May 09, 2015

APIS (Asteroid Provided In-Situ Supplies): 100MT Of Water from a Single Falcon 9

Total cost of planned human exploration missions is strongly driven by the need to launch large quantities of rocket propellant, drinking water, oxygen, and radiation shielding. If plentifully-available in cis-lunar space, water could be used directly as propellant in Solar Thermal Rockets (STRs) to provide inexpensive transportation. The lunar surface has been proposed as a source of such water, but independent analysis of Lunar ISRU suggests that it would not be cost effective due to the Size, Weight, Power, and Cost (SWAP-C) of ISRU equipment, the large round trip #V to get to the lunar surface, and the logistical issues of working there. Likewise, a technical publication regardingn asteroid mining by a NIAC-funded team recently concluded that they “could not find any scenario for a realistic commercial economic return from such a mission.”

We understand why past attempts have failed and we offer an innovative new mission concept called Apis. Apis harvests and returns up to 100 tonnes of water from a near Earth asteroid using only a single Falcon 9 v1.1 launch. Apis is based on a major new innovation called "Optical Mining" that we are proposing here for the first time. Optical mining is a novel approach to excavating and processing asteroid materials in which highly concentrated sunlight is used to drill holes, excavate, disrupt, and shape an asteroid while the asteroid is inclosed in a continent bag. Optical mining is enabled by advanced anidolic optics that have thus far not been considered for ISRU applications. Apis further combines the mid-TRL technologies of thin-film inflatable structures and water solar thermal propulsion with an innovative new TRL-1 solar thermal oven technology to extract water from a volatile-rich asteroid.

APIS mission operations start with a Falcon 9 V1.1 or equivalent launch to a low C3 ARM-like but volatile-rich NEO. Once at the target, APIS uses an inflatable capture system similar to that proposed for ARM, but fabricated from high temperature material and designed to fully enclose the target. After the asteroid has been encapsulated and the system de-spun, an inflatable solar concentrator in an advanced non-imaging configuration, provides direct solar-thermal energy through Winston Cones and light tubes to the asteroid surface. This heat is used to excavate the asteroid and force the water to outgas into the enclosing bag at a low pressure of 10^-4 to 10^-5 Atm. The outgassing water is cryopumped at modest temperature into a passively-cooled water storage bag and stored as solid ice. After several months of collection, up to 120MT of water are stored. Using solar thermal propulsion with some of the water as the propellant, the APIS system returns the harvested water to Lunar Distant Retrograde Orbit (LDRO) where it can support a far more affordable program of human exploration of cis-lunar space. The presence of large quantities of water in cis-lunar space cost-effectively supplied from asteroids will profoundly benefit HEOMD missions.

Stratospheric Dual-Aircraft Platform for a station-keeping aircraft substitute for satellites

The Dual-Aircraft Platform (DAP) is a patented concept for achieving a low-cost atmospheric satellite which utilizes wind shear as the primary energy source, and has the potential to stationkeep without a substantial energy storage system. DAP consists of two glider-like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) connected via a thin, ultra-strong cable which literally sails without propulsion, using levels of wind shear commonly found in lower Stratosphere (e.g., near 60,000-ft). The two aircraft are positioned at different altitudes, as far as 3,000-ft apart, to encounter substantially different wind velocities. The device operates similar in principle to a kite-surfer in which the upper aircraft, referred to as the SAIL, provides lift for both aircraft and aerodynamic thrust, while the lower aircraft, known as the BOARD, provides an upwind force to keep the platform from drifting downwind. Each aircraft extracts additional energy via solar film and possibly a wind turbine to operate the avionics, flight controls, payload, and for intermittent use of propulsion.

The DAP concept is expected to provide substantially larger levels of power to onboard payloads, compared to conventional solar aircraft. Consequently, the primary objective of the proposed work is to directly compare the performance of a conventional solar aircraft with the DAP for a 3-month mission as a communications relay, remaining within 150-miles of Orlando, at an altitude of 50,000-60,000-ft, using physics-based flight dynamics simulations. A related objective is to evaluate new flight operations and controls strategies that may lead to improved DAP performance in these simulations. NASA KSC's Doppler radar (5-min intervals), radiosonde data, and a gust model, will be used to construct realistic time-varying atmospheric profiles for use in the flight simulations.

Aircraft platforms which could stationkeep in the stratosphere for years, referred to as atmospheric satellites, represent a long-standing, grand challenge to the aeronautics community, and have enormous potential societal and economic impact. Such platforms would diversify and expand surveillance capabilities (e.g., NASA's earth science missions) and communications bandwidth and availability (e.g., for underserved remote areas of the US), at a fraction of the cost of orbital satellite networks. Constellations of such platforms could also potentially be integrated into the NAS to facilitate inter-aircraft communications or to support aircraft navigation and surveillance.

