June 20, 2015

Pulse detonation engine and continuous detonation wave engines

A pulse detonation engine, or "PDE", is a type of propulsion system that uses detonation waves to combust the fuel and oxidizer mixture. The engine is pulsed because the mixture must be renewed in the combustion chamber between each detonation wave initiated by an ignition source. Theoretically, a PDE can operate from subsonic up to a hypersonic flight speed of roughly Mach 5. An ideal PDE design can have a thermodynamic efficiency higher than other designs like turbojets and turbofans because a detonation wave rapidly compresses the mixture and adds heat at constant volume.

To date, no practical PDE has been put into production, but several testbed engines have been built and one was successfully integrated into a low-speed demonstration aircraft that flew in sustained PDE powered flight in 2008.

There is also work to develop pulse detonation turbines for higher efficiency power generation. Pratt and Whitney is developing a new combustor for gas turbine engines that uses shockwaves for more efficient combustion through a process known as continuous detonation. GE has also been working on pulse detonation.

Airbus is researching the continuous detonation wave engine. The continuous detonation wave engine (CDWE) is a radical new technology which could offer significantly more efficient and capable propulsion systems for civil aircraft – with expectations to deliver substantial fuel savings while reducing emissions.

When fitted to a conventional jet engine, CDWE technology offers to transform overall engine performance and simplify its design by using detonation waves to combust the fuel and oxidizer mixture. Theoretically, this system can operate from subsonic up to a hypersonic flight speed of roughly Mach 5, with higher efficiency than designs such as turbojets and turbofans. This is because a detonation wave rapidly compresses the mixture and adds heat at constant volume – providing a thermal efficiency improvement of approximately 25 percent.

Turbomachine roadmap to 2020

A Roadmap on Turbomachinery Research 2014 – 2020 by EUTurbines. Today more than 80% of the electricity generated worldwide is produced by gas and steam turbines. These machines are core components in coal, nuclear, gas, biomass and solar-thermal power plants. Together with the related technology of hydro turbines the share in electrical power generation is today close to 98%.

Turbines do have a simple but crucial role in power generation; they are converting a chemical (fuel) or physical (from steam) energy into a kinetic one, the rotation needed to drive a generator to convert it into electrical power.

While in smaller systems – depending on the application – there is the alternative to burn fuel in reciprocating engines or fuel cells, there is no other way to do fuel or steam based power conversion in large scale systems.

The IEA estimates that of all efforts required to deliver a 50% reduction in global emissions by 2050 24% will need to come from end use fuel efficiency, 12% has to come from end use electricity efficiency and a further 7% will need to come from power generation efficiency. There is substantial potential for improving thermal efficiency of Europe’s power plants. Our coal plants operate at an average 38% (BAT - Best Available Technology - on new coal plants delivers 46%). Our gas plants operate at an average of 52% efficiency (BAT- Best Available Technology - on new gas plants delivers more than 60%). Due to the age of the installed base, the average efficiency of Chinese coal plants is now higher than in Europe.

Advanced flow path design

The potential for improvement of gas and steam turbine efficiency by aerodynamic optimisation adds to the contributions of cooling and sealing air reductions. In the high pressure end of the turbine with short blades and vanes the secondary losses constitute a large portion of the total losses. These losses can be reduced by introduction of advanced endwall shaping, 3D features in the aerodynamic design of airfoils and clearance control. Also the detailed design of the endwalls, steps between platforms and interaction with purge flows from rotor stator cavities can be improved

Next generation hot gas path concepts

Increased gas turbine performance is very much related to an increase of the Turbine Inlet Temperature (TIT). But the coolant mass flows will need to be minimised to achieve as high performance benefits as possible. Advanced cooling systems concepts should be developed for engine first stage components and tested experimentally in test rigs (existing and new rigs, like liquid crystal rig, thermal imaging rig, film cooling rig as required, and in new, cold flow, low cost, component internal cooling test rigs). New cooling surfaces as well as new cooling schemes should be studied by CFD modelling to use the coolant in the best possible way before it will leave the component. To improve turbine efficiency today’s levels of cooling air, leakage air and sealing air (air to keep the hot gas in the flow path) must be heavily reduced

GEs look at increasing distributed power

A grand transformation is underway. A wave of decentralization is sweeping across the globe and changing the way we live, work and play. Distributed power technologies are more widely available, smaller, more efficient and less costly today than they were just a decade ago.

The portfolio of distributed power technologies includes diesel and gas reciprocating engines, gas turbines, fuel cells, solar panels and small wind turbines. Although there is no standard definition, distributed power technologies are less than 100 megawatts (MW) in size—and typically less than 50 MW which is the limit that distribution systems can accommodate at distribution voltages. They are highly flexible and suitable across a range of applications including electric power, mechanical power and propulsion. Distributed power technologies can stand alone, or they can work together within a network of integrated technologies to meet the needs of both large and small energy users.

In 2012, $150 billion was invested in distributed power technologies including gas turbines, reciprocating engines and solar PV in electric, power, mechanical drive and propulsion applications globally. Approximately 142 GW of distributed power capacity was ordered and installed. During the same year, GE estimates that 218 GW of central power capacity was ordered.

By 2020 distributed power will play an even larger role. GE estimates that annual distributed power capacity additions will grow from 142 GW in 2012 to 200 GW in 2020. That’s a 58 GW increase and represents an average annual growth rate of 4.4 percent. During this period, investment in distributed power technologies will rise from $150 billion to $206 billion. As a point of reference, during this same period, global electricity consumption will rise from 20.8 to 26.9 terrawatt-hours (TWh)

Aeroderivatives are also used in electrical power generation due to their ability to be shut down, and handle load changes more quickly than industrial machines. They are also used in the marine industry to reduce weight. The General Electric LM2500, General Electric LM6000, Rolls-Royce RB211 and Rolls-Royce Avon are common models of this type of machine

China has a tank gun with mach 6 muzzle velocity vs mach 4.6 for the US Abrams

China has a new multipurpose cannon (sy_wsh at lt.cjdby.net via Popular Science). The 127th Ordinance Research Institute's news 125mm tank cannon is the world' largest, with a barrel length over 7.5 meters and highly powerful shells.

