May 23, 2015

Truck Platooning timeline through 2030

A platoon of two trucks is like a short train driving on the road, with the trucks driving very closely
behind each other.
The distance between the two trucks can really be extremely small – creating a desirable form of tailgating. The distance can be as low as 0.3 seconds, which at 80 km/h is about 6.7 metres distance between the vehicles. Driving so close together is made possible by advanced Automated Driving technology, in conjunction with wireless vehicle-tovehicle (V2V) communication that makes it possible that the vehicles communicate with each other.

Once platooning is activated, a Following Vehicle in the platoon trails the Leading Vehicle. The Following Vehicle now follows the Leading Vehicle automatically, without interference of its driver. Because the vehicles are able to communicate with each another, they can adjust their speed and position without the typically delayed response time of a human driver. The vehicles communicate both ways, so also the Leading Vehicle can adjust its speed or position based on the response of the Following Vehicle. And since the vehicles are wirelessly coupled, it is possible to easily hop-on and hop-off from the platoon on-the-fly. There is no need to stop driving; connecting to a platoon or disconnecting can happen while driving by a push of a button.

Truck platooning has great potential for reducing transport costs, by lowering fuel consumption due to improved aerodynamics from reduced air resistance, eliminating the need for an attentive driver in the second vehicle, and better usage of truck assets, by optimisation of driving times and minimisation of idle time. On the societal level, driving safety increases as typically 90% of all accidents are human-induced, and platooning technology prevents human errors, leading to less accidents and damages. Greenhouse gas and air-quality related emissions decrease, and congestion and traffic jams are reduced.

A phased implementation is crucial for widespread acceptance of platooning technology in the society at large, and especially of other road users. We expect that large-scale deployment in the commercial transportation industry is possible within approximately a five year period (see Fig. 5), so that in 2020, a form of truck platooning (e.g., SAE levels 2 or 3) is legally permitted and commercially available. More extensive applications of platooning (e.g., SAE level 4 or 5) are not expected before 2030. Of course, there is a fair amount of guesswork in this timeline, as timing is very much dependent on political support, innovation funding, technological advancement and public acceptance. This timeline is elaborated in Section 6.2, in which we propose to commission a five-year Dutch open innovation programme towards the goal of commercial platooning in 2020.

In terms of development process, we might compare truck platooning with the growth trajectory of the LZV developments in the Netherlands. Initial small-scale experimentation started in 2000, the first wide-scale tests initiated in 2006. Final developments were wrapped up in 2012 when the LZV was officially allowed on Dutch main roads, so about 6 years later. Leveraging the encouraging experience of the LZV, we expect that developments will be along the lines of the LZV, such that platooning trucks are officially allowed on Dutch main roads in about five years’ time. Required changes to European legislation and alignment in Dutch legislation with regard to driving/resting times (EC 561/2006) and the digital tachograph (EEC 3821/85) legislation will be among the greatest threats to this timeline, as well as the technological difficulty associated with ensuring robust control over the platoon under all circumstances.

7.7 Million Truck Platoon Systems to Ship by 2025 and Japanese truck platooning research

Truck platoons are the most imminently anticipated application of highly automated driving in commercial vehicles. A fusion of forward-looking radar and V2V communication enable fleets of trucks to safely maneuver with a short distance between vehicles. The reduction in aerodynamic drag for following vehicles, and buildup of pressure behind the lead vehicle yields impressive fuel efficiencies, with various tests reporting convoy savings of between 5% and 10%. “With most fleet operators attributing some 30 to 40% of their operating costs to fuel expenditure, the savings presented by platooning are significant,” comments James Hodgson, Research Analyst, ABI Research.

As technology progresses and regulations adapt to accommodate greater vehicle automation, further benefits to fleet operators will come in the shape of labor productivity gains and better asset utilization. Currently, solutions from pioneers such as Peloton Technology require active intervention from the following driver to keep the vehicle within the lane of travel, but in the future the driver of the lead vehicle could be in sole control of all vehicles in the convoy; allowing following drivers to rest, or eliminating the need for them altogether.

“The emerging market for platooning is promising; in no small part due to its relevance across a considerable spectrum of vehicle automation. The premise stretches all the way from a platoon comprised of two vehicles whose drivers seek to narrow the interval between them in a safe manner, through to scenarios which involve more vehicles than they do drivers,” Hodgson explains.

Recent high-profile investments in platooning technology have been made by the likes of Denso International America, Volvo Group Venture Capital, Magna International, Intel Capital, and the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund, among others.

Here is some 2012 research [updated Mar, 2013] on advanced Cooperative Vehicle–Highway Automation Systems (Federal Highway Administration review of Asian research)

The most ambitious fully automated driving activity appears to be occurring in Japan’s Energy ITS project, which has been developing and testing a platoon of three fully automated trucks for close to 5 years. This project, under the sponsorship of METI through its New Energy Technology Development Organization (NEDO), has been funded at the equivalent of about $12 million per year for 5 years. The work is being conducted by researchers at multiple universities, with coordination and management by the Japan Automobile Research Institute (JARI) but with little direct involvement by the truck manufacturers. The primary goal is to attain energy savings (CO2 reductions) through the reduction of aerodynamic drag by operating trucks in an electronically coupled platoon at shorter-than-normal gaps, with additional objectives of improving highway traffic flow and safety. Because of Japan’s rapidly aging population, its truck fleet operators are concerned about future shortages of truck drivers, which could be alleviated if the following trucks in the platoon could indeed be driverless.

Presentation slide. Energy ITS truck platoon definition of capabilities. NOTE: V2V = vehicle-to-vehicle communication, ACC = adaptive cruise control, CACC = cooperative adaptive cruise control.

Augmented Reality Systems set to Revolutionize Battlefield Operations

British engineers from BAE Systems are working in collaboration with academics at the University of Birmingham to develop applications for this ground-breaking technology concept, which intelligently ‘mixes’ together the real and virtual world to allow operators to take real-time control of their environments like never before.

This includes a briefcase sized portable command centre that can be easily deployed and set-up anywhere to tackle emergency scenarios by creating a ‘virtual’ information rich workspace, and a ‘wearable cockpit’ to provide pilots with a customisable environment to enhance their situational awareness while also reducing the cost of cockpit upgrades.

This revolutionary concept called ‘mixed reality’ allows the operator to see themselves and their surroundings along with virtual images, video feeds, objects and avatars, seamlessly bringing together the critical battlefield elements in a single place.

Augmented reality systems as small as a contact lens could revolutionise complex emergency response and military battlefield operations in the future, by drastically improving the situational awareness, decision-making and asset management of operators.

Russian Supercarrier design has two electromagnetic launchers

Krylovsky State Research Center (KRSC) came up with a scale model of a new aircraft carrier known as 23000 "Storm," daily newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported.

"Storm" can carry 90 deck-based aircraft for various combat missions. The carrier has two ramps and two electromagnetic catapults to launch aircraft from its deck.

The ship's power plant will be either a conventional power plant or a nuclear one, depending on potential customers' requirements, Rossiyskaya Gazeta said.

The new aircraft carrier has a displacement of 100,000 tons, is 330 meters in length, 40 meters in width and has a draft of 11 meters. The ship has a top speed of 30 kt and a sea-keeping performance of up to grade 7.

