April 18, 2015

Nanoscale Bioinspired Metamaterials, breakthrough quantum and laser tech from DARPA Nano and Quantum projects

DARPA is and has been spending about$70-80 million per year on nano, quantum and material technology. DARPA is looking at the development and assembly of advanced nanoscale and bio-molecular materials, devices, and electronics for DoD applications that greatly enhance soldier awareness, capability, security, and survivability, such as materials with increased strength-to-weight ratio and ultra-low size, devices with ultra-low energy dissipation and power, novel spectroscopic sources, and electronics with persistent intelligence and improved surveillance capabilities.

1. Nanoscale/Bio-inspired and MetaMaterials

The research in this thrust area exploits advances in nano/micro-scale and bio-inspired materials, including computationally based materials science, in order to develop unique microstructures, material properties, and functionalities. This area also includes efforts to develop the underlying science for the behavior of materials whose properties have been engineered at the nano/micro-scale level, including metamaterials, bio-inspired materials for sensing and actuation, and materials that are designed to mimic biological materials from molecular to macroscopic function. Specific examples of areas of interest include materials that can self-repair, adapt, and respond for soldier protection against chemical and biological threats and optical based metamaterial imaging systems capable of detecting objects in cluttered environments and around or through structural obscurants.

FY 2014 Accomplishments:
- Designed materials with decoupled property combinations (e.g., strength/density, stiffness/thermal expansion) using architecture-to-property trade space capability.
- Demonstrated fabrication methods amenable to scaling and that permit architectural control capable of maintaining decoupled properties.
- Demonstrated targeted enhancement to material properties (e.g., tailored coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE)/energy dissipation and load bearing stiffness).
- Established manufacturability and amenability to scale up and provided fabrication and characterization data package.
- Initiated development of synthetic methods for preparing large sequence controlled polymer libraries.

FY 2015 Plans:
- Develop a method for screening non-natural polymer libraries for designed properties such as binding to target molecules. - Develop a method for sequencing non-natural polymers at low concentrations.
- Explore and develop modeling tools for the physics of scattering in metamaterials and the application of using ultra-short laser pulses to see and detect objects through various obscurants.

FY 2016 Plans:
- Use non-natural polymer synthesis and screening system to create affinity reagents against DARPA defined targets.
- Develop strategy to adapt the non-natural polymer synthesis and screening system to generate catalysts.
- Investigate engineered optical metamaterials for manipulating optical fields in spatial, spectral and temporal domains to enable a single optical device to simultaneously perform multiple functions in different domains.
- Investigate linear refraction metamaterials for minimizing optical aberrations and improving performance of imaging and non- imaging optics over wide angles of light incidence, while minimizing optics size and weight.

Beyond GPS with Atomic Gyroscopes, Light Pulsed Atomic Interferometry and 1000 times more precision with chip scale atomic clocks

Super accurate chip scale atomic clocks are a critical part of going beyond the Global Positioning System

This is for superior chip size atomic clocks. The U.S. has superior in lab and large atomic and laser clocks. They are shrinking them down and making them cheaper. Hundreds of bucks instead of millions. They have an atomic clock on a chip but they want it 1000 times more accurate.

Next Generation Atomic Clock (NGAC)

Atomic clock technology provides the high-performance backbone of timing and synchronization for DoD navigation, communications, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and Electronic Warfare (EW) systems. Prior DARPA investment in Chip-Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC) technology has led to recent demonstrations of enhanced DoD capabilities, enabled by the wide availability of atomic-quality timing in portable battery-powered applications. The Next-Generation Atomic Clock (NGAC) program will develop a next-generation chip-scale atomic clock, with 100X-1000X improvement in key performance parameters, by employing alternative approaches to atomic confinement and interrogation, with particular focus on developing the component technologies necessary to enable low-cost manufacturing and robust deployment in harsh DoD environments.

The NGAC program will develop a Chip-Scale Atomic Clock achieving temperature coefficient of frequency of less than one quadrillionth of a degree Celsius and frequency drift less than one trillions of a month. This will enable precise timing on low-CSWaP platforms with extended mission duration. In order to achieve these performance metrics, novel approaches to atomic confinement and interrogation will be explored and components developed.

DARPA FY 2016 Plans:
- Develop low-CSWaP (Cost, Size, Weight, and Power) application-specific laser devices, optical modulators, shutters, and isolators.
- Demonstrate integration of application-specific optical components into robust photonic integrated circuits. - Develop techniques for alkali metal vapor pressure control over the full DoD temperature range.
- Develop low-CSWaP ultra-high vacuum technology operating without perturbative magnetic fields.
- Demonstrate clock operation with integrated enabling component devices.

DARPA PNT (Positioning Navigation and Timing) Goals

Achieve GPS-level timing and positioning performance without GPS
• Eliminate GPS as single point of failure
• Provide redundant capabilities and adaptable architectures
• Provide optimal PNT solution based on all available data sources

Outperform GPS for disruptive capabilities
• Ultra-stable clocks (short and long term) for electronic warfare, ISR, and communications
• Persistent PNT in environments where GPS was never designed for use: undersea, underground, indoors
• High precision PNT for cooperative effects (distributed electronic warfare, distributed ISR, autonomous formation flying, time transfer to disadvantaged users)

Specifically: Unaided navigation and timing error of 20 m and 1 microsecond at 1 hour
• Applications have requirements on Cost, Size, Weight, and Power (CSWaP)
• At present, we can meet performance requirements in an unmoving laboratory, with unlimited power, for about $1M.
• DARPA micro-PNT goal: 10 mm3, 2g, 1W
• Where are the off-ramps?
• For many platforms: 30,000 cm3, 10 kg, 10 W, + $10,000
• For most platforms: 1000 cm3, 1 kg, 1W, + $1000.
• For EVERY platform: 1 cm3, 100 g, 100 mW, $100

DARPA Semiconductor Starnet beyond CMOS research targets ten thousands times power improvement

The DARPA Semiconductor Technology Advanced Research Network (STARNet) program is a government-industry partnership combining the expertise and resources from select defense, semiconductor, and information companies with those of DARPA to sponsor an external set of academic research teams that are focused on specific technology needs set by experts in industry and government. Efforts under this program will remove the roadblocks to achieving performance needed for future sensing, communication, computing, and memory applications. The program involves close collaboration between these experts and the academic base with industry providing 60% of program funding matched by 40% from DARPA.