The multipurpose cannon achieves its high performance through a high length to caliber ratio of at least 60:1 (the longest tank gun in service is the German 120mm cannon, which has a ratio of 55:1), and a larger cartridge, that stores more propellant explosives. While the multipurpose cannon is currently mounted on a towed carriage, several characteristics suggest that it is intended for tank turrets.

This multipurpose cannon reportedly has a muzzle velocity of 2,000 meters per second (almost mach 6) for armored piercing fin stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) rounds, whose discarding sabot concentrates the kinetic energy from propellant into frontal area of the penetrator rod, which is the size of a half dollar coin.

* Current Chinese 125mm APFSDS have a 1700 meters per second muzzle velocity
* German L55 has a muzzle velocity of 1,750meter per second
* US's M829A3 APFSDS round has a muzzle velocity of only 1,555 meters per second (but uses a larger penetrator with increased mass to increase imparted kinetic energy).

The new tank cannon uses one piece ammunition, in contrast to the 125mm two piece ammunition used by current Chinese tanks such as the ZTZ-99 and ZTZ-96. The autoloader on those tanks are limited to two piece 125mm ammunition due to size restrictions, which in turn results in a smaller APFSDS rod with less kinetic energy. The new one piece 125mm ammunition will allow for larger APFSDS rods, while keeping the caliber to 125mm to save weight, as opposed to scaling up to a larger caliber, such as 140mm.

Robots having a steam engine like effect on productivity but are NOT killing jobs overall so far

Despite ubiquitous discussions of robots’ potential impact, there is almost no systematic empirical evidence on their economic effects. Researchers analyzed for the first time the economic impact of industrial robots, using new data on a panel of industries in 17 countries from 1993-2007. We find that industrial robots increased both labor productivity and value added. Our panel identification is robust to numerous controls, and they found similar results instrumenting increased robot use with a measure of workers’ replaceability by robots, which is based on the tasks prevalent in industries before robots were widely employed. We calculate that the increased use of robots raised countries’ average growth rates by about 0.37 percentage points. We also find that robots increased both wages and total factor productivity. While robots had no significant effect on total hours worked, there is some evidence that they reduced the hours of both low-skilled and middle-skilled workers.
The Harvard Business Review provides a review of the article and additional context.

Assuming more analyses fall into line with Graetz’ and Michael’s work it will be possible to say that robots have become visible in the productivity data — and that the data and observed realities match up and can be useful. In addition, the scale of the robots’ impact — even with technology improvements racing along — suggests that robotics may well be a big thing: a general purpose technology that over time pervades the economy, spawns myriad new innovations, and elevates productivity for years, with major impacts on society. No, we’re not there yet, as Summers notes, but the evidence suggests that day is coming. As to the bots’ impact on employment, that is less clearly visible, and may be positive, negative, or mixed. Yet if the IT experience is any indicator, full adoption of a powerful technology can take a generation, and come after years of delay.

0.37% over 14 years, represents 10% of total GDP growth in the countries studied and 16% of labor productivity growth over that time period.

(H/T Futurepundit)

Steam engine effects were over 60 years. The annual rates of Robotics is similar on an annual basis but have another forty years to run to have the full steam engine effect. Information technology has had a higher annual impact.

June 19, 2015

Greece on verge of default but considering BRICs Bank and Russian Bailouts

European finance chiefs have poured fresh emergency funds into Greek banks in a desperate attempt to keep them afloat after panicking savers withdrew more than £3billion this week.

The amount being offered by the European Central Bank has not been revealed, but it is believed to be around £2billion.

It is the bank’s second intervention in three days, having earlier agreed to make almost £1billion available.

The lifeline came as Greek banking officials insisted they had ‘no financing problems’ despite withdrawals by savers, with around £1billion being taken out yesterday alone.

Greece has to pay back £1.15billion to the International Monetary Fund by June 30, but says it will be unable to meet this deadline – or its obligations to pensioners and state employers – unless it can unlock an extra £5.15billion bailout. However, the money is unlikely to be given unless the country agrees to economic reforms.

Alexis Tsipras will travel to Russia again on Friday to meet Vladimir Putin as questions swirl over whether Moscow could extend credit lines to bail out the Greek prime minister’s embattled economy.

Tsipras will meet Putin on the sidelines of a major economic forum in St Petersburg. The Greek prime minister has been an outspoken critic of EU sanctions against Russia and is seen as one of the Kremlin’s few friends inside the European bloc. Nevertheless, sources in Brussels told news agencies on Wednesday that all 28 EU nations had agreed to roll over sanctions against Russia, which are due for renewal at a meeting on Monday

“A financial deal package to Greece is definitely possible, but it’s unlikely to come as a straight bailout loan, and more likely to be packaged as part of an advance payment deal over gas transfer or something similar,” said Chris Weafer, a Moscow-based financial analyst.

Another possible outcome is that a newly founded development bank for the Brics countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – could ask Greece to join. Athens would pay a token amount to join the new bank and could then receive loans and funding for infrastructure projects.

China high speed rail roundup

This is a China high sped rail roundup. This has significant geopolitical and economic impacts.

* Russia and China are moving ahead with the Moscow Kazan high speed rail line which will be followed by a Beijing Moscow line
* China completed more internal high speed rail
* China's merged high speed rail companies are second to General electric in terms of industrial company size
* China is furthering deals with India and Indonesia on high speed rail

1. A unit of Russia’s state-owned JSC Russian Railways signed a contract Thursday with the design unit of China’s state-controlled China Railway Group to come up with the plans for a 770 kilometer high-speed rail between the two Russian cities. The Chinese firm will work alongside two Russian companies for on the designs for a total cost of 20.8 billion rubles ($383 million) over the next two years, according to Russian Railways.