The model features a split air wing comprising navalised T-50 PAKFAs and MiG-29Ks, as well as jet-powered naval early warning aircraft, and Ka-27 naval helicopters.

NASA NIAC - Quaser and Pulsar space navigation and Cubesat planetary exploration

One of the new NASA NIAC (NASA Innovative Advanced concept) studies is Differential Deployable Autonomous Radio Navigation (ΔDARN). This will be carried out by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Haystack Observatory. This will bring astronomical radio observations of quasars, masers and pulsars into play as a means to autonomously guide spacecraft among the planets, and even to the stars. The roadmap leads to a demonstration mission and utilization on deep space missions large and small. Phase 1 will produce a preliminary catalog of reference maser sources, a system analysis, and conceptual design of a demonstration mission.

CubeSat with Nanostructured Sensing Instrumentation for Planetary Exploration

The University of Southern California and University of Utah propose an innovative concept study to develop a CubeSat integrated with a new, nanosensor based instrument for low cost in situ analysis of asteroid and comet composition. The new instrument utilizes a TiO2 nanotube sensing platform with integrated compound semiconductor nanowires to determine surface composition element via Neutron Activated Analysis (NAA). This technique requires no sample preparation and collection operation, and is able to detect over 74 trace elements in parts per billion (ppb) range. The instrument is low cost, low power, low mass, compact, and disposable, thus making it potentially useful for integration with a CubeSat. This research will investigate the feasibility of an innovative, low cost, CubeSat based planetary mission concept which applies the proposed instrument for in situ ground truth analysis of small asteroids and comets.

Deep Space Industries will get propellant from asteroids

NASA has funded more NIAC (Innovative advanced concept) studies.

Deep Space Industries has been funded to develop In-Space Manufacture of Storable Propellants

Many deep-space, missions, especially those that return material or crews to near-Earth space, are severely limited by the need to carry propellants and heat shields to achieve their mission goals. Lifting these assets from the surface of Earth, landing them on the target body, launching them from there into an Earth-intercept trajectory, and capturing them into Earth orbit requires Earth launch of masses of propellant that increase exponentially with the mission’s total delta V requirement. Preliminary studies of the logistics of gathering material from the Moon and selected Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) have demonstrated very large enhancements of mass-retrieval capabilities using propellants derived from sources in space rather than propellants launched from Earth and carried throughout the mission. They also have clearly shown the enormous advantages inherent in deriving propellants from NEAs. This study examines water-based propulsion using NEA volatiles to manufacture storable chemical propellants. The problem of storable propellants on Earth has been solved by the use of hydrazine derivatives as fuel and N2O4 as oxidizer, both made possible by Earth’s nitrogen-rich atmosphere. Nitrogen is scarce on asteroids, and would be best devoted to creating fire-retardant atmospheres for crews. There are plausible paths known for making asteroid-derived carbon-based storable fuels, but the provenance of a suitable storable oxidizing agent that does not employ nitrogen is an unsolved and difficult problem.
Deep Space Industries will develop asteroid regolith simulants for use in terrestrial testing of DSI’s harvesting and processing technologies. This simulant will also be commercially available for scientific and industrial uses throughout the space resource community. Image: Artists concept of DSI’s harvesting technologies. Credit: Bryan Versteeg, Deep Space Industries

DSI is planning a series of reconnaissance spacecraft such as this Mothership craft, which will be sent in search of mineral-rich asteroids. Mothership will deliver nanosats to deep space destinations, acting as the power and communications hub while daughter craft perform exploratory and scientific missions. Credit: Bryan Versteeg, Deep Space Industries

High Iron levels in brain associated with Alzheimers and hastened onset

Studies have suggested that people with Alzheimer's also have higher iron levels in their brains. Now it seems that high iron may hasten the disease's onset.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia followed 144 older people who had mild cognitive impairment for seven years. To gauge how much iron was in their brains, they measured ferritin, a protein that binds to the metal, in their cerebrospinal fluid. For every nanogram per millilitre people had at the start of the study, they were diagnosed with Alzheimer's on average three months earlier.

The team also found that the biggest risk gene for Alzheimer's, ApoE4, was strongly linked with higher iron, suggesting this is why carrying the gene makes you more vulnerable.

CSF ferritin associates with ApoE levels and varies according to APOE genotype.

Nature Communications - Ferritin levels in the cerebrospinal fluid predict Alzheimer’s disease outcomes and are regulated by APOE

Keen Software House makes AI that can learn and create a hierarchy of goals

Keen Software House has improved their General artificial intelligence. It could already Pong, a Breakout Game and an Artificial Brain simulator and now it is able to work with delayed rewards and create a hierarchy of goals.

The AI was able to control movement through a maze like map and learn the rules of a game.

It used reinforcement learning to seek rewards and avoid punishment.

AI is able to follow a complex chain of strategy in order to complete its main goal. It can assign a hierarchical order to its various goals and plan ahead so it reaches an even bigger goal.

May 22, 2015

Having young blood keeps your bones healing faster

Young blood has once again shown its promise as an elixir of youth: blood from young mice helps bones of older animals heal.

Over the past few years, researchers have reversed muscle atrophy, memory loss, heart degradation and some of the effects of cognitive decline by pumping the blood of young mice into old mice. The results from these animal experiments were so intriguing that last year a team at Stanford University began the ultimate rejuvenation trial: giving blood plasma from under 30s to people with Alzheimer's. Results are expected next year.

Now, Benjamin Alman, a professor of surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, and his colleagues have tested young blood's ability to heal bones.

The team surgically joined the circulatory systems of mice of various ages, in a procedure known as parabiosis. Fractured shin bones of old mice healed faster and better when the rodents were joined to young mice than to mice their own age.

Nature Communication - Exposure to a youthful circulaton rejuvenates bone repair through modulation of β-catenin

Fully automated and one person retail kiosks

There are about three million interactive [fully automated] kiosks for other types of services globally.

Other markets where interactive kiosks have a particularly large impact are:

• Entertainment (e.g. DVD rental, photo printing, movie ticket ordering)
• Retail (e.g. self-checkout, deli-counter ordering, product information)
• Travel (e.g. airport check-in, hotel check-in/check-out)
• Financial services (e.g. bill payment, coin exchange, check cashing)
• Healthcare (e.g. patient check-in, patient information, prescription refills)
• Municipal & government (e.g. train/bus ticketing, driver’s license renewal, tax payment)
• Information/other (e.g. wayfinding, information, human resources)

Coinstar estimates a $6.7 billion sweet spot for companies offering automated vending of food and beverages, compared with the next biggest market--entertainment, which already includes Redbox -- at $3.8 billion.

The self-service kiosk industry grew 24 percent globally in 2013, and it is projected to continue this growth trend for at least the next five years. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, stated that he expects “2015 will be the year of Apple Pay.” Recently, Apple announced that over 200,000 new self-service machines, including parking meters, laundry machines, and vending machines, are now integrated with Apple Pay. Since launching in September, Apple Pay has already become the most popular mobile payment method available. Apple Pay continues to add financial institutions to its roster of integrated payment providers, and now is integrated by over 750 banks and credit unions.

Redbox has 44,000 kiosks. Redbox had a 38% stake in all movie rentals, including VOD. Overall, the prospects for the disc market are not bright. In a study this week, PwC estimated that physical home entertainment revenue will fall more than 28% from $12.2 billion last year to $8.7 billion in 2018. kiosks bring in more money for the studios per transaction than pay TV or streaming. Redbox does not depress sales of movies.

