine fleet with new purchases

The 6th Soryu-class SSK, SS-506 Kokuryu, (meaning Black Dragon) was commissioned into service with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) at the Kawasaki Heavy Industries shipyard in Kobe on March 9th.

The Soryu Class diesel-electric submarines are being built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Shipbuilding Corporation for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). Ten Soryu Class submarines are planned for the JMSDF. The class is an improved version of the Oyashio Class submarine.

Japan's navy operates six Soryu attack subs and 11 older Oyashio-class vessels. It plans a total fleet of 22 submarines. The JMSDF has focused on its submarine buildup specifically because they are more out of sight and less expensive than large surface warships. Before considering the risk of accelerating China’s military buildup and possibly moving the region to a full-blown arms race, developing a carrier fleet would also require Japan to boost its defense spending beyond the psychological barrier of 1 percent of GDP.

Japan’s response to Chinese anti-access/area-denial threats rest on three planks: increasingly large helicopter carriers, next-generation 3,300-ton Soryu-class submarines and new Aegis destroyers.

This strategy is further enhanced by plans to deploy 20 Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft as replacements for the P-3C, and upgraded SH-60K sub-hunting helicopters.

Pakistan is renewing efforts to modernize its submarine arm with eight submarines from China as well as a search for surplus European submarines.

Analysts believe that since the National Security Committee has agreed to the deal in principle, it is likely to go ahead.

The officials also requested US $294 million to upgrade ATR-72 maritime patrol aircraft. Two un-upgraded aircraft are in service, and officials hope to acquire more.

Pakistan operates five French submarines.

Its two Agosta-70s were acquired in 1979 and 1980, respectively, and despite upgrades they are widely acknowledged by analysts to be well past their prime and in need of replacement. Three air-independent propulsion (AIP)-equipped Agosta-90Bs, which are a development of the Agosta-70s, were commissioned from 1999 onward.

The Pakistan Navy requires 12 submarines laid out in the Armed Forces Development Plan (AFDP) 2015 and a later revised plan.

The Chinese Yuan-class submarine is reportedly one of the types of subs possibly under consideration by Pakistan.
(Photo: Wikimedia)

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