Dual-aircraft atmospheric platform - Patent

A platform including two winged aircraft are tethered during flight by a single tether near their respective centers of gravity. The tether is windable about a reel, so that a distance between the aircraft can be changed during flight. The aircraft contain avionics configured to enable autonomous flight using natural wind gradients. One aircraft imposes aerodynamic forces on the other, through the tether, while flying at an altitude where wind speed is significantly different than wind speed at an altitude of the other aircraft. The two aircraft cruise back and forth within a maximum distance from a station on the ground. Cruise conditions are established using an iterative computer algorithm which utilizes flight measurements. The aircraft communicate information between each other, and the ground, and contain a payload which performs a useful function at high altitudes.

Thirsty Walls NASA NIAC 2015 Funded Study

Thirsty Walls - A new paradigm for air revitalization in life support

Air Revitalization (AR) is a critical function for all Human Exploration Missions. Historically, air revitalization is performed by routing air through a complex set of ducts and removal beds that restrict airflow. Microgravity considerations usually require that removal beds are packed with granular solids' these granular beds are relatively heavy, inefficient, and prone to dusting. Liquid based capture systems, such as those found on submarines, have proven to be smaller, more power efficient, and more reliable, but the gas/liquid contactors found in submarines need gravity. Until recently, the only way to use liquid based capture systems in microgravity was to employ a gas permeable membrane. Membranes suffer slow kinetics and are prone to poisoning. Recent developments in additive manufacturing and capillary fluid mechanics makes it possible to directly expose liquids to cabin air in microgravity conditions, and make a microgravity version of a submarine AR system possible. A microgravity compatible gas/liquid contactor also makes it possible to completely re-imagine the AR system: instead of forcing air through a complex series of ducts and beds, air revitalization hardware can take the form of ‘Curtains’, deployed on the ‘Thirsty Walls’ of spacecraft. Compared to the traditional HVAC approach used on ISS, Thirsty Walls can reduce the number of rotating pieces of equipment for air revitalization from 19 to 8, and eliminate all of the high pressure and high flow velocity elements. A thirsty walls approach using Monoethanolamine (MEA) the CO2 capture liquid used in submarines - would make it possible to achieve submarine levels of performance on spacecraft, but this proposal asserts that if the Thirsty Walls approach were used with Ionic Liquids (ILs) instead of MEA, power efficiency could be even greater than that found on submarines. A direct gas/liquid contactor, placed into a Thirsty Walls configuration, pumping an Ionic Liquid for CO2 capture offers the chance to make a transformational improvement to air revitalization on spacecraft.

Freightliner Inspiration Truck – the first licensed autonomous driving truck in the US

With the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, Daimler introduced the world’s first autonomous truck licensed to drive on public roads.

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is the world's first autonomous truck to be granted a license for road use. The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is based on the series-produced US Freightliner Cascadia truck. It has been equipped with the Highway Pilot technology and modified for use on American highways. The Highway Pilot system is the only one in the world to feature the kind of sensor and camera technology that makes operation of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck possible. Freightliner Trucks presents the most innovative product with the highest degree of automation for the USA.
The extraordinary exterior of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck is dominated by the hood design, which overlaps the usual radiator grille.

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck with Highway Pilot system is the world's first autonomous truck to be granted a license for road use in the State of Nevada. In July last year Daimler Trucks provided the world's first demonstration of an autonomous truck in action when the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 drove along a cordoned-off section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg. The Inspiration Truck is now the next milestone on the road to series production of the Highway Pilot system. The development engineers of Daimler Trucks transfered the system to the US brand Freightliner and modified it for use on American highways. The result: the State of Nevada certified no less than two Freightliner Inspiration Trucks for regular operations on public roads.

Inventor Guido Fetta describes EMdrive related propellentless Cannae drive aka Q drive system

Guido Fetta describes created unbalanced electromagnetic forces within the chamber. Guido says summing the lorentz forces has a propellentless force.

Guido Fetta, inventor of the Emdrive related Q-Drive. Dr Fetta has taken down his Cannae web-site, but the Internet Archive has kindly preserved it. The Mail has confused Dr Fetta’s efforts with Eagleworks’s own. While Eagleworks tested his Drive, and others, the testing invalidated the specific hypothesis that Dr Fetta was assuming in his design. As the Eagleworks paper from last year noted, the Cannae-design Q-Drive had notches in the dielectric disk, while the ‘null’ test article did not. Both produced positive results, thus providing experimental data against Fetta’s specific hypothesis of how the drive creates thrust.

Fetta, an independent inventor with a background in chemical engineering, explains that the drive is a “superconducting resonating cavity.” An imbalance in the cavity, Fetta says, creates thrust.