Research in STARNet is divided into a discovery thrust (ACCEL) and an integration thrust (NEXT) executed by virtual academic centers and focused on combining current or emerging technologies to provide new capabilities. ACCEL seeks to discover new material systems, devices, and novel computing/sensing architectures. NEXT involves projects on advanced analog and mixed signal circuitry, complex system design tools, and alternative computing architectures. As the projects in ACCEL mature, it is expected that they will replace the efforts in NEXT that are based on current standard technologies for integrated circuits.

Technical goals proposed by Centers including

* including reductions of 100 times in the power consumption of devices
* 100 - 10,000 times lower energy consumption in logic switches
* 10 - 100 times higher computational energy efficiency, scalability of technologies to sub-10 nanometer dimensions, development of novel computing architectures
* highly energy-efficient information processing systems inspired in the nervous system.

Raytheon given more funding for DARPA hypersonic missile project with flight demonstrations within 4 years

Raytheon has been awarded a $20,489,714 cost-plus-fixed-fee funding for the Hypersonic Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) missile program. The TBG program is for the development and demonstration of technologies to enable air-launched tactical range hypersonic boost glide systems. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington, Virginia, is the contracting activity.

The Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) program is a Joint DARPA / Air Force effort that will develop and demonstrate technologies to enable air-launched tactical range hypersonic boost glide systems, including a flight demonstration of a vehicle that is traceable to an operationally relevant weapon that can be launched from current platforms. The program will also consider traceability to, and ideally compatibility, with the Navy Vertical Launch System (VLS). The metrics associated with this objective include total range, time of flight, payload, accuracy, and impact velocity. The program will address the system and technology issues required to enable development of a hypersonic boost glide system considering
(1) vehicle concepts possessing the required aerodynamic and aero-thermal performance, controllability and robustness for a wide operational envelope,
(2) the system attributes and subsystems required to be effective in relevant operational environments, and
(3) approaches to reducing cost and improving affordability for both the demonstration system and future operational systems. TBG capabilities are planned for transition to the Air Force and the Navy.

FY 2014 Accomplishments:
- Completed trade space analysis for tactical range hypersonic boost glide systems.
- Began development of TBG Concept of Operations (ConOps).
- Began development of TBG Operational System (OS) conceptual designs and system capabilities. - Completed a baseline operational analysis of the Government Reference Vehicle (GRV).
- Began operational analysis of the TBG performers operational systems.
- Began booster range and energy management study.
- Began aerodynamic and aerothermodynamic GRV risk reduction testing.
FY 2015 Plans:
- Complete TBG ConOps, Operational System conceptual design reviews and system capability documentation. - Complete operational analysis of the performer TBG operational systems.
- Complete operational analysis of evolved GRV.
- Complete TBG Demonstration System conceptual design and systems requirements reviews.
- Complete initial Technology Maturation Plans (TMPs).
- Complete initial Risk Management Plan (RMP).
- Select booster and launch platforms.
- Conduct initial test range and range safety coordination.
- Begin Phase I aerodynamic and aerothermal concept testing.
- Begin development of first generation aero databases.
- Complete aerodynamic and aerothermal GRV risk reduction testing.
- Complete booster range and energy management study.

April 17, 2015

Graphene Hybrid supercapacitors storing as much as lead acid batteries which is six times commercial supercapacitors

Researchers at UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute have successfully combined two nanomaterials to create a new energy storage medium that combines the best qualities of batteries and supercapacitors.

Supercapacitors are electrochemical components that can charge in seconds rather than hours and can be used for 1 million recharge cycles. Unlike batteries, however, they do not store enough power to run our computers and smartphones.

The new hybrid supercapacitor stores large amounts of energy, recharges quickly and can last for more than 10,000 recharge cycles. The CNSI scientists also created a microsupercapacitor that is small enough to fit in wearable or implantable devices. Just one-fifth the thickness of a sheet of paper, it is capable of holding more than twice as much charge as a typical thin-film lithium battery.

The new hybrid supercapacitor developed at UCLA stores large amounts of energy, recharges quickly and can last for more than 10,000 recharge cycles.

Batteries run just about everything portable in our lives such as smartphones, tablets, computers, etc. Although we have become accustomed to the rapid improvement of portable electronics, the slow development of batteries is holding back technological progress. Thus, it is imperative to develop new energy storage devices that are compact, reliable, and energy dense, charge quickly, and possess both long cycle life and calendar life. Researchers have developed hybrid supercapacitors that can store as much charge as a lead acid battery, yet they can be recharged in seconds compared with hours for conventional batteries.

Abstract - Engineering three-dimensional hybrid supercapacitors and microsupercapacitors for high-performance integrated energy storage

Supercapacitors now play an important role in the progress of hybrid and electric vehicles, consumer electronics, and military and space applications. There is a growing demand in developing hybrid supercapacitor systems to overcome the energy density limitations of the current generation of carbon-based supercapacitors. Here, we demonstrate 3D high-performance hybrid supercapacitors and microsupercapacitors based on graphene and MnO2 by rationally designing the electrode microstructure and combining active materials with electrolytes that operate at high voltages. This results in hybrid electrodes with ultrahigh volumetric capacitance of over 1,100 F/cm3. This corresponds to a specific capacitance of the constituent MnO2 of 1,145 F/g, which is close to the theoretical value of 1,380 F/g. The energy density of the full device varies between 22 and 42 Wh/l depending on the device configuration, which is superior to those of commercially available double-layer supercapacitors, pseudocapacitors, lithium-ion capacitors, and hybrid supercapacitors tested under the same conditions and is comparable to that of lead acid batteries. These hybrid supercapacitors use aqueous electrolytes and are assembled in air without the need for expensive “dry rooms” required for building today’s supercapacitors. Furthermore, we demonstrate a simple technique for the fabrication of supercapacitor arrays for high-voltage applications. These arrays can be integrated with solar cells for efficient energy harvesting and storage systems.