Three million global ATMs and new ATM videoconferencing

The ATM Industry Association predicted there would be 3 million ATMs across the globe by 2015 and the total number of withdrawals of cash from ATMs globally would rise to above 8.6 billion per year. For the U.S. and North America, RBR’s research showed the U.S. had 420,000 ATMs in 2009 and Canada had 58,217 but the number had risen to 481,000 together in 2010. RBR forecast the number of ATMs in Canada and the U.S. together to increase to 498,750 by 2015.

Instead of installing ATMs capable of only processing transactions, an increasing number of retail banks are tapping into ATMS with far more advanced functionality, including videoconferencing that connects customers with financial services experts working out of the bank’s central headquarters.

NCR, one of the primary manufacturers of ATMs, has developed much of the core technology that will drive this new customer experience in retail banking. NCR is working with a number of banking customers, including Wells Fargo, Bank of Montreal, First Hawaiian Bank, Akbank, Reliance Bank and Glenview State Bank to deploy NCR APTRA Interactive Teller kiosks.

The ultimate goals is to significantly shrink the physical size of the retail bank branch. Why are banks just now expanding the use of videoconferencing, a technology that has been around for decades?

Taylor attributes it to improved video compression, better network infrastructure and lower prices that make the use of videoconferencing more feasible in more situations. “The cost of delivering these services is now significantly less,” Taylor says. “In terms of staffing, this allows the bank to be more flexible.”

Japan economic revitalization plan is to double manufacturing robots and increase service robots by 20 times by 2020

Japan's revised revitalization strategy, the Robot Revolution Initiative, is to double the use of robotics in manufacturing, and increase by twenty-fold robotics use in other sectors, including service industries. In part this is an effort to deal with the country's declining birthrate and aging population by providing robotic helpmates in industries such as healthcare, agriculture, and the inspection and repair of the country's infrastructure."

The “Robotic Revolution Initiative Council” was to create a 5 year plan by the end of 2014 with the aim of addressing social challenges and realizing new industrial revolution by robots.

Four times the budget for robots, going up to $20 billion

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to expand the robot market in the near future by pouring a considerable amount of money into the project. We’re talking some 2.4 trillion Japanese Yen, or the equivalent of about $20 billion. The government is currently allocating about 600 billion Yen ($5.34 billion) into robotics, which is apparently enough to keep Japan in the lead when it comes to researching and building robots.

Japan previously showed off a cooking robot

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said

In the United States and Europe, other countries are attempting to become the leaders in new robotics by introducing new production systems that fuse IT, such as Big Data, with robotics. In this new era, if we continue to sit idly by, we are likely to simply become subcontractors of the United States and Europe.
The key to becoming a new, major player in robotics development is to spread the use of robotics from large-scale factories to every corner of our economy and society. I believe that we must transform robots into reliable partners that can support everyone who works, including those working in manufacturing in small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); those working in the agricultural industry, where the working population is aging; those doing back-breaking work in the field of nursing; and those working on the inspection and repair of aging infrastructure.

We have gathered here today people from a variety of fields beyond what we typically think of when we think about the conventional image of robots as industrial machines. This includes people from the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries; the food industry; the medical and welfare industries; the communications industry; and the construction industry. This truly represents a Japan-wide effort and I would say this is befitting a celebration to mark the start of the robot revolution.

Robots will dramatically change people’s lives and society. That is what makes this a robot revolution. To think that we could find success with conventional systems is nothing more than a dream within a dream. Now is the time to boldly transform our ideas. The Government and private sector must work as one to break down the walls between industries and between ministries and agencies, and follow a shared strategy and path with their sights set on the world.

The dawn of the revolution is upon us. At one SME I visited last year, robots were working side-by-side with humans and doing finely detailed assembly work. The price for one of these robots is around 7 million yen. That is affordable, even for an SME. I was very surprised to see such a high performing robot at such a low price.

Japan should have a nuclear reactor restart in July and China is buying into the French nuclear industry

1. Japan's nuclear regulator has approved Kyushu Electric Power Company's 'construction plan' for unit 2 of its Sendai nuclear power plant. The company hopes to restart unit 1 of the plant in July, with unit 2 following within months.

Over the next 4-5 years Japan could restart 4 to ten reactors per year.

Sendai nuclear plant

Up until the 2011 Fukushima accident, Japan had the third most nuclear power generation in the world.

2. Chinese nuclear companies are buying an interest in the French Nuclear Industry

France has the second most nuclear power generation in the world. China has about the fifth most but should be the third most by 2016.

China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) and China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) are going to obtain stakes in French nuclear company Areva while another Chinese company is thinking about creating a joint venture, a CNNC employee told the Global Times on Thursday.

Chinese nuclear companies have already shown interest in cooperating with Areva, said an employee from the CNNC who refused to be named. "CNNC has been pushing forward cooperation with Areva in processing nuclear waste and developing safety-related control systems," he said, noting that CNNC will join French state-controlled power utility company Eléctricité de France SA (EDF) in seeking to reorganize the French nuclear sector.

EDF officially proposed to purchase the reactor business of Areva, French newspaper Le Monde reported on Tuesday. The French government owns 87 percent of Areva and 84.5 percent of EDF, according to Le Monde. Areva, however, recorded a loss of 4.8 billion euros ( $ 5.35 billion) in 2014, which made the French government decide to restructure the country's nuclear industry.

Israel procuring another fifty 5000 pound bunker busters for a total of about two hundred

The US State Department has approved the sale to Israel of over 20,000 guided bomb kits and 8,650 associated warheads, including additional 5,000 lb 'bunker busters', the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 19 May.

Israel would need a B52 or B2 to deliver the 30,000 lb bunker busters that the US has developed. It is believed that the biggest US bunker busters are needed to crack Iran's deepest nuclear weapon research and uranium centrifuge containing bunkers.

Israel has requested 50 BLU-113 warheads. The BLU-113 is a 5,000 lb penetrator used with the GBU-28 laser-guided bomb that is designed to destroy deeply buried and heavily fortified targets.

Israel has a few thousand 2000 lb bunker busters

The BLU-113 is a penetrating munition that uses a modified Army artillery tube as the bomb body. They are fitted with GBU-27 LGB kits, 14.5 inches in diameter and almost 19 feet long. The BLU-113 is a 4,444 pound penetrator. The case is made from HP9420 alloy steel to provide target penetration capabilities. The bomb body is loaded with 670 lbs of 80/20 tritonal explosives and utilizes a single fuze.

DARPA can non-mechanically sweep a laser back and forth 100,000 times a second will make far cheaper and more powerful laser scanning

A non-mechanical approach could open the door to a new class of miniaturized, extremely low-cost, robust laser-scanning technologies for military and commercial use

Many essential military capabilities—including autonomous navigation, chemical-biological sensing, precision targeting and communications—increasingly rely upon laser-scanning technologies such as LIDAR (think radar that uses light instead of radio waves). These technologies provide amazing high-resolution information at long ranges but have a common Achilles heel: They require mechanical assemblies to sweep the laser back and forth. These large, slow opto-mechanical systems are both temperature- and impact-sensitive and often cost tens of thousands of dollars each—all factors that limit widespread adoption of current technologies for military and commercial use.