Fetta had tested a superconducting version of the "Q-drive" or Cannae drive on 13 January 2011 several years prior to the Eagleworks test campaign. The RF resonant cavity was suspended inside a liquid helium-filled dewar. The weight of the cavity was monitored by load cells. Fetta theorized that when the device was activated and produced upward thrust, the load cells would detect the thrust as change in weight. When the Cannae drive was energized by sending 10.5 watt power pulses of 1047.335 MHz RF power into the resonant cavity there was a reduction in compressive force on the load cells consistent with thrust of 8-10 mN. The results have not been published in the scientific literature, but were posted on Cannae LLC's website.

Cannae drive at NASA

Roger Shawyer, Emdrive inventor, stated that the Cannae drive "operates along similar lines to EmDrive, except that its thrust is derived from a reduced reflection coefficient at one end plate," which he says "degrades the Q resonance factor of the device and hence the level of thrust that can be obtained"

Why $14 billion aircraft carriers are a bad idea

Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain, is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and the director of its Defense Strategies and Assessments Program. This is a summary of the case he made in the National Review against aircraft carriers.

If the US Navy wants to address its budget crisis, its falling ship count, its atrophying strategic position, and the problem of its now-marginal combat effectiveness — and reassert its traditional dominance of the seas — it should embrace technological innovation and increase its efficiency. In short: It needs to stop building aircraft carriers.

* $14 billion apiece
* 5000 people to operate
* If a carrier and its crew were lost that would be double the US casualties in the Afghanistan war

The lessons of World War II, in which several large fleet carriers were lost or badly damaged, convinced Navy leaders to pursue a goal of a 100,000-ton carrier that could support a 100,000-pound aircraft capable of carrying larger bomb payloads, including nuclear weapons, 2,000 miles or more to hit strategic targets, making the platform larger, more expensive, and manned with more of the Navy’s most valuable assets, its people. Today’s new class of carrier, the Ford, which will be placed into commission next year, displaces 100,000 tons of water, and has a crew of 4,800 and a price of $14 billion. The great cost of the Cold War–era “super-carriers” has resulted in a reduction of the carrier force, from over 30 fleet carriers in World War II to just ten carriers today. While the carrier of today is more capable, each of the ten can be in only one place at a time, limiting the Navy’s range of effectiveness.

* nearly 80 percent of a FA-18 Hornet’s 9,000-flight-hour lifetime is spent maintaining the flight qualifications of its pilots
* with all costs factored in the average cost per bomb from an aircraft carrier is nearly $8 million. Which is 4 times a Tomakawk missile

NASA's ten electric engine battery powered plane

Imagine a battery-powered plane that has 10 engines and can take off like a helicopter and fly efficiently like an aircraft. That is a concept being developed by NASA researchers called Greased Lightning or GL-10.

NASA Langley researchers designed and built a battery-powered, 10-engine remotely piloted aircraft. The Greased Lightning GL-10 prototype has a 10-foot wingspan and can take off like a helicopter and fly efficiently like an airplane. In this video, engineers successfully transition the plan from hover to wing-borne flight in tests at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia.

The team, at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is looking at the idea initially as a potential unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). "We have a couple of options that this concept could be good for," said Bill Fredericks, aerospace engineer. "It could be used for small package delivery or vertical take off and landing, long endurance surveillance for agriculture, mapping and other applications. A scaled up version -- much larger than what we are testing now -- would make also a great one to four person size personal air vehicle.""

The GL-10 is currently in the design and testing phase. The initial thought was to develop a 20-foot wingspan (6.1 meters) aircraft powered by hybrid diesel/electric engines, but the team started with smaller versions for testing, built by rapid prototyping.

"We built 12 prototypes, starting with simple five-pound (2.3 kilograms) foam models and then 25-pound (11.3 kilograms), highly modified fiberglass hobby airplane kits all leading up to the 55-pound (24.9 kilograms), high quality, carbon fiber GL-10 built in our model shop by expert technicians, " said aerospace engineer David North.

May 08, 2015

Low Energy Toll Shortcut to faster Quantum State Preparation

Quantum technologies come in a wide variety of forms, from computers, sensors, and cryptographic systems to simulations and imaging systems. But one thing that all current and future quantum systems have in common is the need to achieve reliable control over physical systems such as atoms or photons. A frequently used method to prepare quantum systems in the desired quantum state is a quantum adiabatic process, but these processes often take so long that environmental noise causes the quantum state to decohere and lose its "quantumness."

To speed up quantum state preparation and minimize decoherence, physicists have devised so-called "shortcuts to adiabaticity" (STA), which refer to any process that prepares quantum states in a shorter time than adiabatic processes without losing the benefits of being adiabatic. Originally developed for simple systems consisting of a single particle, STA has recently been extended to many-body systems, which are more relevant for applications. However, the implementation of STA in many-body systems is still very challenging due to the inherent complexity of these systems.

Researchers have devised a new hybrid method for preparing quantum states for many-body systems that combines STA with optimal control. The main advantage of the new method is that it can achieve nearly perfect STA performance yet allows for significant simplification by not requiring complete knowledge of the underlying mechanisms. The method shows that it's possible to speed up quantum state preparation at a low enough cost to justify the quantum shortcut.