Once the designs are developed, a separate tender will be held for the actual construction of the rail link, which Russian Railways expects to cost 1.06 trillion rubles ($19.5 billion). It is “likely” China’s rail developers will land that massive contract as well, but it isn’t guaranteed.

The Chinese side has already expressed interest in investing 300 billion rubles in the Moscow-Kazan high-speed rail project—part of which would fund the design, and the rest of which would function as a loan for the construction. “We are in negotiations to raise (the figure) substantially,” Mr. Yakunin said. Russian Railways intends to finish the project by 2020, reducing the duration of the journey to 3½ hours from its current 12½.

The financing, however, is not yet fully nailed down. To fund the 1.06 trillion billion ruble project, Russian Railways expects 380 billion rubles of direct state funding and a further 150 billion rubles from Russia’s National Wealth Fund

2. A new high speed rail line connecting southwest China's Guizhou Province with the economically better-off eastern regions opened this week

The six-station line connects Xinhuang, a county bordering Guizhou in Hunan Province, and Guiyang, provincial capital of Guizhou. The track is 286 kilometers and forms part of the high-speed rail connecting Shanghai and southwest China's Kunming City, according to Chengdu Railway Bureau which administers the section.

With a speed of 300 kilometers per hour, the high speed rail will shorten the train journey between Guiyang and Changsha, provincial capital of Hunan, from 12 to three hours. It will take nine hours for people to travel from Guiyang to Beijing or Shanghai, compared 30 hours of travel using regular trains.

The new rail is expected to promote economic exchange between the eastern, central and western China, and bring business opportunities to Guizhou, an economically disadvantaged province with rich tourism and ethnic culture

Future hotter and more efficient coal plants

The hotter coal (or any thermal plant - natural gas and nuclear) can run then the more efficient they can be.

Upgrading existing plants and building new high-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) coal-fired power plants addresses climate change concerns in two important ways. In the near term, emissions can be reduced by upgrading existing plants or building new HELE plants. Such plants emit almost 20% less CO2 than a subcritical unit operating at a similar load. Over the longer term, HELE plants can further facilitate emission reductions because coal-fired plants operating at the highest efficiencies are also the most appropriate option for CCS retrofit.

The best new coal plants in China are in the Ultra-supercritical 44-46% efficiency range.

Developments in AUSC steam cycles are expected to continue this trend. AUSC coal-fired plants are designed with an inlet steam temperature to the turbine of 700–760°C. Average metal temperatures of the final superheater and final reheater could be higher, up to about 815°C. Nickel-based alloy materials are needed to meet this demanding requirement. Various research programs are underway to develop AUSC plants. If successful, a commercial AUSC-based plant would be expected to achieve efficiencies in the range of 45–52% (LHV [net], hard coal). A plant operating at 48% efficiency (HHV) would emit up to 28% less CO2 than a subcritical plant, and up to 10% less than a corresponding USC plant. Commercial AUSC plants could be widely available by 2025, with the first units coming online in the near future.

Ultracritical coal reactor turbines in China

About 1000 tons per year of graphene being produced but commercial markets lagging by a decade or more

In a 2014 report, Lux predicted that the global market for graphene would be worth US$349 million by 2025; by comparison, the University of Manchester estimates that graphene has already attracted $2.4 billion for research.

There is nearly 1000 tons per year of graphene production.

Graphene films still do not beat ITO (Indium Tin Oxide) on price. The films are grown on hot copper foil from a feedstock of methane gas mixed with hydrogen, in a process called chemical vapour deposition (CVD). Dong says that heating the foil, maintaining clean rooms and separating graphene from the foil tend to push the final cost above 400 yuan (US$64) per square metre, about twice what it needs to be to compete with ITO. And although graphene’s flexibility could add value to wearable devices, the wonder material will have to beat off other pretenders to ITO’s throne, including silver-nanowire meshes, which have been in development for longer.

LasLumin, a company in New York City, aims to slash graphene manufacturing costs by using feedstocks that are easier to handle than the potentially explosive mixture of methane and hydrogen. Graphene films may find more-profitable applications in innovative chemical sensors, rather than in taking on an established material such as ITO.

If graphene is to fulfil the commercial potential anticipated by projects such as the Graphene Flagship, it will need to find a role in which it dramatically and reliably outperforms existing technologies at a reasonable cost.

Baker believes that the answer lies in creating devices that rely on a combination of graphene’s properties — flexible electronics, for example — or that could have a transformative global impact, such as in membranes that desalinate water. But it is early days, he says: “There are so many potential applications that it’s difficult to see what will be the killer app.”

Toyota's Revamped Next Generation Turbo Diesel Engines

Toyota's newly developed direct-injection turbo diesel engines raise the bar for fuel efficiency, power and quietness.

The world's first use of Thermo Swing Wall Insulation Technology (TSWIN) makes the 2.8-liter 1GD-FTV engine one of the most thermally efficient in existence, with a maximum thermal efficiency of 44 percent. Despite smaller engine displacement in comparison to the current KD engine, maximum torque is improved by 25 percent and low speed torque improved by 11 percent, while fuel efficiency has received a 15 percent boost.

The engines also have Toyota's first-ever urea Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR)6 system that can eliminate up to 99 percent of emissions of NOx (nitrogen oxide), one of the main causes of air pollution.

The newly developed 1GD-FTV is currently available in the new Hilux small pickup truck launched in Thailand in May 2015, and in the partially redesigned Land Cruiser Prado launched in Japan on June 17. The same engine lineup includes the 2GD-FTV 2.4-liter direct-injection turbo diesel engine.

* New engines feature next-generation advanced thermal insulation diesel combustion
* World-first use of Thermo Swing Wall Insulation Technology (TSWIN)
* Top-class maximum thermal efficiency of 44 percent
* 15 percent more fuel efficient; 25 percent more maximum torque
* Eliminates up to 99 percent of NOx emissions
* Production of 700,000 units a year; available in approx. 90 markets by the end of 2016

No Strings on the running and hurdling Cheetahbot

MIT researchers who built a robotic cheetah have now trained it to see and jump over hurdles as it runs — making this the first four-legged robot to run and jump over obstacles autonomously and untethered.