In an advance that could upend this status quo, DARPA’s Short-range Wide-field-of-view Extremely agile Electronically steered Photonic EmitteR (SWEEPER) program has successfully integrated breakthrough non-mechanical optical scanning technology onto a microchip. Freed from the traditional architecture of gimbaled mounts, lenses and servos, SWEEPER technology has demonstrated that it can sweep a laser back and forth more than 100,000 times per second, 10,000 times faster than current state-of-the-art mechanical systems. It can also steer a laser precisely across a 51-degree arc, the widest field of view ever achieved by a chip-scale optical scanning system. These accomplishments could open the door to a new class of miniaturized, extremely low-cost, robust laser-scanning technologies for LIDAR and other uses.

DARPA’s Short-range Wide-field-of-view Extremely agile Electronically steered Photonic EmitteR (SWEEPER) program has successfully integrated breakthrough non-mechanical optical scanning technology onto a microchip. Freed from the traditional mechanical architecture of gimbaled mounts, lenses and servos, SWEEPER technology has demonstrated that it can sweep a laser back and forth more than 100,000 times per second, 10,000 times faster than current state-of-the-art mechanical systems. It can also steer a laser precisely across a 51-degree arc, the widest field of view ever achieved by a chip-scale optical scanning system. This wide-angle demonstration of optical phased array technology could lead to greatly enhanced capabilities for numerous military and commercial technologies, including autonomous vehicles, robotics, sensors and high-data-rate communication

High powered solid state 150 kilowatt combat laser field testing this summer

DARPA’s High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) has demonstrated sufficient laser power and beam quality to advance to a series of field tests. The achievement of government acceptance for field trials marks the end of the program’s laboratory development phase and the beginning of a new and challenging set of tests against rockets, mortars, vehicles and surrogate surface-to-air missiles at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

“The technical hurdles were daunting, but it is extremely gratifying to have produced a new type of solid-state laser with unprecedented power and beam quality for its size,” said Rich Bagnell, DARPA program manager. “The HELLADS laser is now ready to be put to the test on the range against some of the toughest tactical threats our warfighters face.”

Ground-based field testing of the HELLADS laser is expected to begin this summer as an effort jointly funded by DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory. Following the field-testing phase, the goal is to make the system available to the military Services for further refinement, testing or transition to operational use.

The HELLADS program has been developing an electrically driven solid state laser at greatly reduced size and weight over lasers of similar power for tactical use. The laser was developed by DARPA performer General Atomics.

The goal of the HELLADS program is to develop a 150 kilowatt (kW) laser weapon system that is ten times smaller and lighter than current lasers of similar power, enabling integration onto tactical aircraft to defend against and defeat ground threats. With a weight goal of less than five kilograms per kilowatt, and volume of three cubic meters for the laser system, HELLADS seeks to enable high-energy lasers to be integrated onto tactical aircraft, significantly increasing engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems.

LightSail Sends First Data Back to Earth

The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft is sending home telemetry data following a Wednesday commute to orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Deployment from the Centaur upper stage occurred at 1:05 p.m. EDT (17:05 p.m. UTC), and LightSail crossed into range of its Cal Poly San Luis Obispo ground station at 2:20 p.m. EDT (18:20 UTC). With the LightSail team on console, The Planetary Society staff gathered in Cocoa Beach, Florida to listen in as the first signals were received from space.

The Planetary Society of the United States initiated a short test of an artificial satellite "LightSail-A" that launched on 20 May 2015. The purpose of the test is to allow a full checkout of the satellite's systems in advance of the main 2016 mission, LightSail-1. The mission is being funded on Kickstarter by over 10,300 supporters currently. Over $550,000 has been raised with the goal of $1 million.

LightSail-1 is a solar sail project scheduled for launch in April 2016 and developed by the Planetary Society, a global non-profit organization devoted to space exploration. The kite-shaped spacecraft, which was announced in 2009, will have a total cross-section of 32 square meters (340 sq ft), and will be fitted with guidance and diagnostic electronics. If the project is successful, two more solar sails, LightSail-2 and LightSail-3, will be built

Jason Davis / The Planetary Society. LightSail Liftoff The Planetary Society's LightSail test spacecraft lifts off on its maiden voyage. Liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket occured at 11:05 a.m. EDT (15:55 UTC).

May 21, 2015

Graphene continuously produced at 1 inch per minute for high quality and 20 inches per minute at lower quality in a lab scale roll to roll system

MIT mechanical engineering Associate Professor A. John Hart says the new roll-to-roll manufacturing process described by his team addresses the fact that for many proposed applications of graphene and other 2-D materials to be practical, “you’re going to need to make acres of it, repeatedly and in a cost-effective manner.”

Because a continuous process eliminates the need to stop and start to load and unload materials from a fixed vacuum chamber, as in today’s processing methods, it could lead to significant scale-up of production. That could finally unleash applications for graphene, which has unique electronic and optical properties and is one of the strongest materials known.

The new process is an adaptation of a chemical vapor deposition method already used at MIT and elsewhere to make graphene — using a small vacuum chamber into which a vapor containing carbon reacts on a horizontal substrate, such as a copper foil. The new system uses a similar vapor chemistry, but the chamber is in the form of two concentric tubes, one inside the other, and the substrate is a thin ribbon of copper that slides smoothly over the inner tube.

Gases flow into the tubes and are released through precisely placed holes, allowing for the substrate to be exposed to two mixtures of gases sequentially. The first region is called an annealing region, used to prepare the surface of the substrate; the second region is the growth zone, where the graphene is formed on the ribbon. The chamber is heated to approximately 1,000 degrees Celsius to perform the reaction.

The researchers have designed and built a lab-scale version of the system, and found that when the ribbon is moved through at a rate of 25 millimeters (1 inch) per minute [100 feet per day if the system ran non-stop], a very uniform, high-quality single layer of graphene is created. When rolled 20 times faster [2000 feet per day if run non-stop], it still produces a coating, but the graphene is of lower quality, with more defects.

Copper substrate is shown in the process of being coated with graphene. At left, the process begins by treating the copper surface, and, at right, the graphene layer is beginning to form. Upper images are taken using visible light microscopy, and lower images using a scanning electron microscope. Courtesy of the researchers

Plasma Focus Nuclear Fusion making technical progress and received another $200K in funding

LPP Fusion working to reduce impurities and scale the electrode based nuclear fusion from their dense plasma. LPP Fusion has received another $200,000 of funding from the Abell Foundation.

LPPFusion’s lab team has completed the mechanical repair and reinforcement of the tungsten cathode. The first and most difficult step was to apply the fiber-epoxy composite around the broken rim of the cathode. The purpose of applying the composite was to provide strong inward pressure on the cathode to close up micro-cracks that could impede the flow of current during FF-1 shots. The fiber, a thick nylon thread, was stretched to provide the inward force, while the epoxy adhesive fixed the fiber in place. The problem was the irregular broken surface that we were repairing produced forces that pushed the thread up or down as we were winding it around the rim. In a painstaking task, LPPFusion CIO Ivy Karamtisos guided the thread during many hours of winding to maximize the number of windings and to prevent the fiber form slipping off.