Arxiv - Shortcut to Adiabaticity in the Lipkin-Meshkov-Glick Model

We study transitionless quantum driving in an infinite-range many-body system described by the Lipkin-Meshkov-Glick model. Despite the correlation length being always infinite the closing of the gap at the critical point makes the driving Hamiltonian of increasing complexity also in this case. To this aim we develop a hybrid strategy combining shortcut to adiabaticity and optimal control that allows us to achieve remarkably good performance in suppressing the defect production across the phase transition.

Carnival of Space 404

1. NASA Chandra X-ray Space Telescope blog - NASA's Chandra Suggests Black Holes Gorging at Excessive Rates

Astronomers have studied 51 quasars with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and found they may represent an unusual population of black holes that consume excessive amounts of matter, as described in our latest press release. Quasars are objects that have supermassive black holes that also shine very brightly in different types of light. By examining the X-ray properties with Chandra, and combining them with data from ultraviolet and visible light observations, scientists are trying to determine exactly how these large black holes grow so quickly in the early Universe.

The quasars in this study - including the three shown as Chandra images in the bottom of the graphic - are located between about 5 billion and 11.5 billion light years from Earth. These quasars were selected because they had unusually weak emission from certain atoms, especially carbon, at ultraviolet wavelengths. Also, about 65% of the quasars in this new study were found to be much fainter in X-rays, by about 40 times on average, than typical quasars.

2. NASA Chandra X-ray Space Telescope blog- Supermassive Black Holes Running at Full Tilt

Bin Luo has mainly been working on X-ray studies of supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies. He is now leading the data analysis of the 7-million-second (81 days) Chandra Deep Field-South survey, the deepest Chandra observation ever performed.

Monstrous black holes – quasars fueled by large amounts of gas and dust, consuming of the order of a couple solar masses per year – are known nearly universally to be strong X-ray emitters. Meanwhile, strong line emission – that is, light coming from a narrow range of wavelengths – is also a hallmark of quasar spectra in optical and ultraviolet bands. Therefore, I was quite puzzled when we discovered that a small group of quasars with remarkably weak ultraviolet line emission are often extremely X-ray weak. The pioneering work was led by Jianfeng Wu, Niel Brandt, and Pat Hall in 2011 and 2012, where the X-ray emission from 19 such quasars was examined. What makes things even more interesting is that for a subgroup of these quasars selected with refined ultraviolet properties, almost 100% are weak in X-ray light.

May 07, 2015

Super-Critical Water-cooled Reactors

Supercritical water cooled nuclear reactors are one of the generation four reactor options.

In June 2014, China announced their plan to produce a 1000MWe demonstration SWCR known as SCR-1000, with commissioning scheduled for 2022-2025. China is currently collaborating with Euratom on fuel qualification tests for the SWCR.

BTW - It is not that China is great for making new nuclear reactor technology. China is at a stage of development where they need to rapidly increase the amount of energy per person and they have the money to do it. If China does not go for more nuclear power they would continue to have more coal power and coal power produces a lot of pollution.

Other countries are research SCWR

SCWR System Arrangement signed by Canada, Euratom and Japan (2006) and Russia (2011)

Joint Projects (Canada, Euratom and Japan):
• Thermal-Hydraulics and Safety (PA signed in 2009)
• Materials and Chemistry (PA signed in 2010)
• Fuel Qualification Test (provisional)
• System Integration and Assessment (provisional)

General SCWR facts

* Evolutionary development from current water cooled reactors
• Cooled with light water and moderated with light or heavy water
• System pressure over 22.1 MPa (supercritical)
• Focus on thermal neutron spectrum with option on fast spectrum
• Once through steam cycle
• Plant net efficiency will be over 44%
• Minimum capital costs at given power (improved economics)
• Improved safety, proliferation resistance and sustainability

Some of the Challenges

Coolant enthalpy rise in the core up to 10x higher
* Intermediate coolant mixing in the core?
• Higher coolant core outlet temperatures over 500°C
• Hotter peak cladding temperatures over 600°C
* Stainless steel instead of Zircalloy claddings?
• Prediction of cladding temperatures

Five sub-earth size exoplanets around an 11.2 billion year old star

The chemical composition of stars hosting small exoplanets (with radii less than four Earth radii) appears to be more diverse than that of gas-giant hosts, which tend to be metal-rich. This implies that small, including Earth-size, planets may have readily formed at earlier epochs in the universe's history when metals were more scarce. We report Kepler spacecraft observations of Kepler-444, a metal-poor Sun-like star from the old population of the Galactic thick disk and the host to a compact system of five transiting planets with sizes between those of Mercury and Venus. We validate this system as a true five-planet system orbiting the target star and provide a detailed characterization of its planetary and orbital parameters based on an analysis of the transit photometry. Kepler-444 is the densest star with detected solar-like oscillations. We use asteroseismology to directly measure a precise age of 11.2 ± 1.0 Gyr for the host star, indicating that Kepler-444 formed when the universe was less than 20% of its current age and making it the oldest known system of terrestrial-size planets. We thus show that Earth-size planets have formed throughout most of the universe's 13.8 billion year history, leaving open the possibility for the existence of ancient life in the Galaxy. The age of Kepler-444 not only suggests that thick-disk stars were among the hosts to the first Galactic planets, but may also help to pinpoint the beginning of the era of planet formation