The robot can “see,” with the use of onboard LIDAR — a visual system that uses reflections from a laser to map terrain. The team developed a three-part algorithm to plan out the robot’s path, based on LIDAR data. Both the vision and path-planning system are onboard the robot, giving it complete autonomous control.

The algorithm’s first component enables the robot to detect an obstacle and estimate its size and distance. The researchers devised a formula to simplify a visual scene, representing the ground as a straight line, and any obstacles as deviations from that line. With this formula, the robot can estimate an obstacle’s height and distance from itself.

Once the robot has detected an obstacle, the second component of the algorithm kicks in, allowing the robot to adjust its approach while nearing the obstacle. Based on the obstacle’s distance, the algorithm predicts the best position from which to jump in order to safely clear it, then backtracks from there to space out the robot’s remaining strides, speeding up or slowing down in order to reach the optimal jumping-off point.

This “approach adjustment algorithm” runs on the fly, optimizing the robot’s stride with every step. The optimization process takes about 100 milliseconds to complete — about half the time of a single stride.

When the robot reaches the jumping-off point, the third component of the algorithm takes over to determine its jumping trajectory. Based on an obstacle’s height, and the robot’s speed, the researchers came up with a formula to determine the amount of force the robot’s electric motors should exert to safely launch the robot over the obstacle. The formula essentially cranks up the force applied in the robot’s normal bounding gait, which Kim notes is essentially “sequential executions of small jumps.”

In experiments on a treadmill and an indoor track, the cheetah robot successfully cleared obstacles up to 18 inches tall — more than half of the robot’s own height — while maintaining an average running speed of 5 miles per hour

GE adaptive cycle engine is so revolutionary it could fix many of the F35 jet problems

GE Adaptive Cycle Engine (ACE) is the latest in a proud legacy of game-changing propulsion innovations from GE Aviation. It was developed under the U.S. Department of Defense’s Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology (ADVENT) and Adaptive Engine Technology Development (AETD) programs, the GE ACE is the only engine that combines outstanding fuel burn with increased, fighter-level thrust, enabling military aircraft to go greater distances and engage more targets.

Unlike traditional engines with fixed airflow, the GE ACE is a variable cycle engine that will automatically alternate between a high-thrust mode for maximum power and a high-efficiency mode for optimum fuel savings. And that means a whole new book of operational possibilities for the U.S. Air Force.

* Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC) materials enable the GE ACE to achieve the highest core temperature ever recorded.
* GE is using 3D technology to develop complex components one layer at a time and open the creative canvass for engineers.
* the GE ACE can withstand higher temperatures than ever before.

General Electric put out a release about testing for its Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology (ADVENT) project, which achieved the highest combined compressor and turbine temperature operation “in the history of jet engine propulsion.

GE’s unique adaptive cycle, three-stream engine architecture could bring fighters of the future both higher performance and longer range with less fuel burn.

The engine could boost the range of the F35 from 600 nautical miles to 800 nautical miles.
Nextbigfuture has been highly critical of the F35. The F35 is still a waste of money, but a vastly superior future engine upgrade may end up making the post 2025 version of the F35 less terrible.

June 18, 2015

Adam Savage built a functional Star Trek Captain Kirk Chair

Adam shares the story of his Star Trek Captain's Chair, which he became obsessed with building from scratch after acquiring an insufficient replica. With the help of friend Jeremy Williams, Adam spends a day wiring in the electronics to bring his new Enterprise command chair to life. After much problem solving and troubleshooting, the effort pays off in a big way.

They state the problem of a bad chair purchased on Ebay for the first few minutes.
Then 30 minutes of building the electronics for the right chair.
From 33 minutes onwards it is playing with all of the fully functional parts.

They used Arduino as the brains of the electronics.

Astronomers have measured the mass and size of the smallest exoplanet yet and it is Mars sized

A team of astronomers has measured the mass and size of the smallest exoplanet yet, a Mars-sized planet named Kepler-138b orbiting a red dwarf star about 200 light years from our solar system. Kepler-138b is the first exoplanet smaller than the Earth to have both its mass and its size measured. Kepler-138b is one of three planets that orbit the star Kepler-138 and that pass in front of it -- or transit -- on every orbit. Each time a planet transits the star, it blocks a small fraction of the star's light, allowing astronomers to measure the size of the planet. All three Kepler planets were identified by NASA's Kepler mission, which has discovered over a thousand planets around other stars. This video shows a mass-radius diagram based on measurements of 127 exoplanets. The video begins by showing a range of planets with masses up to that of Jupiter's, then gradually zooms toward the smaller masses and radii to display a comparison of the physical properties of the Kepler-138 planets relative to Earth, Venus, Mars and Mercury.

Fifteen years ago the first exoplanet that was found was 3000 times larger than Kepler 138b. [Via Centauri Dreams]

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaf industrializing laser arc method of applying 20 micrometer thick almost frictionless diamond coatings

Coating engine components with hard carbon reduces friction to almost zero – a development that could save billions of liters of fuel worldwide every year. Now researchers have developed a new laser method to apply the coating on the production line. Scientists already know how to coat components with diamond-like carbon to minimize friction. But now researchers of the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS in Dresden have developed a laser arc method with which layers of carbon almost as hard as diamond can be applied on an industrial scale at high coating rates and with high thicknesses. By applying carbon coatings to engine components such as piston rings and pins, fuel consumption can be reduced.

Carbon-based coatings are already used in volume production. But now the team of IWS researchers led by Prof. Leson, Dr. Hans-Joachim Scheibe and Dr. Volker Weihnacht has succeeded in producing hydrogen-free ta-C coatings on an industrial scale at a consistent level of quality. These tetrahedral amorphous carbon coatings are significantly harder and thus more resistant to wear than conventional diamond-like coatings. “Unfortunately, you can’t just scrape off diamond dust and press it onto the component. So we had to look for a different method,” says Dr. Scheibe, who has spent over 30 years investigating carbon’s friction-reducing properties.