Saudi Arabia trying to replicate Dubai success with four new cities and one will cost $67 billion

Saudi Arabia is pushing ahead with plans to complete building work on a new megacity in the desert.

The King Abdullah Economic City, or KAEC (pronounced ‘cake’), will be slightly larger than Washington DC and home to approximately two million residents.

Covering 70 square miles, the metropolis is costing £67 billion ($100 billion) and lies 100km from Jeddah, the commercial hub of the kingdom, near the Red Sea.

So far 15 per cent has been built, as public facilities and residential areas are still under construction. Plans include a port, industrial complex, a financial island, beach facilities and residential neighborhoods.

KAEC is one of four new cities being built to diversify an economy that is overly dependent on oil. Already it has its own website showing plans, maps and including details on how to invest.

‘We’re not competing with Jeddah’s Islamic port – but we are going to take business away from Jebel Ali in Dubai. That’s because of our quicker, more automated offloading and customs procedure.’

The Saudi's are trying to replicate the success of Dubai

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 256

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 256 is up at Yes Vermont Yankee

[Canadian Energy Issues] The most recent reported concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) at the Keeling Observatory in Mauna Loa Hawaii ( April 9 2015) shows 404.65 parts per million. This is the highest it has ever been in human history.

It takes roughly 7.8 billion metric tons of CO2 dumped into the global air to increase the concentration by one part per million (according to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at the Oak Ridge lab in Tennessee). One year ago the global concentration hit 400 ppm for the very first time. So for it to have gone from 400 to 404.65 ppm means we humans have, collectively, in the space of a single year, dumped 36.27 billion tons of the stuff into our air.

Ontario Canada has, since 2003, reduced annual electric power CO2 emissions by around 27 million tons. They did this not with a cap and trade system, nor with a carbon tax. They did it by simply adding and using more nuclear capacity. There were four nuclear reactors sitting idle and in need of refurbishment. So they refurbished them. Twenty-seven million tons. Done.

Elon Musk Battery Singularity - 1000 Gigabattery factories for Grid Storage and car domination

JB Strauble is the CTO of Tesla Motors. In a video of an Energy Summit Keynote, he talks about the energy density of batteries doubling every ten years and how this will not only enable electric cars to beat combustion engine cars but also to transform energy storage on the grid.

If 100 million homes in the USA had 4 kilowatts of nameplate solar capacity (1kw net power) and needed to store that power for 8 hours (10AM to 4PM power to 6pm-midnight and 6AM-8AM) that would be 800 GWh. This would be the capacity of 16 Gigabattery factories. This would be less than 10% of the grid energy storage needs of the United States. The US uses 4500 TWh of electrical power (and 10 times that amount when currently non-electric transportation and industrial power usage is counted.)

100 Gigabattery factories would be needed to produce the batteries for 50 million cars each year. Complete domination of energy grid storage could see a demand for 900 more Gigabattery factories.

$100-150 per kwh would displace combustion engine cars and also signal Energy Grid Storage Transformation

A summary paper in Nature, presents an original systematic review, analysing over 80 different estimates reported 2007–2014 to systematically trace the costs of Li-ion battery packs for BEV manufacturers. We show that industry-wide cost estimates declined by approximately 14% annually between 2007 and 2014, from above US$1,000 per kWh to around US$410 per kWh, and that the cost of battery packs used by market-leading BEV manufacturers are even lower, at US$300 per kWh, and has declined by 8% annually. Learning rate, the cost reduction following a cumulative doubling of production, is found to be between 6 and 9%, in line with earlier studies on vehicle battery technology. We reveal that the costs of Li-ion battery packs continue to decline and that the costs among market leaders are much lower than previously reported. This has significant implications for the assumptions used when modelling future energy and transport systems and permits an optimistic outlook for BEVs contributing to low-carbon transport.

The International Energy Association has a roadmap for energy storage to 2050

April 16, 2015

China looks to ramp up nuclear power construction

There are calls to start construction on as many as 500 new nuclear reactors domestically in China by 2050, and even more abroad, China could single-handedly more than double the number of reactors worldwide. China will need to build as many as 10-12 reactors a year, roughly double France’s record pace in the 1980s.

Experts believe China has the production capacity to meet the demanding schedule, it is currently projected to approve no more than six to eight new reactors this year, potentially ramping up to 10 or more annually by the beginning of the next decade

President Xi had a speech which suggests, the government’s interest in nuclear energy goes beyond economic concerns. Beijing claims the industry is also key to reducing the ubiquitous haze from the country’s many coal-fired power plants.

Curbing smog is a top priority for China’s leadership, which is nervous that failure to solve the problem may lead to social unrest.

Concern over the issue seems to have added some pressure to speed up construction.

In March, He Yu, chairman of state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group, argued that the country will need to adopt an even more aggressive nuclear development strategy if it hopes to meet its goal of increasing power generated from sources other than fossil fuels to 20 percent of its energy mix by 2030.

“On the strategic level, we should make it clear that nuclear power is central to our national energy supply,” he told China Economic Net, adding that the country should aim to build as much as 200 gigawatts of capacity in the next 15 years. Current plans call for 150 gigawatts.

New Star Wars Awakens Trailer and New Ant man Trailer

The new Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser #2 has a voice over with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and Chewie at the end.

Ant man looks good too.