To maintain a constant tension but to avoid breaking the thread, LPPFusion Chief Scientist Eric Lerner monitored the tension with a torque meter (a mechanical device that measures the torque or twisting force on an axel or spool). We checked the torque meter by monitoring how much the fiber was stretching and by noting when the pull was enough to overcome the friction in the turntable that the cathode was resting on. Since we had to let the epoxy dry for a day between each layer of fiber, this critical step was quite time consuming.

As a result of this effort, we were able to stretch the fiber by an average of 18% in length so that with 34 windings round the cathode, in seven layers of fiber, we generated 350 psi of inward pressure. The micro cracks visibly closed up and 80% of the length of cracks ceased to be a significant obstacle to the current—something that we checked with a micro-ohmmeter, an instrument that can measure extremely small resistance to electric current.

Plasma Focus Progress graph prepared for The Abell Foundation shows that by greatly reducing impurities in the plasma it will boost fusion yield back onto the scaling line that leads to the condition needed for net energy production

Photo of brace attached to the tungsten cathode(right) . Drawing(left) shows how the brace attaches the cathode to the rest of the device, replacing the function of the tungsten rim.

Thousands Ivy leaguers and other college grads going to coding camps

A 22-year-old graduated last year with a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth in psychology and studio art that cost more than a quarter-million dollars. She sent out dozens of résumés looking for a full-time job in graphic design but wound up working a contract gig for a Boston clothing store. “I thought, they’ll see Dartmouth, and they’ll hire me,” Feng says. “That’s not really how it works, I found.” She figures programming is the best way to get the job she wants. Hence the basement, where she’s paying $11,500 for a three-month crash course in coding.

Thousands of students, about 70 percent of whom already have college degrees, are flocking to coding boot camps.

The schools took in a combined $59 million in revenue, or about $9,833 per student, estimates Course Report co-founder Liz Eggleston.

General Assembly started as a co-working space in New York’s Flatiron district in 2011 and evolved into boot camps in 13 cities across the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Hong Kong. The startup has raised $49.5 million from the likes of Jeff Bezos and Russian e-mail billionaire Yuri Milner. City No. 14, it says, will be Singapore.

The biggest concentration of schools remains in California, and some, including Dev and Hack Reactor, have established another source of revenue. They’ve cut deals with employers such as tech-industry PR firm Cision, promising an early crack at top graduates in exchange for fees worth 10 percent of each new employee’s first-year salary.

LG has 55 inch OLED TV - weighs 4.2 pounds, less than one millimeter thick and with magnetic attachment to wall

55-inch wallpaper OLED panel, presented as one of the company's future displays at a media event, is only 0.97 mm thick, weighs 1.9 kg [4.2 pounds] and can easily be stuck to a wall with a magnetic mat, or removed from it.

The new product is far slimmer compared with LG Display's existing flagship 55-inch OLED panel that is 4.3 mm thick

LG Display retained this year's sales target for OLED panels at 600,000 units and 1.5 million units for 2016. Yeo cited the improvement in yields for OLED panels as a key factor that will help achieve such a sales target.

"It has taken a year and half for us to raise the yield to this level (for OLEDs), while it'd taken nearly 10 years to achieve the yield for LCDs," he said.

LG Display will keep its focus on large screens, with a plan to introduce an OLED panel as big as 99 inches within this year, the executive said. The company has released its 55-inch, 66-inch and 77-inch OLED models earlier in the year.

It will also continue to upgrade its plastic OLED technology in the small- to mid-sized segments, such as transparent displays and rollable and flexible displays to be used for wearable devices or vehicle dashboards

May 20, 2015

After over $100 billion the first ten F35 jets could be declared combat ready July 15, 2015

Lt. General Jon Davis, Head of Marine Corps aviation, told Reuters that they might declare a squadron of 10 Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) F-35 military aircraft ready for combat by July 15 this year. Earlier this week, Lockheed Martin also delivered six F-35B aircraft to the USS Wasp amphibious warship for operational testing.

Through FY2013, the F-35 program has received a total of roughly $83.3 billion of funding in then-year dollars, including roughly $49.0 billion in research and development, about 33.1 billion in procurement, and roughly $1.2 billion in military construction.

The Pentagon plans to spend about $10.6 billion on the F-35 in the fiscal year ending Oct. 1, 2015 a 23 percent increase over the previous year. The money will buy 57 aircraft versus 38 from the prior spending plan. The procurement figure is also higher than the 55 the Pentagon had previously said it was planning to buy this year.

Lockheed has so far made 120 F-35s and has another 100 in various stages of production. According to the company, each plane costs about $108 million, a 57 percent decline from eight years ago. Lockheed expects the price to fall to $85 million by 2019 as production gets more efficient.

In 2014, Lockheed delivered 36 F-35 fighter jets, producing them at an average rate of 3 per month. During the fourth quarter, Lockheed also finalized the lot 8 production (LRIP – low rate initial production) contract with the government for 43 F-35s. Deliveries for this contract will be made in 2015. So, Lockheed’s F-35 production and delivery volume is set to rise in the current year. Thereafter, in 2016 and 2017, F-35 production will significantly ramp up, crossing a run rate of 100 annual deliveries in 2018.

Lockheed's revenue rose by 9% per year to $12.5 billion, and its profit improved to $904 million in the fourth quarter. This strong fourth quarter enabled Lockheed to grow its 2014 top line, against expectations and the company’s own guidance. Lockheed posted $45.6 billion in total revenue in 2014, up marginally from $45.4 billion in 2013.

Air Force and DARPA getting all aspects of hypersonic weapons combat and procurement ready by 2020

The Air Force has teamed with the Pentagon's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, to shrink the technology into a hypersonic weapon that could fit on most of the bomber fleet, according to Kenneth Davidson, manager of the hypersonic materials development at the Air Force Research Laboratory.

"If you look at the X-51, the size is slightly too big to put it on our current bombers," he said. "It was made as a demonstrator. There's no weapon in it. There are no sensors on board for controlling the guidance. So we're looking at making it more durable, getting the guidance control developed so that it can become a weapon system, developing the ordnance."

The High Speed Strike Weapon is affiliated with other demonstration projects being developed by DARPA, including the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept and the Tactical Boost Glide, both of which have test flights scheduled for 2018 or 2019.

"Our goal is to make sure the Air Force has the knowledge in 2020 or over the next five years to be able to make acquisition decisions using this technology," Davidson said. "Our goal is to provide a capability to stand off, launch these vehicles off the aircraft to hit time-critical dependent targets ... And ultimately from a manufacturing standpoint, it's got to be affordable."

The ordnance and a guidance system for a hypersonic weapon are under development via two demonstration programs:
the high-speed air-breathing weapon concept (HAWC) and
the tactical boost glide (TBG).

Leugers said the warhead under development for a hypersonic missile is in the 250 lb class, about the size of a small diameter bomb (SDB).

The goal of the tactical boost and glide is to accelerate a weapon to Mach 5 or greater and allow it to glide to its target. Such weapons would have to be highly heat-resistant and maneuverable. TBG could ultimately fly at altitudes of nearly 200,000 ft (about 38 miles or 60 kilometers. The Kármán Line [boundary of the atmosphere and space] is at 100 kilometers.)

The X51 hypersonic demonstrator was too big for most US fighters and bombers and did not have the actual explosives and sensors. The Air Force will shrink some components and integrate systems for a combat ready hypersonic weapon system before 2020

Detailed diagrams of the new Russian T14 tank and T15 heavy infrantry vehicle

The T-14 is Russia's first truly new tank design since the T-72, designed in the early 1970s. Based on the Armata Universal Tracked Platform, the T-14's most attention-grabbing feature is its unmanned turret, with all of the MBT's three crew (commander, driver, gunner) seated in a well-protected crew compartment at the front of the hull.