Kepler-444's system is not much like ours, though. Kepler-444 is slightly smaller than our sun, and its planets orbit extremely close in. The habitable zone in this system starts around 0.4 astronomical units (AU), or Earth-Sun distances. Yet the outermost planet huddles at only 0.08 AU. That's roughly five times closer than Mercury is to our own sun.

Kepler-444 and its planets to an astounding 11.2 billion years old. That's nearly 2.5 times as old as our solar system. None of Kepler-444's planets are thought to be habitable, as they circle the star at a scorchingly-close distance. However, Campante said that finding those planets is a great stride forward in the search for older, habitable worlds and the best may be yet to come.

"This system gives us hope that there are other habitable worlds that we can't detect because we don't have enough observing timespan yet," Campante said.

NIRC2 adaptive optics image of Kepler-444. The image was obtained using the for a total of 378 s of integration time. Declination and right ascension coordinates (J2000.0) are given along the vertical and horizontal axes, respectively.

Arxiv - An ancient extrasolar system with five sub-Earth-size planets (42 pages)

Planetary Resources will have two asteroid mining demonstration spacecraft in 2015

Planetary Resources will advance towards asteroid mining with two launches in 2015 of our technology demonstration spacecraft.

The first of these spacecraft launched successfully into space today. The Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R) technology demonstration spacecraft is on board the SpaceX Falcon 9 that is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) as a part of the CRS-6 crew resupply mission.

Once it reaches the ISS, A3R will be brought on board by the astronauts, and be put in a queue for launch from the Kibo air-lock into low-Earth Orbit tentatively in July 2015. A3R will also complete the mission of the first Arkyd 3 that we lost last year in the Antares explosion, by testing the subsystems we’ll need to venture out into the Solar System and prospect for valuable resources on asteroids.
Arkyd 3 Reflight

Arkyd 6

Stem Cells that are precursors to eggs are used to provide youthful mitochondria boosts IVF success by four times for older women

Doctors in Canada have begun a new chapter in medical history, delivering the first in a wave of babies expected to be born this summer through a technique that some experts think can dramatically improve the success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Now 22 days old, Zain Rajani was born through a new method that relies on the discovery that women have, in their own ovaries, a possible solution to infertility caused by poor egg quality. Pristine stem cells of healthy, yet-to-be developed eggs that can help make a woman’s older eggs act young again. Unlike other kinds of stem cells, which have the ability to develop into any kind of cell in the body, including cancerous ones, these precursor cells can only form eggs.

Scientists from OvaScience, the fertility company that is providing Augment, then identified and removed the egg stem cells and purified them to extract their mitochondria.

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, a molecular battery that energizes everything a cell does. Adding the mitochondria from these egg precursor cells to Natasha’s poor-quality eggs and her husband Omar’s sperm dramatically improved their IVF results. In the Rajanis’ first traditional-IVF attempt, Natasha produced 15 eggs, but only four were fertilized—just one of those matured to the point were Natasha’s doctor felt comfortable transferring it. “I knew it wasn’t the best-quality embryo, but it was what she had,” says. Dr. Marjorie Dixon, of First Steps Fertility.

With Augment, the Rajanis produced four embryos, two of which have been frozen should the couple decide to have more children. Another one became baby Zain.

It’s not currently available in the U.S., since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the process of introducing mitochondria a form of gene therapy, which it regulates. So far, some three dozen women in four countries have tried the technique, and eight are currently pregnant. All of the women have had at least one unsuccessful cycle of IVF; some have had as many as seven.

OvaScience’s proprietary technology platform leverages the breakthrough discovery of egg precursor (EggPCSM) cells. EggPC cells are immature egg cells found inside the protective ovarian lining that have the potential to be matured into new, fertilizable eggs. It was long believed a woman was born with a set number of eggs that die over time. The presence of EggPC cells changes that fundamental understanding about female biology, and opens up extraordinary possibilities to help women improve their fertility.

EggPC cells were first discovered by one of OvaScience’s scientific founders, Jonathan Tilly, Ph.D. Subsequent research demonstrated that EggPC cells exist in human ovaries and have the potential to develop into mature eggs, thereby replenishing a woman’s egg supply.

Proof of concept all memristor brain mimicking chip

An all memristor chip, built by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Stony Brook University, processes data not with digital logic circuits but with elements that mimic, in simplified form, the neurons and synapses of biological brains. When a network like that is exposed to new data, it “learns” as the synapses that connect neurons adjust the neurons’ influence on one another.