In Vitro Fertilization accounts for 1.5% of births in the USA

The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology represents the greater majority of in vitro fertilization clinics in the United States. Their report showed that doctors at these clinics performed 165,172 procedures, including IVF, with 61,740 babies born as a result of those efforts in 2012. In 2012 in the USA, more than 3.95 million babies were born. IVF treatments account for about 1.5% of all babies born in the United States in 2012.

IVF has cost about $15000 per treatment in the USA. In other countries, the cost can be 5 to ten time less. In 2013,Belgian researchers tested a shoebox-sized IVF laboratory built from cheap glass tubes that uses baking soda and citric acid to create the carbon dioxide needed for fertilization to occur. Pregnancy rates matched those from a standard laboratory and set-up costs are 85-90% lower. With fewer tests and less monitoring, running costs are slashed, too. Though of no use when the man’s sperm is sub-par and thus needs to be injected into the egg under a pricey microscope, it should be sufficient for about 70% of infertile couples, says Willem Ombelet of the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology, who led the first trial.

The Low-Cost IVF Foundation, a non-profit based in Switzerland, is working with Zambia’s health ministry to set up an IVF programme later this year. Costs will be shaved wherever possible, with the biggest saving coming from using clomiphene citrate, an oral drug that provides a modest boost to ovulation and costs just $12 per IVF attempt, instead of the standard injectable drugs, which cost thousands.

The number of babies born as a result of assisted reproduction technologies (ART) reached an estimated total of 5 million in 2012. ICMART (International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies) data for 2011 indicated that around 1.5 million ART cycles are now performed globally each year, producing around 350,000 babies. This number continues to rise. The two most active countries of the world are the USA and Japan, but the most active region by far is Europe.

Globally one in six couples face infertility issues. IVF is one of the popular treatments that has benefitted childless couples, single mothers, and LGBT community. It involves specific and complicated procedures with mixed proportion of both success and failure. According to CDC, 1.5 million to 2 million cycles of IVF is performed worldwide every year, and about 55 percent of the reported cycles are carried out in Europe. The Global IVF Devices market is growing at high pace, promising high return on investment. The Global IVF Devices Market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.80 percent during the 2014-2019 forecast period.

While other ART procedures offer success rates of about 33 percent for patients below 35 years, the average rate of success for IVF is about 40 percent. The increase in technological innovation in assisted reproduction enables couples to select embryos of their choice and have an offspring with the closest genetic resemblance to them.

DARPA 2016 Includes 150 kilowatt laser live fire tests

DARPA has its 2016 budget.

High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS)

HELLADS program had funding of 26.6 million in 2014 and 14.1 million in 2015.

Description: The goal of the HELLADS program is to develop a high-energy laser weapon system that will provide an order of magnitude reduction in weight compared to existing laser systems. HELLADS will enable high-energy lasers (HELs) to be integrated onto tactical aircraft and will significantly increase engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems, in addition to enabling high precision/low collateral damage and rapid engagement of fleeting targets for both offensive and defensive missions. Advancements in beam control and other subsystems that are required for the practical integration of a laser weapon into existing tactical platforms will be explored. With the assistance of the Services, the HELLADS program will pursue the necessary analysis, coordination, and design activity for a prototype laser weapon system incorporating the HELLADS laser system and the ABC turret into air-, ground-, or sea-based tactical vehicles. While the prototype laser weapon system module is in design and development, the HELLADS 150 kilowatt (kW) laser will be made available for demonstration opportunities and transition to the Army, Navy, or Air Force.

FY 2014 Accomplishments:
- Completed laboratory checkout and government acceptance of 150 kW laser; packaged laser and shipped for integration into the high power laser demonstrator system.
- Continued risk reduction test of tracking systems for dynamic targets, demonstrated aim point accuracy to support lethal power delivery to test targets in representative battlefield environments.
- Completed high power optics insertion, safety system checkouts, range communications protocol check, and initial high power static operation of laser weapon demonstrator to verify the laser and its subsystems can safely demonstrate lethal effects on mortars and rockets.
- Commenced live fire tests against rocket and mortar fly-outs to demonstrate lethal laser power at mission-relevant ranges.
- Completed preliminary design and detailed design of laser weapon module prototype's subsystems for integration on a specific air-, ground-, or sea-based tactical vehicle.

FY 2015 Plans:
- Complete live fire tests against rocket and mortar fly-outs to demonstrate lethal laser power at mission-relevant ranges.
- Transport demonstrator laser from Army mission (rocket/mortar) relevant ground test site to mountain peak test site to mimic Air Force missions for precision air-to-ground and airborne self-defense demonstrations.

General Atomics shows off a combat laser module in the 50 kilowatt range

General Atomics has a new third generation combat laser. The technology was originally developed under the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS, Gen 1) program. The Gen 3 Laser employs a number of upgrades resulting in improved beam quality, increased electrical to optical efficiency, and reduced size and weight. The recently certified Gen 3 laser assembly is very compact at only 1.3 x 0.4 x 0.5 meters. The system is powered by a compact Lithium-ion battery supply designed to demonstrate a deployable architecture for tactical platforms.

The Gen 3 HEL tested is a unit cell for the Tactical Laser Weapon Module (TLWM) currently under development. Featuring a flexible, deployable architecture, the TLWM is designed for use on land, sea, and airborne platforms and will be available in four versions at the 50, 75, 150, and 300 kilowatt laser output levels.

The GDS was employed by an independent measurement team to evaluate the beam quality of the Gen 3 system over a range of operating power and run time. According to JTO’s Jack Slater, “The system produced the best beam quality from a high energy laser that we have yet measured with the GDS. We were impressed to see that the beam quality remained constant with increasing output power and run-time.”

With run time limited only by the magazine depth of the battery system, beam quality was constant throughout the entire run at greater than 30 seconds. These measurements confirm that the exceptional beam quality of this new generation of electrically-pumped lasers is maintained above the 50 kilowatt level.