Janes's has a detailed analysis of the new Russian tank and other Armata universal tracked platform based vehicles.

The MBT's turret is literally covered in a variety of launcher and sensor systems understood to be linked to a new APS system, which some reports call 'Afghanit'. At the base of each side of the turret are five large and fixed horizontally arrayed launch tubes covering the 120° frontal arc of the turret. These bear a strong resemblance to the launchers for the earlier Drozd and Drozd-2 APS, which fired a hard-kill 107 mm unguided projectile armed with a high-explosive-(HE) fragment warhead to defeat incoming anti-tank guided weapons (ATGWs).

The T-14 is also fitted with four sets of smaller-calibre launchers, with each unit armed with 12 launch tubes. Two horizontally trainable launcher units are fitted on either side of the top of the turret, while two apparently fixed and vertically facing launcher units are recessed into the top of the tank's turret.

May 19, 2015

Malaysia invests $27-million in Canada's General Fusion startup who will begin building full scale prototype in 2017

A Malaysian state-owned company invested $27 million in General Fusion.
Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund, the Khazanah Nasional Berhad, made an investment with current investors Growthworks and Jeff Bezos's personal venture capital fund. The funds will go to commercializing the company's key technology—a metal sphere pumped full of molten lead-lithium that spews out quantities of energy. The Burnaby-based company has raised over $100 million to date. General Fusion needs to finish refining some technology for the next two years. General Fusion plans to being building the full scale prototype in 2017. General Fusion would have Canadian and Malaysia government backing for the full scale prototype funding.

General Fusion is nearing significant milestones. General Fusion’s Approach is Magnetized target fusion (MTF). Magnetized target fusion is a hybrid between magnetic fusion and inertial confinement fusion. In MTF, a compact toroid, or donut-shaped magnetized plasma, is compressed mechanically by an imploding conductive shell, heating the plasma to fusion conditions.

General Fusion has a full-scale prototype [of the injectors and other subsystems], twin plasma injectors resembling five-metre-long cones, each attached to opposite ends of a three-metre-diameter sphere, would pulse a few milligrams of hydrogen gas, heat it until it becomes a plasma, and inject it into a vortex of swirling liquid metal. Electricity circulating in the plasma would create magnetic fields that bind the plasma together and confine the heat.

From there, an array of as many as 300 huge pistons attached to the sphere’s shell would act like synchronized jackhammers, ramming it at 200 km/hr. This would send shockwaves into the very centre of the chamber, compressing the hydrogen isotopes to 100 million degrees celsius — hot enough for fusion to occur, and good enough to generate clean electricity from steam turbines.

General Fusion reached its milestones on the piston timing about two years ago. Technicians are now perfecting functionality of the plasma injectors.

Nuclear Fusion Company Helion Energy and others have received ARPA-E funding

ARPA-E has provided a combined $30 million in funding for nuclear projects

Helion Energy - Staged Magnetic Compression of FRC Targets to Fusion Conditions received $3,971,264 in funding

Helion Energy will investigate staged magnetic compression of field-reversed configuration (FRC) plasmas, building on past successes to develop a prototype that can attain higher temperatures and fuel density than previously possible. The team will use these results to assess the viability of scaling to a power reactor, which if successful would offer the benefits of simple linear geometry, attractive scaling, and compatibility with modern pulsed power electronics.

Key Benefits of Helion’s Approach

* Magneto-Inertial Fusion: By combining the stability of steady magnetic fusion and the heating of pulsed inertial fusion, a commercially practical system has been realized that is smaller and lower cost than existing programs.
* Modular, Distributed Power: A container sized, 50 MW module for base load power generation.
* Self-Supplied Helium 3 Fusion: Pulsed, D-He3 fusion simplifies the engineering of a fusion power plant, lowers costs, and is even cleaner than traditional fusion.
* Magnetic Compression: Fuel is compressed and heated purely by magnetic fields operated with modern solid state electronics. This eliminates inefficient, expensive laser, piston, or beam techniques used by other fusion approaches.
* Direct Energy Conversion: Enabled by pulsed operation, efficient direct conversion decreases plant costs and fusion’s engineering challenges.
* Safe: With no possibility of melt-down, or hazardous nuclear waste, fusion does not suffer the drawbacks that make fission an unattractive alternative.

Stabilized Liner Compressor (SLC) for Low-Cost Fusion received $4 million in funding

NumerEx, LLC, teamed with the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Los Alamos, NM, will develop the Stabilized Liner Compressor (SLC) concept in which a rotating, liquid metal liner is imploded by high pressure gas. Free-piston drive and liner rotation avoid instabilities as the liner compresses and heats a plasma target. If successful, this concept could scale to an attractive fusion reactor with efficient energy recovery, and therefore a low required minimum fusion gain for net energy output. The SLC will address several challenges faced by practical fusion reactors. By surrounding the plasma target with a thick liquid liner, the SLC helps avoid materials degradation associated with a solid plasma-facing first wall. In addition, with an appropriately chosen liner material, the SLC can simultaneously provide a breeding blanket to create more tritium fuel, allow efficient heat transport out of the reactor, and shield solid components of the reactor from high-energy neutrons.

Boron infused graphene for microsupercapactors

A microsupercapacitor designed by scientists at Rice University that may find its way into personal and even wearable electronics is getting an upgrade. The laser-induced graphene device benefits greatly when boron becomes part of the mix.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour uses commercial lasers to create thin, flexible supercapacitors by burning patterns into common polymers. The laser burns away everything but the carbon to a depth of 20 microns on the top layer, which becomes a foam-like matrix of interconnected graphene flakes.

By first infusing the polymer with boric acid, the researchers quadrupled the supercapacitor’s ability to store an electrical charge while greatly boosting its energy density.

Rice scientists made this supercapacitor with interlocked "fingers" using a laser and writing the pattern into a boron-infused sheet of polyimide. Courtesy of the Tour Group

ACS Nano - Flexible Boron-Doped Laser-Induced Graphene Microsupercapacitors


Heteroatom-doped graphene materials have been intensely studied as active electrodes in energy storage devices. Here, we demonstrate that boron-doped porous graphene can be prepared in ambient air using a facile laser induction process from boric acid containing polyimide sheets. At the same time, active electrodes can be patterned for flexible microsupercapacitors. As a result of boron doping, the highest areal capacitance of as-prepared devices reaches 16.5 mF/cm2, 3 times higher than nondoped devices, with concomitant energy density increases of 5–10 times at various power densities. The superb cyclability and mechanical flexibility of the device are well-maintained, showing great potential for future microelectronics made from this boron-doped laser-induced graphene material.

Gel filled with nanosponges cleans up MRSA infections

Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego developed a gel filled with toxin-absorbing nanosponges that could lead to an effective treatment for skin and wound infections caused by MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This nanosponge-hydrogel minimized the growth of skin lesions on mice infected with MRSA – without the use of antibiotics. The researchers recently published their findings online in Advanced Materials.