A pulsed laser controls the light arc

In a similar style to old-fashioned film projectors, the laser arc method generates an arc between an anode and a cathode (the carbon) in a vacuum. The arc is initiated by a laser pulse on the carbon target. This produces a plasma consisting of carbon ions, which is deposited as a coating on the workpiece in the vacuum. To run this process on an industrial scale, a pulsed laser is vertically scanned across a rotating graphite cylinder as a means of controlling the arc. The cylinder is converted evenly into plasma thanks to the scanning motion and rotation. To ensure a consistently smooth coating, a magnetic field guides the plasma and filters out any particles of dirt.

The laser arc method can be used to deposit very thick ta-C coatings of up to 20 micrometers at high coating rates. “High coating thicknesses are crucial for certain applications – especially in the auto industry, where components are exposed to enormous loads over long periods of time,” says Dr. Weihnacht.

The automotive and motorcycle manufacturer BMW is working intensively on the industrial-scale implementation of ta-C engine components in its various vehicle models with the aim of reducing their fuel consumption.

Dr. Volker Weihnacht, Prof. Andreas Leson and Dr. Hans-Joachim Scheibe (left to right) successfully developed a laser arc method of depositing friction-reducing, wear-resistant coatings on components. © Dirk Mahler/Fraunhofer

FAA could make commercial drone rules within 12 months as other countries race for 100 billion dollar global drone markets

Michael Whitaker, the FAA’s deputy administrator, said the FAA expects to formalize regulations for commercial drones within 12 months. "The rule will be in place within a year," he told the House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Amazon could be making drone deliveries within the year. Not only that, but the e-commerce company wants to deliver products within 30 minutes using the small, unmanned aircraft.

"We’d like to begin delivering to our customers as soon as it’s approved," added Amazon vice president of global public policy Paul Misener. "We will have it in place by the time any regulations are ready. We are working very quickly." He added that the company plans to use drones to deliver products within 30 minutes of customers ordering them.

Bloodstream nanobots

Scientists are reporting in the ACS journal Nano Letters the development of new nanobots that can move easily through body fluids to their targets.

The researchers strung together three links in a chain about as long as a silk fiber is wide. One segment was a polymer, and two were magnetic, metallic nanowires. They put the tiny devices in a fluid even thicker than blood. And when they applied an oscillating magnetic field, the nanoswimmer moved in an S-like, undulatory motion at the speed of nearly one body length per second. The magnetic field also can direct the swimmers to reach targets.


Micro- and nanorobots operating in low Reynolds number fluid environments require specialized swimming strategies for efficient locomotion. Prior research has focused on designs mimicking the rotary corkscrew motion of bacterial flagella or the planar beating motion of eukaryotic flagella. These biologically inspired designs are typically of uniform construction along their flagellar axis. This work demonstrates for the first time planar undulations of composite multilink nanowire-based chains (diameter 200 nm) induced by a planar-oscillating magnetic field. Those chains comprise an elastic eukaryote-like polypyrrole tail and rigid magnetic nickel links connected by flexible polymer bilayer hinges. The multilink design exhibits a high swimming efficiency. Furthermore, the manufacturing process enables tuning the geometrical and material properties to specific application

NanoLetters - Undulatory Locomotion of Magnetic Multilink Nanoswimmers

HP new computer architecture will push regular technology and transition to custom OS and memristors sometime over the next five years

HP new computer architecture called the machine will not have memristors in its early versions.

The machine is to ahve specialized cores, a purpose-built open source operating system optimized for non-volatile systems, and was to have: memristor non-volatile memory, a special kind of resistor circuit that functions as both storage and memory.

HP will use DRAM memory for its prototype, and will convert the shared memory pool to non-volatile memory, for example phase change memory, in future versions.

HP had said the Machine would rely on a memristor, which is a kind of digital memory that has been talked about for four decades, but has been difficult to bring into commercial use. The company expects to spend close to $500 million on the Machine as it develops the many-years-off computer, putting it on a par with its move from selling computer servers to offering cloud computing systems.

Martin Fink, HP’s chief technology officer, repositioned the Machine as a “memory-driven computer architecture,” which focuses on the large amounts of data stored, rather than the processing power.

Memristors were barely in sight. A prototype of the new computer could be out next year, Mr. Fink said, based on more conventional DRAM memory. Instead of a special-purpose computer operating system, he said, the Machine will initially have a version of the popular Linux system.

Memristors are still on the table and HP is aiming to have them inside the system when it makes its market debut five years from now.

Next year’s promised Machine could still be impressive. Mr. Fink said it would have 320 terabytes of memory, compared with 12 terabytes in the most memory-rich computers HP now offers.

If HP can build a market for the tech, it wants to shrink down the Machine, Mr. Fink said. Devices that now rely on cloud computing for much of their functionality, like smartphones, could become self-contained objects, capable of memory-intensive things like voice recognition and language translation without calling on external computers.

NASA mission to Europa is in development phase for launch in 2020s

Beyond Earth, Jupiter’s moon Europa is considered one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for signs of present-day life, and a new NASA mission to explore this potential is moving forward from concept review to development.

NASA’s mission concept -- to conduct a detailed survey of Europa and investigate its habitability -- has successfully completed its first major review by the agency and now is entering the development phase known as formulation.

The mission plan calls for a spacecraft to be launched to Jupiter in the 2020s, arriving in the distant planet’s orbit after a journey of several years. The spacecraft would orbit the giant planet about every two weeks, providing many opportunities for close flybys of Europa. The mission plan includes 45 flybys, during which the spacecraft would image the moon's icy surface at high resolution and investigate its composition and the structure of its interior and icy shell.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, has been assigned the responsibility of managing the project. JPL has been studying the multiple-flyby mission concept, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, since 2011.