Robert Legenstein, an associate professor at Graz University of Technology in Austria, wrote: “If this design can be scaled up to large network sizes, it will affect the future of computing … Laptops, mobile phones and robots could include ultra-low-power neuromorphic chips that process visual, auditory and other types of sensory information.

Brain-inspired—or “neuromorphic”—chips have been made before, and IBM is trying to commercialize them. They generally use the same silicon transistors and digital circuits that make up ordinary computer processors. But those digital components are not suited to mimicking synapses, says Dmitri Strukov, an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who led work on the new memristor chip. Many transistors and digital circuits are needed to represent a single synapse. By contrast, each of the 100 or so synapses on the UCSB chip is represented using only a single memristor.

“A [biological] synapse is an analog memory device, and there is really no good way of implementing that in a compact, energy-efficient way with conventional technology,” says Strukov. “Memristors by themselves are an analog memory device; it’s a perfect match.”

The UCSB group’s simple chip is just a proof of concept, but the researchers believe their techniques can be scaled up to make larger, more powerful devices. Strukov says the technology could get a helping hand from the efforts companies such as HP and SK Hynix are making to commercialize memristors for data storage.

HP should be able to scale memristor chips to billions and even trillions.

This circuit can learn to recognize simple black-and-white patterns, thanks to devices called memristors located at each place the wires cross.

Nature - Training and operation of an integrated neuromorphic network based on metal-oxide memristors

May 06, 2015

Guided missile tech adapted for 50 caliber bullets

DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program, which developed a self-steering bullet to increase hit rates for difficult, long-distance shots, completed in February its most successful round of live-fire tests to date. An experienced shooter using the technology demonstration system repeatedly hit moving and evading targets. Additionally, a novice shooter using the system for the first time hit a moving target.

This video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are moving and accelerating. EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that can impede successful hits.

“True to DARPA’s mission, EXACTO has demonstrated what was once thought impossible: the continuous guidance of a small-caliber bullet to target,” said Jerome Dunn, DARPA program manager. “This live-fire demonstration from a standard rifle showed that EXACTO is able to hit moving and evading targets with extreme accuracy at sniper ranges unachievable with traditional rounds. Fitting EXACTO’s guidance capabilities into a small .50-caliber size is a major breakthrough and opens the door to what could be possible in future guided projectiles across all calibers.”

The EXACTO program developed new approaches and advanced capabilities to improve the range and accuracy of sniper systems beyond the current state of the art. The program sought to improve sniper effectiveness and enhance troop safety by allowing greater shooter standoff range and reduction in target engagement timelines.

New Dwave Systems Quantum Computer Videos

Seeing the D-Wave facilities first-hand is a very cool experience. They look a lot like computers did back in the 60s

D-Wave is making fantastic progress in fabricating ever-larger processors. In fact, they will be releasing our new 1,152-qubit “Washington” processor in March later of this year. So they are all very excited about that. However, size (i.e., qubit-count) is not the only aspect of the processor that has been improved. We have also lowered the noise and stretched the energy scale of the qubits (making them inherently more quantum mechanical), and we have strengthened our ability to create chains of qubits (making it easier to program the processor by locking qubits together to change the effective topology of the chip). Our initial performance tests have gone really well, and we are seeing some very exciting performance from the new processor. We are now perfecting new benchmark problems and new performance metrics that more clearly showcase the innate capabilities of the Washington system. These studies, and more, will be rolling out later in the year.

The Washington chip has 2048 physical qubits but they will release with 1152 active qubits.

D-Wave’s main experimental facility is shown in a new video.

They show the cooling system, the electromagnetic shielding and how the electronics system programs the quantum processor.

Washington quantum computer chip

Space Coaches - Reusable Refuelable Interplanetary Spacecraft made mostly of water at one hundredth the cost of conventional chemical rockets

A website,, expands on a 2010 paper which describes a design for a reusable interplanetary spacecraft made mostly out of water or pykrete (ice frozen with fiber material).

The proposed design “burns” water in microwave electrothermal engines, a type of electric propulsion system that has been tested with water as propellant, and proven to be several times more fuel efficient than conventional chemical rockets. The ability to use water, as well as waste streams, as propellant radically alters the economics of deep space missions, reducing the cost of a mission by potentially one hundred fold, making deep space missions comparable in cost to current manned missions to low earth orbit.

The ships made mostly of water, powered by microwave engines, will be capable of reaching destinations throughout the solar system, at just 1/10th to 1/100th the cost of conventional chemical rockets.

The system described in the paper is based entirely on existing technologies that have already been flight tested or are well under development, and is feasible with present day technology and Earth launch platforms to low orbit.