To make the nanosponge-hydrogel, the team mixed nanosponges, which are nanoparticles that absorb dangerous toxins produced by MRSA, E. coli and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria, into a hydrogel, which is a gel made of water and polymers. The hydrogel holds the nanosponges in place so that they can remove toxins at the infected spot

Toxin-absorbing nanoparticles are loaded into a holding gel to make a nanosponge-hydrogel, which can potentially treat local bacterial infections.

Advanced Materials - Hydrogel Retaining Toxin-Absorbing Nanosponges for Local Treatment of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infection

Nanotech-Enabled Moisturizer Speeds Healing of Diabetic Skin Wounds

A new high-tech but simple ointment applied to the skin may one day help diabetic patients heal stubborn and painful ulcers on their feet, Northwestern University researchers report.

Scientist and dermatologist Amy S. Paller and chemist Chad A. Mirkin are the first to develop a topical gene regulation technology that speeds the healing of ulcers in diabetic animals. They combined spherical nucleic acids (SNAs, which are nanoscale globular forms of RNA) with a common commercial moisturizer to create a way to topically knock down a gene known to interfere with wound healing.

Type 2 diabetes and its enormous associated costs are on the rise in the United States. More than one-fifth of the 27 million type 2 diabetics in the country have chronic, non-healing skin wounds, and many undergo amputation. The Northwestern discovery offers a possible solution to this serious problem.


* Six million diabetic Americans have chronic, non-healing skin wounds
* Spherical nucleic acids naturally penetrate skin and can be applied topically
* Moisturizer treatment ‘worked beautifully’ in an animal study
* Opens door to treatment of other debilitating health conditions with genetic basis

PNAS - siRNA-based spherical nucleic acids reverse impaired wound healing in diabetic mice by ganglioside GM3 synthase knockdown

Electrical Stimulation speeds wound healing

The most detailed study to date showing how electrical stimulation accelerates wound healing has been carried out in 40 volunteers by University of Manchester scientists

Skin wounds that are slow to heal are a clinical challenge to physicians all over the world. Every year, the NHS alone spends £1 billion on treating chronic wounds such as lower limb venous and diabetic ulcers. Wounds become chronic when they fail to heal and remain open for longer than six weeks.

Researchers from The University of Manchester carried out the unique human volunteer study of skin wound healing in 40 individuals with the results published in the journal PLOS ONE.

An untreated wound (left) after 10 days is larger than an electrical-stimulation-treated wound (right) (credit: The University of Manchester)

PLOS One - Angiogenesis Is Induced and Wound Size Is Reduced by Electrical Stimulation in an Acute Wound Healing Model in Human Skin

Printing 3-D graphene structures for tissue engineering

Ever since single-layer graphene burst onto the science scene in 2004, the possibilities for the promising material have seemed nearly endless. With its high electrical conductivity, ability to store energy, and ultra-strong and lightweight structure, graphene has potential for many applications in electronics, energy, the environment, and even medicine.

Now a team of Northwestern University researchers has found a way to print three-dimensional structures with graphene nanoflakes. The fast and efficient method could open up new opportunities for using graphene printed scaffolds regenerative engineering and other electronic or medical applications.

Advanced Materials - A Multimaterial Bioink Method for 3D Printing Tunable, Cell-Compatible Hydrogels

A Solid-state device can demonstrate the physical principles of invisibility cloaks on large objects without special equipment

A group of researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), in Karlsruhe, Germany, has developed a portable invisibility cloak that can be taken into classrooms and used for demonstrations. It can't hide a human, but it can make small objects disappear from sight without specialized equipment.

Scientists hoping to divert light around an object to render it invisible must find a way to compensate for the increased distance the light must now travel. On a road trip, you might solve this problem by changing your speed. If you had planned to take the rutted scenic road directly over the mountain pass, but it's closed for the season, you could instead take the six-lane superhighway that goes around the mountain. The greater distance is offset by the higher speed limit.

The KIT team constructed their cloak from a light-scattering material. By scattering light, the material slows down the effective propagation speed of the light waves through the medium. Then the light can be sped up again to make up for the longer path length around the hidden object.

In this cloak, the object to be concealed is placed inside a hollow metal cylinder coated with acrylic paint, which diffusely reflects light. The tube is embedded within a block of polydimethylsiloxane, a commonly used organic polymer, doped with titanium dioxide nanoparticles that make it scatter light.

“Our cloak takes advantage of the much lower effective propagation speed in light-scattering media,” said Robert Schittny, who led the research project. “As we seemingly slow down the light everywhere, speeding it up again in the cloak to make up for the longer path around the core is not a problem.” If the average time it takes light to travel through the polydimethylsiloxane block is in just the right proportion to the average time it takes to travel through the cloak, the core will become invisible.

On the other hand, the completely solid-state cloak can be easily transported to classrooms. “It is a macroscopic cloak that you can look at with your bare eyes and hold in your hands,” said Schittny. “With a reasonably strong flashlight in a not too bright room, it is very easy to demonstrate the cloaking. That means no fancy lab equipment, no microscopes, no post-processing of measurement data. The effect is just there for everyone to see.”

Researchers at KIT have designed an invisibility cloak for macroscopic objects (Credit: KIT)

The Ocean's Hidden Fertilizer - Marine Plants Play Major Role in Phosphorus Cycling

Phosphorus is one of the most common substances on Earth. An essential nutrient for every living organism—humans require approximately 700 milligrams per day—we are rarely concerned about consuming enough of it because it is present in most of the foods we eat. Despite its ubiquity and living organisms' utter dependence on it, we know surprisingly little about how it moves, or cycles, through the ocean environment.

Scientists studying the phosphorus cycle in the ocean knew that it was absorbed by plants and animals, and released back to seawater in the form of phosphate as they decay and die. Over the last 10 years, a growing body of research has hinted that phosphorus was being transformed by microbes in the ocean in ways that remained a mystery.

A new study by a research team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Columbia University reveals for the first time a marine phosphorus cycle that is much more complex than previously thought. The work also highlights the important but previously hidden role that some microbial communities play in using and breaking down forms of this essential element.

Trichodesmium forms colonies of a wide variety of shapes are clearly visible to the naked eye (the diameter of the test tube is about the same as a U.S. quarter coin). These remarkable organisms drive a previously unknown redox cycle of phosphorus in the upper ocean.(Carly Buchwald, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Science - Major role of planktonic phosphate reduction in the marine phosphorus redox cycle

Editor's Summary - The phosphorus redox cycle

Phosphorus in the oceans cycles between +5 and +3 oxidation states. Most of the oceans' phosphorus is present as oxidized bioavailable phosphate (+5) compounds. Reduced organophosphorus compounds are also present but at much lower concentrations. Through field measurements in the western tropical North Atlantic Ocean and a series of laboratory incubations, Van Mooy et al. measured fast reduction rates of a small but appreciable amount of phosphates by plankton communities, forming phosphites and phosphonates (see the Perspective by Benitez-Nelson). On a global scale, this phosphorus redox cycle adds as much reduced phosphorus to the oceans as all pre-anthropogenic land runoff.

Three year project to optimize titanium powder for 3D Printing of Aerospace components

GKN Aerospace is to lead a three year, £3.1 million collaborative research programme to develop titanium powder specifically formulated and blended to meet the needs of additive manufacturing (AM) of aerospace components. The programme, called TiPOW (Titanium Powder for net-shape component manufacture) will also commence work developing the techniques and equipment that will produce the powder consistently, in quantity and at a lower price than today’s material.