Softbank, Foxconn and Alibaba are joining to sell $1600 humanoid robots like Pepper

Foxconn Technology Group, Japan’s Softbank Corp and Alibaba are planning to set up a joint venture to produce robots, Japan’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported yesterday.

Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Group, and Softbank have agreed on the joint venture deal, which is scheduled to launch production by the end of this year, with an annual capacity of 10,000 units, the report said.

SoftBank and Foxconn have been working with each other since June last year, when the Japanese firm unveiled Pepper, a robot developed by Aldebaran Robotics SA, a SoftBank subsidiary in France, and built by Foxconn.

The newspaper cited unnamed sources as saying that the new company would first focus on mass producing and marketing Pepper.

Several enterprises in Japan have used or are planning to use Pepper, the report said. Among them, Nestle Japan Ltd uses Pepper to sell its coffee machines, it added.

According to the report, Pepper is expected to hit the general public market this summer, priced at ¥198,000 (US$1,597).

The newspaper said that Foxconn chairman Terry Gou plans to cooperate with China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd to sell Pepper robots worldwide.

Separately, the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday said that Foxconn and Alibaba are planning to spend US$500 million to take a 10 percent stake in Indian e-commerce firm Snapdeal.com, and that the deal is pending regulatory approval from India.

Pepper is the first humanoid robot designed to live with humans. At the risk of disappointing you, he doesn't clean, doesn't cook and doesn't have super powers... Pepper is a social robot able to converse with you, recognize and react to your emotions, move and live autonomously.

Beyond graphene 2D materials with nearly any desired property

Physicists think that there may be around 500 2D materials, including not just graphene and TMDCs (transition-metal dichalcogenides), but also single layers of metal oxides, and single-element materials such as silicene and phosphorene. “If you want a 2D material with a given set of properties,” says Jonathan Coleman, a physicist at Trinity College Dublin, “you will find one.”

Transition-metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs) are a single sheet of transition-metal atoms such as molybdenum or tungsten that was sandwiched between equally thin layers of chalcogens: elements, such as sulfur and selenium, that lie below oxygen in the periodic table. TMDCs are almost as thin, transparent and flexible as graphene.

Different combinations of the basic ingredients can produce TMDCs with a wide range of electronic and optical properties. Unlike graphene, for example, many TMDCs are semiconductors, meaning that they have the potential to be made into molecular-scale digital processors that are much more energy efficient than anything possible with silicon.

June 17, 2015

On June 24, FDA will meet with researchers to consider a clinical trial which treats aging as a disease target

Doctors and scientists want drug regulators and research funding agencies to consider medicines that delay ageing-related disease as legitimate drugs. Such treatments have a physiological basis, researchers say, and could extend a person’s healthy years by slowing down the processes that underlie common diseases of ageing — making them worthy of government approval. On 24 June, researchers will meet with regulators from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make the case for a clinical trial designed to show the validity of the approach.

Current treatments for diseases related to ageing “just exchange one disease for another”, says physician Nir Barzilai of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. That is because people treated for one age-related disease often go on to die from another relatively soon thereafter. “What we want to show is that if we delay ageing, that’s the best way to delay disease.”

Barzilai and other researchers plan to test that notion in a clinical trial called Targeting Aging with Metformin, or TAME. They will give the drug metformin to thousands of people who already have one or two of three conditions — cancer, heart disease or cognitive impairment — or are at risk of them. People with type 2 diabetes cannot be enrolled because metformin is already used to treat that disease. The participants will then be monitored to see whether the medication forestalls the illnesses they do not already have, as well as diabetes and death.

On 24 June, researchers will try to convince FDA officials that if the trial succeeds, they will have proved that a drug can delay ageing. That would set a precedent that ageing is a disorder that can be treated with medicines, and perhaps spur progress and funding for ageing research.

During a meeting on 27 May at the US National Institute on Aging (NIA) in Bethesda, Maryland, Robert Temple, deputy director for clinical science at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, indicated that the agency is open to the idea.

Fightaging.org does not think this effort will achieve any useful regulatory decision or change for many years. He cites the example of the effort to get Sarcopenia ruled a disease. Sarcopenia is muscle loss due to old age. It is to muscle as osteoporosis is to bone.

Lobbying the FDA to consider Sarcopenia a medical condition and thus allow commercialization of treatments in the US has been underway for a long time indeed, with no sign that FDA bureaucrats are going to do anything more than continue to hold meetings, request expensive data, and waste time.

I think that the better road ahead is to commercialize treatments outside the US on the back of a strong medical tourism industry. The stem cell marketplace could grow into that, but has yet to organize to the point at which it can influence the research community sufficiently to close the funding circle. It absolutely should be any US researcher's expectation that their primary and best avenue for commercial application of medical research is outside the US. Further, a robust trade on that front is the only way to drive back the ever-increasing demands of the FDA. Regulatory competition with other regions is the only argument that bureaucrats reliably listen to: the point at which they look like fools for holding out further. I expect we'd still be waiting on legalization of stem cell treatments of any sort in the US if they hadn't been widely available for years in reliable clinics and hospitals across both land borders and the Pacific.

Martin Aircraft has over $40 million in jetpack deals

Martin Jetpack is the world's first practical jetpack, with potential search and rescue, military, recreational and commercial applications, both manned and unmanned.

Four agreements signed by Martin Aircraft at the Paris Airshow :

1. An agreement with Beijing Flying Man Science and Technology Ltd involves the parties working towards the future delivery of a Martin Aircraft package with an initial tranche of 100 manned Jetpacks, 50 unmanned Jetpacks, 25 static models and 25 simulators. It is noted that at this stage the agreement is a strategic co-operation agreement and any sales are dependent upon a successful supply agreement.

2. An agreement with Beijing Voyage Investment Ltd a subsidiary company of well-known Chinese-based AVIC International Holdings Ltd for the intended future delivery of manned and unmanned Jetpacks, simulators, and static models.

3. An alliance agreement with Czech Republic-based Martin Aircraft Company s.r.o. to establish a European sales centre for the Martin Jetpack.