These ships, in addition to being cheaper to build, will be fully reusable, and will be mostly organic structures that will be far more comfortable than conventional capsule designs, and more like a scaled down version of Gerard K O'Neil's proposed space colonies than a metal ship.

They have coined the term spacecoach to describe these ships, a reference to the prairie schooners of the Old West.

They present a reference design that combines inflatable structures and thin film PV arrays to form a kite-like structure that both has a large PV array area, and can be rotated to provide artificial gravity in the outer areas. The ability to generate artificial gravity while providing ample radiation protection solves two of the thorniest problems in long duration spaceflight.

They envision a series of design competitions for water compatible electric propulsion technologies, large scale solar arrays, and overall ship designs. Much of the reference design can be validated in ground based competitions and experiments, followed by uncrewed test vehicles.
Spacecoaches are possible not because of any one insight or breakthrough, but because of the convergence of improvements in component technologies, specifically thin film photovoltaics, electric propulsion, and inflatable structures. The combination of the three, particularly when you add water for propulsion, leads to one or two order of magnitude improvements in mission economics.

Thin film solar photovoltaics, which enable the construction of large area PV sails, will enable ships to generate hundreds of kilowatts to several megawatts of electrical power.

SEP (solar electric propulsion) is a well understood, flight ready technology. Engines that function with water or gasified waste will be well suited to the spacecoach architecture. We simply need to test existing SEP technologies with water and waste streams to pin down performance and efficiency numbers, which can be done via an X-Prize style engineering competition. Scaling them to propel a large (40 tonne) ship will be done by clustering them in arrays, so there will be no need to build a single high power engine when an array of many 10-20 kilowatt units will do just fine, while also adding redundancy

Architecture for improved scaling for Ion Trap Quantum Computers

Arxiv - Ball-grid array architecture for microfabricated ion traps

State-of-the-art microfabricated ion traps for quantum information research are approaching nearly one hundred control electrodes. We report here on the development and testing of a new architecture for microfabricated ion traps, built around ball-grid array (BGA) connections, that is suitable for increasingly complex trap designs. In the BGA trap, through-substrate vias bring electrical signals from the back side of the trap die to the surface trap structure on the top side. Gold-ball bump bonds connect the back side of the trap die to an interposer for signal routing from the carrier. Trench capacitors fabricated into the trap die replace area-intensive surface or edge capacitors. Wirebonds in the BGA architecture are moved to the interposer. These last two features allow the trap die to be reduced to only the area required to produce trapping fields. The smaller trap dimensions allow tight focusing of an addressing laser beam for fast single-qubit rotations. Performance of the BGA trap as characterized with 40Ca+ ions is comparable to previous surface-electrode traps in terms of ion heating rate, mode frequency stability, and storage lifetime. We demonstrate two-qubit entanglement operations with 171Yb+ ions in a second BGA trap.

A ball-grid array architecture offers significant improvements in size and scalability for microfabricated ion traps. Trench capacitors fabricated into the trap die replace surface filter capacitors, providing a 30× reduction in trap die area over traps with planar capacitors. Through-substrate vias connect the electrodes to pads on the back side of the trap die, eliminating wirebonds from the trap surface. The trap die is bump-bonded to a separate interposer chip for signal routing to a CPGA carrier. Optical access to a trapped ion is improved by the reduced BGA trap chip area and the absence of wirebond obstructions, allowing tighter focusing of laser beams for qubit operations and addressing.

1. Overview of the BGA design: (a) Die bond region of the CPGA showing the BGA trap and the interposer footprint. (b) Side view. (c) Fully packaged BGA trap. The long bond wire supplies the trap RF signal.

Journal of Applied Physics - Ball-grid array architecture for microfabricated ion traps

May 05, 2015

Silk reinforced carbon nanotubes spun by spiders is 3.5 times stronger than unaltered silk

The protein matrix and hard tissues of insects, worms, ants and spiders naturally incorporates metals, such as zinc, manganese and copper. This leads to mechanical hardening of teeth, jaws, mandibles, ovipositors and to an enhancement of silk toughness. Thus, the artificial incorporation of metals, or even insulating or semiconducting materials, into these protein structures could be exploited to obtain a reinforced matrix. A number of groups reported the introduction of metals, such as zinc, titanium, aluminium, copper and lead in the protein structure of spider silk through multiple pulsed vapor-phase infiltrations. This allowed us to increase its toughness modulus from 131 MPa up to 1.5 GPa. Biomaterials with increased mechanical or conductive properties could find innovative applications in garment textiles and medical nerve regeneration. It was suggested to coat spider silks with amine - functionalized multi-wall carbon nanotubes, to produce electrically conducting fibers, or with cadmium telluride, magnetite or gold nanoparticles, for fluorescent, magnetic and electronic applications. However, to the best of our knowledge, the incorporation of materials in the inner protein structure of spider silk has not been achieved to date. Here, we report the production of silk incorporating graphene and carbon nanotubes directly by spider spinning, after spraying spiders with the corresponding aqueous dispersions. We observe a significant increment of the mechanical properties with respect to the pristine silk, in terms of fracture strength, Young’s and toughness moduli. We measure a fracture strength up to~5.4 GPa, a Young’s modulus up to ~47.8 GPa and a toughness modulus up to ~2.1 GPa, or 1567 J/g, which , to the best of our knowledge, is the highest reported to date , even when compared to the current toughest knotted fibers . This approach could be extended to other animals and plants and could lead to a new class of bionic materials for ultimate applications.