Following this evaluation, the independent team will use the GDS again to conduct beam quality measurements of the GA-ASI HELLADS Demonstrator Laser Weapon System (DLWS). The HELLADS DLWS includes a 150 kilowatt class laser with integrated power and thermal management.

Evan Ackerman at IEEE Spectrum has pictures from a trade show of a laser module.

NBF- I believe they are saying that the 50 kilowatt laser might be one module. The 300 kilowatt laser would be six modules. The General Atomics laser testing press release talks about maintaining power over the 50 kilowatt level in the completed tests and they were moving on to 150 kw tests.

The weight of the system is dependent on its output power and the number of shots you want. General Atomics engineers say that they’ve gotten it down to just 4 kilograms per kilowatt.

The 300 kilowatt system would be 1200 kilograms. This would only have a few shots with lithium ion battery power. The navy design for a 300 kilowatt laser would have a power and heat management system that would weigh about 560 tons.

It looks like a non-functioning mockup at the trade show. Tests of the 50 kw system are probably in a bigger unit.

Warrior Web exosuit gets about a 10% net improvement in walking with load

Steve Jurvetson had a video and picture of the latest DARPA Warrior Web exosuits from Harvard and SRI at a Feb, 2015 meeting.

The Harvard team uses linear actuators on the side of the backpack (instead of twisting filaments with the SRI team) to get a 10% net improvement in walking with load. The backpack is just a weight load; all of the actuators and batteries are in the black box.

SRI exosuit for DARPA warrior web

Harvard exosuit for DARPA warrior web

Simple unpowered walking assist clutch is like removing a 7-20 pound backpack by putting a spring in your step

For over a century, scientists have tried to make it easier for people to walk. Evolution has shaped an extremely efficient human gait, but even with Mother Nature's improvements we still spend more energy walking than on any other activity.

The solution: a mechanical clutch that fits in the palm of your hand.

It is lightweight, unpowered, wearable exoskeleton (the walking assist clutch) to reduce the energy cost of human walking. This wearable boot-like apparatus, when attached to the foot and ankle, reduces the energy expended in walking by around 7%.

If a 7% improvement in walking with a robotic exoskeleton doesn't seem very impressive, consider that it is approximately equivalent to removing a 10-pound backpack. And, given this device's simplicity, it would be extremely low-cost to produce. (Keep in mind that the Bionic Man's 60 MPH hardware came with a six million dollar price tag.)

The walking assist clutch is also lightweight and requires no power source, so there are no batteries to recharge or replace.

The HULC, lower body exoskeleton was so heavy and required so much energy to power it that DARPA recently abandoned the project.

The exoskeleton comprises rigid sections attached to the human shank and foot and hinged at the ankle. A passive clutch mechanism and series spring act in parallel with the calf muscles and Achilles tendon.

Nature - Reducing the energy cost of human walking using an unpowered exoskeleton

Cheap and easy to manufacture Carbon nanotube sensors detects meat spoilage and another detects fruit ripeness

MIT chemists have devised an inexpensive, portable sensor that can detect gases emitted by rotting meat, allowing consumers to determine whether the meat in their grocery store or refrigerator is safe to eat.

The sensor, which consists of chemically modified carbon nanotubes, could be deployed in “smart packaging” that would offer much more accurate safety information than the expiration date on the package, says Timothy Swager, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry at MIT.

It could also cut down on food waste, he adds. “People are constantly throwing things out that probably aren’t bad,” says Swager, who is the senior author of a paper describing the new sensor this week in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

The sensor is similar to other carbon nanotube devices that Swager’s lab has developed in recent years, including one that detects the ripeness of fruit. All of these devices work on the same principle: Carbon nanotubes can be chemically modified so that their ability to carry an electric current changes in the presence of a particular gas.

The researchers tested the sensor on four types of meat: pork, chicken, cod, and salmon. They found that when refrigerated, all four types stayed fresh over four days. Left unrefrigerated, the samples all decayed, but at varying rates

The new device also requires very little power and could be incorporated into a wireless platform Swager’s lab recently developed that allows a regular smartphone to read output from carbon nanotube sensors such as this one.

The researchers have filed for a patent on the technology and hope to license it for commercial development.

NBF - The Smartphone update would be amusing the first few times. Ping. You have rancid meat.

This MIT device, based on modified carbon nanotubes, can detect amines produced by decaying meat. Photo: Sophie Liu

Angewandte Chemie - Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube/Metalloporphyrin Composites for the Chemiresistive Detection of Amines and Meat Spoilage

April 15, 2015

China developing plans for rail line under Mount Everest and high speed rail connection to South Korea

China is considering extending a railway line linking the country to Nepal via a tunnel under Mount Everest, according to Chinese state media.

The project is expected to be completed by 2020, the newspaper cited a Tibetan official as saying. Extending the line would potentially forge a crucial link between China and the huge markets of India. It was raised by the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, on a visit to Kathmandu in December, according to Nepalese reports.

“The line will probably have to go through Qomolangma so that workers may have to dig some very long tunnels,” railway expert Wang Mengshu told the China Daily, referring to Mount Everest by its Tibetan name.

Owing to the challenging Himalayan terrain, with its remarkable changes in elevation, trains on any line to Kathmandu would probably have a maximum speed of 75mph (120km/h), he added.

China has three international high-speed rail projects that are in various stages of planning and development.

One would run from London via Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Kiev and Moscow, where it would split into two routes, one of which would run to China through Kazakhstan and the other through eastern Siberia. Another would begin in the far-western Chinese city of Urumqi and then run through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Turkey to Germany, and the last would begin in the south-west city of Kunming and end in Singapore.

The Fastest spacecraft ever launched is 3 months from Pluto

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is three months from returning to humanity the first-ever close up images and scientific observations of distant Pluto and its system of large and small moons.