The TiPOW programme is backed by the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and the country’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. Consortium partners include UK companies Phoenix Scientific Industries Ltd and Metalysis and the University of Leeds. As programme leader, GKN’s aerospace business will also draw on the expertise of the GKN Powder Metallurgy division a world-leading supplier of metal powders and precision engineered components.

Today additive manufacturing uses alloys and powders that have not been developed for these processes and so are not optimized for this environment. Together the partners will investigate developing titanium alloys and powders with the characteristics that are specifically suited to AM.

Titanium is used in other additive manufacturing processes (like laser sintering) but more improement are needed for cost and material strength and quality

Graphene membranes progressing to more commercialization

Effective separation membranes could be created by etching nanometre-sized pores in two-dimensional materials.

The explosion of research interest in two-dimensional materials such as graphene and molybdenum disulphide has, to a large extent, been dominated by their physics, and in turn the exploitation of their electronic and optical properties. Researchers have, of course, also explored the chemical and mechanical properties of these materials — and sought applications that principally utilize these attributes — but the results have, arguably, received less attention. One intriguing line of research in this regard is the use of graphene as a nanoporous separation membrane. Here, through a combination of sophisticated fabrication and characterization techniques, unique membranes could be developed for use in critical applications such as gas separation, water purification, and desalination.

Graphene is an attractive material for the development of membranes due to its atomic thickness, mechanical strength and chemical stability. Pristine sheets of graphene are thought to be impermeable to all atoms and molecules. However, by forming nanometre-sized pores in the material, it can potentially act as a filter, allowing molecules smaller than the pores to pass through while excluding larger species. A number of theoretical studies have suggested that the selectivity and permeability of such membranes could be vastly superior to the polymer-based filtration membranes that are typically used today.

Researchers have now shown that a single layer of nanoporous graphene can be used to desalinate water. The pores are created in the graphene layer by exposing the material to short bursts of oxygen plasma, a process that allows holes of precise dimensions to be controllably etched in the layer. By finding just the right plasma conditions — and with the help of aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy to characterize pores that have sizes of only 0.5–1 nm — membranes can be fabricated that exhibit a salt rejection of nearly 100%, as well as high water fluxes.

As Dong-Yeun Koh and Ryan Lively note in an accompanying News & Views article11, there are many challenges to be addressed before such membranes could be of practical use, including issues related to mechanical stability and membrane fouling. However, these proof-of-concept experiments are an encouraging illustration of the potential of atomically thick membranes.

Beamsplitters miniturized so that millions can fit on a chip to enable optical computing

University of Utah engineers have taken a step forward in creating the next generation of computers and mobile devices capable of speeds millions of times faster than current machines.

The Utah engineers have developed an ultracompact beamsplitter — the smallest on record — for dividing light waves into two separate channels of information. The device brings researchers closer to producing silicon photonic chips that compute and shuttle data with light instead of electrons. Electrical and computer engineering associate professor Rajesh Menon and colleagues describe their invention today in the journal Nature Photonics.

Silicon photonics could significantly increase the power and speed of machines such as supercomputers, data center servers and the specialized computers that direct autonomous cars and drones with collision detection. Eventually, the technology could reach home computers and mobile devices and improve applications from gaming to video streaming.

The overhead view of a new beamsplitter for silicon photonics chips that is the size of one-fiftieth the width of a human hair. University of Utah Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Rajesh Menon is leading a team that has created the world’s smallest beamsplitter for silicon photonic chips. The discovery will lead to computers and mobile devices that could be millions of times faster than machines today because the information or data that is computed or shuttled is done through light instead of electrons. Photo Credit: Dan Hixson/University of Utah College of Engineering

Nature Photonics - An integrated-nanophotonics polarization beamsplitter with 2.4 × 2.4 μm2 footprint

The $5.3 Trillion Energy Subsidy Problem

US$5.3 trillion; 6½ percent of global GDP—that is the IMFs latest reckoning of the cost of energy subsidies in 2015. The figure likely exceeds government health spending across the world, estimated by the World Health Organization at 6 percent of global GDP, but for the different year of 2013. They correspond to one of the largest negative externality ever estimated. They have global relevance. And that’s not all: earlier work by the IMF also shows that these subsidies have adverse effects on economic efficiency, growth, and inequality.

What are energy subsidies ?

We define energy subsidies as the difference between what consumers pay for energy and its “true costs,” plus a country’s normal value added or sales tax rate. These “true costs” of energy consumption include its supply costs and the damage that energy consumption inflicts on people and the environment. These damages, in turn, come from carbon emissions and hence global warming; the health effects of air pollution; and the effects on traffic congestion, traffic accidents, and road damage. Most of these externalities are borne by local populations, with the global warming component of energy subsidies only a fourth of the total.

Nextbigfuture passes 55 million pageviews and nears 130 million views on Google Plus

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 261

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 261 is up at Atomic Power Review

NukePowerTalk - The Future of Nuclear Beyond Gen-IV: Recently Dr. Marcus was asked what the future of nuclear energy might hold, and might look like, beyond the presently considered "Gen-IV" reactors. Taken by surprise by this question, she looks at the scope of future applications and asks readers to begin to imagine, guided by some suggestions, that very future.

James Conca- Forbes - Why don't nuclear scientists get respect? Jim Conca wonders (not to himself, fortunately for us) why it is that environmental scientists are, as an example, consulted by media on environment matters but why then, on nuclear matters, nuclear experts are not. Instead, we are forced to sit through dissertations by pop-science talking heads who have never set foot in a nuclear plant. Conca's article provides a sobering look at who we look to, societally, as "experts."

ORNL superhydrophobic glass coating offers clear benefits

A moth’s eye and lotus leaf were the inspirations for an antireflective water-repelling, or superhydrophobic, glass coating that holds significant potential for solar panels, lenses, detectors, windows, weapons systems and many other products.

The discovery is based on a mechanically robust nanostructured layer of porous glass film. The coating can be customized to be superhydrophobic, fog-resistant and antireflective.

“While lotus leaves repel water and self-clean when it rains, a moth’s eyes are antireflective because of naturally covered tapered nanostructures where the refractive index gradually increases as light travels to the moth’s cornea,” said Tolga Aytug, lead author of the paper and a member of ORNL’s Materials Chemistry Group. “Combined, these features provide truly game-changing ability to design coatings for specific properties and performance.”

Journal of Materials Chemistry C - Monolithic graded-refractive-index glass-based antireflective coatings: broadband/omnidirectional light harvesting and self-cleaning characteristics

Russia's MBIR sodium-cooled fast neutron research reactor gets construction licence

Russian regulator Rostechnadzor has issued a construction licence for the multipurpose sodium-cooled fast neutron research reactor, or MBIR by its Russian acronym. The reactor complex will be located at the site of the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (RIAR), in Dimitrovgrad.

In November, Uralenergostroy was selected in an open tender as the general contractor for the MBIR construction project. Uralenergostroy is currently completing the BN-800 fast neutron reactor at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant, which is in the Sverdlovsk region in central Russia. Also known as Beloyarsk 4, the BN-800 sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor achieved first criticality in June 2014, but has not yet started commercial operation.

Preparatory work at the MBIR site will culminate this summer with the pouring of concrete for the foundation of the main building that will house the reactor.

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