Arxiv - Silk reinforced with graphene or carbon nanotubes spun by spiders

New inexpensive centimeter-accurate GPS system could transform mainstream applications

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a centimeter-accurate GPS-based positioning system that could revolutionize geolocation on virtual reality headsets, cellphones and other technologies, making global positioning and orientation far more precise than what is currently available on a mobile device.

The researchers' new system could allow unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver packages to a specific spot on a consumer's back porch, enable collision avoidance technologies on cars and allow virtual reality (VR) headsets to be used outdoors. The researchers' new centimeter-accurate GPS coupled with a smartphone camera could be used to quickly build a globally referenced 3-D map of one's surroundings that would greatly expand the radius of a VR game. Currently, VR does not use GPS, which limits its use to indoors and usually a two- to three-foot radius.

The smartphone antenna’s poor multipath suppression and irregular gain pattern result in large time-correlated phase errors that significantly increase the time to integer ambiguity resolution as compared to even a low-quality stand-alone patch antenna. The time to integer resolution — and to a centimeter-accurate fix — is significantly reduced when more GNSS signals are tracked or when the smartphone experiences gentle wavelength-scale random motion.

GNSS chipsets are now ubiquitous in smartphones and tablets. Yet the underlying positioning accuracy of these consumer-grade GNSS receivers has stagnated over the past decade. The latest clock, orbit, and atmospheric models have improved ranging accuracy to a meter or so, leaving receiver-dependent multipath and front-end-noise-induced variations as the dominant sources of error in current consumer devices. Under good multipath conditions, 2-to-3-meter-accurate positioning is typical; under adverse multipath, accuracy degrades to 10 meters or worse.

Test architecture designed for an in-situ study of a smartphone-grade GNSS antenna. The analog GNSS signal is tapped off after the phone’s internal bandpass filter and low-noise amplifier and is directed to a dedicated RF front-end for downconversion and digitization. Data are stored to file for subsequent post-processing by a software GNSS receiver and CDGNSS filter.

Centimeter Positioning with a Smartphone-Quality GNSS Antenna (10 pages)

China has upgraded SU-27 copy but still buying generation 4.5 Russian Su-35

The upgraded D variant of China’s J-11 fighter jet, a copy of the Russian Sukhoi Su-27, has made its maiden flight, Chinese media reported. The jet reportedly has new radar and an air refueling system.

The J-11D model, which was tested in the air for the first time on Wednesday, incorporates technologies developed for the J-16 fighter jet.

It is reported to have better active phased array radar, use more composite materials in its wings and tail, and be capable of firing more advanced air-to-air missiles like PL-10 and PL-15.

The J-11D is the latest in Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC)'s family fighters licensed and modified from the Russian Sukhoi Su-27 "Flanker." SAC has built well over 200 Su-27 and J-11s, such as the licensed produced J-11A and indigenously upgraded J-11B, which had better engines and radar, and a lighter airframe. It is possible that improvements from other Chinese Flanker variants, like the J-15 carrier fighter and J-16 strike fighter, have been applied to the J-11D.

China's acquisition of Su-35 supermaneuverable multirole fighters from Russia is necessary despite the development of the J-11D air superiority fighter, writes the Beijing-based Sina Military Network.

The J-11D, an upgraded version of the J-11B, conducted its maiden flight on April 29, just as China is preparing to receive its first batch of 24 Su-35 aircraft from Russia.


New Night Vision Goggles that look like Ballastic Eyewear, Railguns and other ONR Future Force Technology

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is helping to shape the future force by investing in science and technology research to support tomorrow's advanced defense capabilities.

Ballard gives a rich talk of the potential of the ocean, extreme life, rich minerals and more

Oceanographer and explorer Dr. Bob Ballard discusses science, technology, engineering and mathematics to an overflow crowd Feb. 4 at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology EXPO. Among his many accomplishments, Ballard is known for leading the research to find the Titanic.

* he discusses the terrain on the ocean floor and how the next submarine should be like a tank and use terrain, instead of being like a blimp above it
* he talks about finding Titanic
* he talks about using unmanned exploration systems from a surface ship to get more bottom time exploration
* There are 100,000 Seamounts (active volcano, mountains that have rich life above and them and are creating rich mineral deposits)
* NASA has 1000 time the budget for exploring space as the budget for ocean exploration
* Ballard talks about his collaboration with the Office of Naval Research

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