"Scientific literature is filled with papers on the characteristics of Pluto and its moons from ground based and Earth orbiting space observations, but we've never studied Pluto up close and personal," said John Grunsfeld, astronaut, and associate administrator of the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "In an unprecedented flyby this July, our knowledge of what the Pluto system is really like will expand exponentially and I have no doubt there will be exciting discoveries."

The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons has traveled a longer time and farther away - more than nine years and three billion miles - than any space mission in history to reach its primary target. Its flyby of Pluto and its system of at least five moons on July 14 will complete the initial reconnaissance of the classical solar system. This mission also opens the door to an entirely new "third" zone of mysterious small planets and planetary building blocks in the Kuiper Belt, a large area with numerous objects beyond Neptune's orbit.

This image of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was taken by the Ralph color imager aboard NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on April 9 and downlinked to Earth the following day. It is the first color image ever made of the Pluto system by a spacecraft on approach. The image is a preliminary reconstruction, which will be refined later by the New Horizons science team. Clearly visible are both Pluto and the Texas-sized Charon. The image was made from a distance of about 71 million miles (115 million kilometers)-roughly the distance from the Sun to Venus. At this distance, neither Pluto nor Charon is well resolved by the color imager, but their distinctly different appearances can be seen. As New Horizons approaches its flyby of Pluto on July 14, it will deliver color images that eventually show surface features as small as a few miles across.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Video showing Spacex came very close to a successful reusable rocket first stage landing

SpaceX came close to successfully landing a first stage rocket April 14. This would enable reusable rockets.

SpaceX tried to bring the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket back for a soft touchdown on an "autonomous spaceport drone ship" in the Atlantic Ocean during Tuesday's successful launch of the company's robotic Dragon cargo capsule toward the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The next drone-ship landing attempt will come during the launch of the next Dragon resupply mission, Koenigsmann added. That flight is currently scheduled for June 19.

EIA predicts little change in US carbon emissions to 2040

EIA predicts how many hybrid and electric cars there will be by 2040

The US energy information administration has a prediction of energy production and usage to 2040.

Here is their predictions related to how many hybrid and electric cars there will be.

EIA predicts energy to 2040 with more a bit more oil, gas and renewables and moderate prices

The Annual Energy Outlook 2015 (AEO2015), prepared by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), presents long-term annual projections of energy supply, demand, and prices through 2040. The projections, focused on U.S. energy markets, are based on results from EIA’s National Energy Modeling System (NEMS). NEMS enables EIA to make projections under alternative, internally-consistent sets of assumptions, the results of which are presented as cases. The analysis in AEO2015 focuses on six cases: Reference case, Low and High Economic Growth cases, Low and High Oil Price cases, and High Oil and Gas Resource case.

• Through 2020, strong growth in domestic crude oil production from tight formations leads to a decline in net petroleum imports and growth in net petroleum product exports in all AEO2015 cases. In the High Oil and Gas Resource case, increased crude production before 2020 results in increased processed condensate exports. Slowing growth in domestic production after 2020 is offset by increased vehicle fuel economy standards that limit growth in domestic demand. The net import share of crude oil and petroleum products supplied falls from 33% of total supply in 2013 to 17% of total supply in 2040 in the Reference case. The United States becomes a net exporter of petroleum and other liquids after 2020 in the High Oil Price and High Oil and Gas Resource cases because of greater U.S. crude oil production.

• The United States transitions from being a modest net importer of natural gas to a net exporter by 2017. U.S. export growth continues after 2017, with net exports in 2040 ranging from 3.0 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in the Low Oil Price case to 13.1 Tcf in the High Oil and Gas Resource case.

• Rising costs for electric power generation, transmission, and distribution, coupled with relatively slow growth of electricity demand, produce an 18% increase in the average retail price of electricity over the period from 2013 to 2040 in the AEO2015 Reference case. The AEO2015 cases do not include the proposed Clean Power Plan

Lonemind has a list of the top 25 futurists

Lonemind has a list of the top 25 futurists. I, Brian Wang / Nextbigfuture is listed about 7th. Although the list may not be in any particular order.

April 14, 2015

Kitegen announces their 3 megawatt wind kite power system

KiteGenVenture LLC announces the launch of the KiteGen Stem, a massive, 3 MW generator capable of providing affordable clean energy on a massive scale. Using large Power Kites, KiteGen’s generators harnesses freely available kinetic energy from wind, and converts that energy into electricity that is accessible via the grid. Each KiteGen Stem Generator is capable of providing enough clean energy to support the energy needs of up to 10000 families. The energy KiteGen produces boasts no environmental impact, and zero CO2 emissions. KiteGen Stem does not need to be installed in especially windy areas - they can be installed and provide electricity anywhere clean energy is needed.f

Nextbigfuture has over a dozen Kitegen articles going back to 2006. Kitegen has been working on the 3MW system since about 2010.

Next steps​. KiteGen has finished designing and testing the Power Kites - all that remains is to identify where these generators can make the most impact, and to install them there. In an effort to make the greatest positive impact on our environment, KiteGen has partnered with like-minded nonprofits to help transform the world’s energy use. They have committed to sharing revenue created from the first line of installed generators with these groups, which include Bridge for Good, which focuses on reforestation, Source International, which combats pollution, and Amnesty International, defender of human rights.


* 3MW generator harnesses kinetic energy from the wind using Kites
* Harnessing, Converting, and Using Energy has no impact on environment, zero CO2 emissions
* Can be installed anywhere, provide energy for up to 10K families

The Campaign: ​KiteGen is running an Indiegogo campaign in support of the launch of their PowerKite Project. Backers can help make Power Kite technology a reality for as low as a $20 contribution. The campaign, which launches April 14, 2015, will run through June 13, 2015. Backers can expect to receive rewards by July 2015.