4. An alliance agreement with New Delhi based M2K Group Ltd to establish a regional sales presents in commercially important India market.

The First Responder Jetpack will be our first commercial product and will be available for delivery from the second half of 2016. The cost of the aircraft will be around US$200,000 plus customisation.

Martin Aircraft Company plans to release the Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) version of the Jetpack, the Martin Skyhook for commercial sale in 2016.

The Martin Skyhook has several applications in the following areas:

* Heavy Lift VTOL
* Agriculture
* Film Industry
* Movement of goods across difficult terrain or water
* “Mule Train” – an unmanned Jetpack to accompany a First Responder Jetpack to carry a load

World nuclear power out to 2019

Today there are some 437 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 countries plus Taiwan, with a combined capacity of over 380 GWe. In 2014 these provided 2411 billion kWh, over 11% of the world's electricity. Over 60 power reactors are currently being constructed in 13 countries plus Taiwan, notably China, South Korea, UAE and Russia.

In the 1980s, 218 nuclear power reactors started up, an average of one every 17 days. These included 47 in USA, 42 in France and 18 in Japan. These were fairly large - average power was 923.5 MWe. So it is not hard to imagine a similar number being commissioned in the years ahead. But with China and India getting up to speed in nuclear energy and a world energy demand increasing, a realistic estimate of what is possible (but not planned at this stage) might be the equivalent of one 1000 MWe unit worldwide every 5 days.

In Russia, six reactors and two small ones are under active construction, one large one being a large fast neutron reactor. About 30 further reactors are then planned, some to to replace existing plants. This will increase the country's present nuclear power capacity by 50% by 2030. In addition about 5 GW of nuclear thermal capacity is planned. A small floating power plant is expected to be completed by 2016 and others are planned to follow.

South Korea plans to bring a further further four reactors into operation by 2018, and another eight by about 2030, giving total new capacity of 17,200 MWe. All of these are the Advanced PWRs of 1400 MWe. These APR-1400 designs have evolved from a US design which has US NRC design certification, and four been sold to the UAE (see below).

The United Arab Emirates awarded a $20.4 billion contract to a South Korean consortium to build four 1400 MWe reactors by 2020. The first three are under construction.

India has 21 reactors in operation, and six under construction. This includes two large Russian reactors and a large prototype fast breeder reactor as part of its strategy to develop a fuel cycle which can utilise thorium. Over 20 further units are planned. 18 further units are planned, and proposals for more - including western and Russian designs - are taking shape following the lifting of trade restrictions.

In China, now with 26 operating reactors on the mainland, the country is well into the next phase of its nuclear power program. Some 24 reactors are under construction, including the world's first Westinghouse AP1000 units, and a demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor plant. Many more units are planned, including two largely indigenous designs – the Hualong One and CAP1400. China aims to more than double its nuclear capacity by 2020.

Reactors with an asterix are already grid connected. So 5 of 12 are already grid connected

Centimeter-long origami robot

A team of MIT researchers have developed a printable origami robot that folds itself up from a flat sheet of plastic when heated and measures about a centimeter from front to back.

The robot’s design was motivated by a hypothetical application in which tiny sheets of material would be injected into the human body, navigate to an intervention site, fold themselves up, and, when they had finished their assigned tasks, dissolve. To that end, the researchers built their prototypes from liquid-soluble materials. One prototype robot dissolved almost entirely in acetone (the permanent magnet remained); another had components that were soluble in water.

In all of the researchers’ prototypes, the self-folding sheets had three layers. The middle layer always consisted of polyvinyl chloride, a plastic commonly used in plumbing pipes, which contracts when heated. In the acetone-soluble prototype, the outer layers were polystyrene.

Slits cut into the outer layers by a laser cutter guide the folding process. If two slits on opposite sides of the sheet are of different widths, then when the middle layer contracts, it forces the narrower slit’s edges together, and the sheet bends in the opposite direction. In their experiments, the researchers found that the sheet would begin folding at about 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the robot has folded itself up, the proper application of a magnetic field to the permanent magnet on its back causes its body to flex. The friction between the robot’s front feet and the ground is great enough that the front feet stay fixed while the back feet lift. Then, another sequence of magnetic fields causes the robot’s body to twist slightly, which breaks the front feet’s adhesion, and the robot moves forward.

Bill Gates believes Studwell has the answer to Asian Economic Miracle and What to do for Africa

Joe Studwell’s book How Asia Works is a great look at the factors that drove the rapid economic growth in several Asian countries. The Wealhiest man in the world, Bill Gates, recommends it for anyone who’s doing business in Asia.

Studwell’s answers to the multi-trillion-dollar question of why some Asian countries developed rapidly and others (Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand) did not? He offers a simple, three-part formula:

1. Create conditions for small farmers to thrive.
2. Use the proceeds from agricultural surpluses to build a manufacturing base that is tooled from the start to produce exports.
3. Nurture both these sectors (small farming and export-oriented manufacturing) with financial institutions closely controlled by the government.

Studwell’s book articulates the key role of agriculture in development. He explains that the one thing that all poor countries have in abundance is farm labor—typically three quarters of their population. Unfortunately, most poor countries have feudal land policies that favor wealthy landowners, with masses of poor farmers working for them. Studwell argues that these policies not only produce huge inequities; they also guarantee lousy crop yields. Conversely, he says, when you give farmers ownership of modest plots and allow them to profit from the fruits of their labor, farm yields are much higher per hectare. And rising yields help countries generate the surpluses and savings they need to power up their manufacturing engine.

Monster.com, LinkedIn, Uber, Freelancing can help reduce global underemployment

McKinsey has an analysis of online talent platforms. Online talent platforms can ease a number of labor-market dysfunctions by more effectively connecting individuals with work opportunities. Such platforms include websites, like Monster.com and LinkedIn, that aggregate individual résumés with job postings from traditional employers, as well as the rapidly growing digital marketplaces of the new “gig economy,” such as Uber and Upwork. While hundreds of millions of people around the world already use these services, their capabilities and potential are still evolving.