Spacex Launch live video - rocket successfully and first stage landed on droneship but tipped over post landing

SpaceX plans to try again Tuesday to launch its Falcon 9 rocket to resupply the International Space Station.

The launch is set for 4:10 p.m. from Launch Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

Spacex has a webcast page

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

United Launch Alliance developing reusable rocket called Vulcan

United Launch Alliance Monday unveiled the name of its next rocket and it will be called Vulcan.

The new rocket could launch as soon as 2019. It is ULA's response to competition from SpaceX and political pressure to phase out use of the Russian RD-180 engine powering its workhorse Atlas V rocket.

ULA CEO Tory Bruno said the rocket's design will allow recovery and reuse of the booster's main engines, the rocket's most expensive components.

ULA has partnered with Blue Origin, the Seattle-based firm privately funded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, to develop new American engines.

Plans also call for an eventual replacement of the Atlas V's Centaur upper stage.

Bruno said the Vulcan would be the "highest-performing, most cost-efficient rocket on the market."

An artist's rendering of what the newly named Vulcan rocket would look like upon liftoff. (Photo courtesy United Launch Alliance)

Qubit control that fits practical requirements for large scale quanutm computers

A UNSW-led research team has encoded quantum information in silicon using simple electrical pulses for the first time, bringing affordable large-scale quantum computers one step closer to reality.

The team has already improved the control of these qubits to an accuracy of above 99% and established the world record for how long quantum information can be stored in the solid state.

The method of qubit control demonstrated here fulfills all the practical requirements for a large-scale quantum computer, because control gates can be applied simultaneously to arbitrarily many qubits while requiring only one CW microwave source together with inexpensive multichannel baseband pulse generators.

Electron wave in a phosphorus atom, distorted by a local electric field.

Electric field dependence of electron and nuclear energy states. (A) False-colored scanning electron microscope image of a device similar to the one used in the experiment. Blue, microwave (MW) antenna; yellow, gates used to induce the SET charge sensor under the SiO2 insulator; pink, A-gates, comprising gates labeled Donor Fast (DF), Donor Slow (DS), and Top Gate AC (TGAC). These gates are used to tune the potential and electric field at the donor location. (B) Electron wavefunction of a donor under an electrostatic gate. A positive voltage applied to the gate attracts the electron toward the Si-SiO2 interface. For illustration purposes, the wavefunction distortion is largely exaggerated as compared to the actual effect taking place in the experiment. (C) Energy level diagram of the neutral e−-31P system. Gate-controlled distortion of the electron wavefunction modifies A and γe, shifting the ESR νe1 and νe2, and the NMR νn1 and νn2 transition frequencies.

Science Advances - Electrically controlling single-spin qubits in a continuous microwave field

Churchill Pykrete carrier would have been three and half times longer than the US Gerald Ford Carrier

Winston Churchill had a project to produce a 2.2 million ton pykrete (ice and wood pulp) aircraft carrier that would have been 1200 meters long and 180 meters wide. This would have made it 3.5 times longer than the US Gerald Ford or Nimitz class carriers which are each about 330 meters long.

The final design of Habbakuk II (bergship) a displacement of 2.2 million tons. Steam turbogenerators were to supply 33,000 hp (25,000 kW) for 26 electric motors mounted in separate external nacelles (normal, internal ship engines would have generated too much heat for an ice craft). Its armament would have included 40 dual-barrelled 4.5" DP (dual-purpose) turrets and numerous light anti-aircraft guns, and it would have housed an airstrip and up to 150 twin-engined bombers or fighters.

In the 15 April 2009 episode of the U.S. TV show Mythbusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage built a small boat out of a modified version of pykrete, using newspaper instead of wood pulp. They successfully piloted the boat in Alaskan waters at a speed of 25 miles per hour (40 km/h) and inferred that it is possible to build a boat out of pykrete. They also concluded that pykrete lived up to its purported properties of being bullet-proof, stronger than ice and taking longer to melt than ice. However, they expressed doubt that an aircraft carrier made of pykrete could have survived for long. The conclusion was "Plausible, but ludicrous.

April 13, 2015

Spacex Falcon 9 ready for resupply mission today and another reusable rocket landing attempt for the first stage

The cargo-laden Spacex Dragon spacecraft is being readied to head off the Earth so International Space Station astronauts can conduct science for the Earth as well as the Journey to Mars. Launch time today is 4:33 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station adjacent to Kennedy. The launch window is instantaneous for the Falcon 9 rocket that will loft the Dragon into space on course for the station. Both the rocket and spacecraft are products of SpaceX.

The weather remains the primary concern for today with the most recent report calling for a 60 percent chance of acceptable conditions at launch time.

In 2014, SpaceX twice successfully returned a Falcon 9 first stage from space and landed it in the Atlantic Ocean. Using lessons learned from those attempts, in January 2015 SpaceX attempted a precision landing on the drone ship, nicknamed “Just Read the Instructions”. The rocket made it to the drone ship, but landed hard. During a second precision landing attempt in February, this time over water, the rocket impressively came within 10 meters of its target. Unfortunately, extreme weather prevented recovery.

Computers models show that Mars has briny liquid water in the top 2 inches of soil each night and it evaporates in the morning

Liquid water collects in the Martian soil each night, before evaporating during the day, according to NASA's Curiosity rover. If future missions can confirm this water cycle, it means astronauts could one day farm moisture to provide drinking water on Mars.

Planetary scientists have seen a lot of evidence for frozen water at the Martian poles, and water vapour in the planet's atmosphere. Liquid water, on the other hand, has been harder to come by, as the temperature and atmospheric pressure at the surface is too low.

perchlorate salts in the planet’s soil are lowering the freezing temperature of water, setting up conditions for liquid brines to form at equatorial regions, new research from NASA’s Curiosity rover shows. Findings, published in this week’s Nature Geoscience, are based on nearly two years worth of atmospheric humidity and temperature measurements collected by the roving science laboratory Curiosity, which is exploring an ancient impact basin called Gale Crater near the planet’s equator.