NBF Notes - McKinsey's analysis indicates that this is part of the employment solution. It helps by about 10%. 850 million unemployed or part time workers. Say 720 million full time unemployed because of the part time workers. Fully leveraging online talent platforms is 72 million full time equivalents.

McKinsey Global Institute report, A labor market that works: Connecting talent with opportunity in the digital age, we examine the current state of employment and the impact these digital platforms could have:

* In countries around the world, 30 to 45 percent of the working-age population is unemployed, inactive in the workforce, or working only part time. In Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, this adds up to 850 million people.

* As online talent platforms grow in scale, they will become faster and more effective clearinghouses that can inject new momentum and transparency into job markets while drawing in new participants. Our supply-side analysis shows that online talent platforms could add $2.7 trillion, or 2.0 percent, to global GDP by 2025, while increasing employment by 72 million full-time-equivalent positions.

* Up to 540 million people could benefit from online talent platforms by 2025. As many as 230 million could find new jobs more quickly, reducing the duration of unemployment, while 200 million who are inactive or employed part time could gain additional hours through freelance platforms. As many as 60 million people could find work that more closely suits their skills or preferences, while an additional 50 million could shift from informal to formal employment.

* Countries (such as Greece, Spain, and South Africa) with persistently high unemployment and low participation rates could benefit most. Among advanced economies, the United States stands to realize significant gains because of the relative fluidity of its job market. By contrast, the potential is lower in China and Japan as a result of their low unemployment and other barriers that limit adoption.

* Online talent platforms increase the transparency of the demand for skills, enabling young people to make better educational choices. As a result, more effective spending on tertiary education could reduce some of the $89 billion misallocation we find in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Long Term Unemployment

Long-term unemployment has remained a persistent problem post-Great Recession – a somewhat new issue for the U.S., as compared to Europe. Despite declining over the last 5 years, the share of the unemployed who have been out of work for more than 6 months still exceeds its previous peak reached in 1981-82, and is well above its average in the last recovery. Yet, measures of short-term unemployment are close to their average rates in the last recovery. As a result, overall unemployment remains elevated because of the large number of people who have been unemployed long term.

There could be a lot of new unemployment coming from new technology. 6 million professional driving jobs in the USA are at risk with the development of self driving cars. A lot of these people could end up as long term unemployed. There should be more aggressive job creation policies and retraining programs in parallel with introduction of the new job displacement technologies.

According to a study by Columbia’s Till von Wachter and the Chicago Federal Reserve’s Daniel Sullivan, long-term unemployment can knock up to 18 months off of life expectancy:

We use administrative data on the quarterly employment and earnings of Pennsylvanian workers in the 1970s and 1980s matched to Social Security Administration death records covering 1980–2006 to estimate the effects of job displacement on mortality. We find that for high-seniority male workers, mortality rates in the year after displacement are 50%–100% higher than would otherwise have been expected. The effect on mortality hazards declines sharply over time, but even twenty years after displacement, we estimate a 10%–15% increase in annual death hazards. If such increases were sustained indefinitely, they would imply a loss in life expectancy of 1.0–1.5 years for a worker displaced at age forty. We show that these results are not due to selective displacement of less healthy workers or to unstable industries or firms offering less healthy work environments. We also show that workers with larger losses in earnings tend to suffer greater increases in mortality. This correlation remains when we examine predicted earnings declines based on losses in industry, firm, or firm-size wage premiums.

June 16, 2015

Human Longevity working towards mining millions of genomes and health records to crack radical life extension

HLI (Human Longevity Inc) is building the world’s largest human genome sequencing center in the world. Along with computing advances, DNA sequencing has seen an explosion of next generation technologies that are enabling faster and better sequencing of human genomes.

HLI has initially purchased two Illumina HiSeq X Ten Sequencing Systems (with the option for an additional three systems). These next generation sequencing machines are clusters of 10 instruments that provide HLI with an annual throughput of tens of thousands of human genomes. HLI plans to sequence up to 40,000 human genomes per year, with plans to rapidly scale to 100,000 human genomes.

Along with the genomic data gleaned from the sequencing complete human genomes, HLI will also be generating microbiome data for many of these individuals through its Biome Health division, under the leadership of Karen Nelson, Ph.D.

Nelson, who is also President of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), and her team led the first human microbiome study on the human gut which was published in the journal Science in 2006. Nelson and her team have gone on to publish numerous scientific papers on the microbiome.

HLI is currently at about ten thousand or so health records with integrated genome sequences
HLI is heading to about 40,000 or so genome integrated health records by the end of the year
HLI is heading to about 160,000 or so genome integrated health records by the end of 2016
HLI should have over 1 million genome integrated health record by 2020

They are getting medical insights now and expect to really start making great progress in the 2017-2019 range based on the scale of analysis at that point.

There are 100 times more cells from bacteria, fungi, and viruses, in and on your body than there are human cells.

Modular Customized Missiles on Demand

Teams of European missile maker MBDA's young engineers and managers drawn from five European countries were challenged to come up with concepts and technologies that might be available in the 2035 timeframe to give warfighters a way to assemble missiles in the field from a suite of components designed to meet specific threats.

One concept is a missiles-on-demand scheme, known as Flexis. It revolves around a fully modular missile featuring technologies like contactless interfaces, common bus architecture and a common composite chassis.

The completely automated system would see keys mission-specific parts of the weapon effectively mixed and matched from a range of building blocks depending on the threat.

The operator effectively configures the weapon at the point of use, bringing a flexible effects-on-demand to the battlespace.

The team who unveiled their concept at the Paris Air show June 15 used three sizes of missile to demonstrate the idea, ranging from a 1.8 meter long anti-tank missile up to a 3 meter long air-to-air missile.

The 2015 team used an aircraft carrier as its assembly plant at sea but Ed Dodwell, the team leader, said the system could work equally well on smaller support ships or on forward army bases and airfields.

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