The brines, computer models show, form nightly in the upper 2 inches of the planet’s soil as perchlorates absorb atmospheric water vapor. As temperatures rise in the morning, the liquid evaporate

Nature Geoscience should be posting the article shortly

April 12, 2015

Sensors and longer range weapons means speed and dogfighting don't matter and the future could be a Thunderbird 2 like modular battleplane

A 76 page report by the Center for Budgetary and Strategic Assessments Trends in Air-to-air combat : Implications for future air superiority by John Stillion indicates that dogfighting jet capability no longer matters.

Trends from the database of air combat since 1965 show the rise of long range missiles and a steep decline in dog-fighting. Of the 33 U.S. kills in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, only four involved any maneuvering at all. 25 years on, the power of long range sensors and missiles is only greater, meaning that traditional fighter attributes such as speed, thrust-to-weight ratios, and turn radius are even less important to success today and in the future.

Stillion concludes that speed will not help future aircraft because higher speeds mean higher heats from engines and along leading edges and other aircraft surfaces. More combatants will rely on Infrared Search and Track Systems (IRST) because Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) jammers will disrupt search radars. So enemies will be looking for heat with those IRST sensors and fast planes will be easier to spot.

One industry source who has read the study said that, “Stillion makes a very good case that we should rethink our strategy. Why invest in the sixth generation fighter to create a ‘super F-22′? Such an aircraft will only offer marginal improvements over the F-22 at great cost.

One common airframe could provide a strike version, an air-to-air missile version for self defense, a nuclear aircraft, an air superiority version fitted with directed energy weapons, and planes for airborne early warning and ground surveillance missions.

Bigger sensors and bigger, longer range missiles and drones would be the winning system.

A future US Air Force with a fleet of roughly 400 long range aircraft with modular systems.

An updated version of the 1960s TV show Thunderbird 2 could be the future US battleplane

For easy and modular upgradability the next US bomber needs to be like the Tesla electric car and the Google Ara smartphone

The Air Force’s new stealth bomber, a highly classified military project, is being designed to accommodate incremental improvements over the years, making it easier and cheaper to modify the plane to counter future threats, according to a senior Pentagon official.

Defense Department officials have revealed little about the Long Range Strike Bomber project beyond plans to buy between 80 and 100 aircraft for about $550 million each. The Air Force, which is evaluating bids from a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team and from Northrop Grumman, is expected to award a contract this summer.

Upgradability — the Pentagon calls it “modularity” — is written into the bomber’s specifications; bidders are required to make it easy to add the scores of upgrades expected over the bomber’s multi-decade life.

The Pentagon is also seeking more access to the intellectual property generated when a contractor designs a new weapon. In the past, companies have resisted giving up their blueprints.

Having the intellectual property would allow the Pentagon to more easily upgrade equipment without paying the original manufacturer to act as the middleman.

“In order to do this well, you have to basically control the interfaces and control the design at the modular level,” Kendall said.

Tesla provides firmware updates and had built in sensors and components to enable expected autopilot upgrades

Most cars don't improve over time. By contrast, the Tesla Model S gets faster, smarter, and better as time passes. With Tesla's regular over-the-air software updates, Model S actually improves while you sleep. When you wake up, added functionality, enhanced performance, and improved user experience make you feel like you are driving a new car. We want to improve cars in ways most people didn't imagine possible.

Among other things, the latest update introduces two key applications that ensure you never unintentionally run out of range, giving you peace of mind at all times.

The Tesla 85D went from accelerating from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds to 3.1 seconds with a software improvement to the inverter algorithm.

Tesla has improved the user interface and added applications to plan trips and avoid running out of battery power. Tesla is looking at continuing UI improvements. One UI concept uses responsive widgets that can be rearranged on a flexible grid. The widgets are available in multiple sizes and can freely be combined for a customized user experience

Tesla Interface Concept from Bureau Oberhaeuser on Vimeo.

Combining the firmware upgrades with Google Project Ara style systems for modules connecting to a fast network would provide a lot of easy flexibility

Project Ara is the codename for an initiative that aims to develop an open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. The platform will include a structural frame (endoskeleton that holds smartphone modules of the owner's choice), such as a display, camera or an extra battery. It would allow users to swap out malfunctioning modules or upgrade individual modules as innovations emerge, providing longer lifetime cycles for the handset, and potentially reducing electronic waste. Project Ara smartphone will begin pilot testing in Puerto Rico later 2015 with a target bill of materials cost of $50 for a basic grey phone. The project was originally headed by the Advanced Technologies and Projects team within Motorola Mobility while it was a subsidiary of Google. Although Google had sold Motorola to Lenovo, it is retaining the project team who will work under the direction of the Android division.

Google wants Project Ara to lower the entry barrier for phone hardware manufacturers so there could be "hundreds of thousands of developers" instead of the current handful of big manufacturers. This would be similar to how the Google Play Store is structured. Lowering the barrier for entry allows many more people to develop modules. Anyone will be able to build a module without requiring a license or paying a fee.

Frames have slots on the front for the display and other modules. On the back are additional slots for modules. Each frame is expected to cost around US$15. The data from the modules can be transferred at up to 10gigabits/sec per connection. The 2×2 modules have two connections and will allow up to 20gigabits/sec. This is to defer its obsolescence as long as possible.

Modules can provide common smartphone features, such as cameras and speakers, but can also provide more specialized features, such as medical devices, receipt printers, laser pointers, pico projectors, night vision sensors, or game controller buttons. Each slot on the frame will accept any module of the correct size. The front slots are of various heights and take up the whole width of the frame. The rear slots come in standard sizes of 1×1, 1×2 and 2×2. Modules can be hot-swapped without turning the phone off. The frame also includes a small backup battery so the main battery can be hot-swapped. Modules are secured with electropermanent magnets

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