August 08, 2015

Tesla likely to supply cars to Uber in the nearterm and Uber would buy 500,000 cars if Tesla can make them fully self driving

Steve Jurvetson, an early Tesla investor and current company board member, stated that Uber's CEO told him that if Tesla is able to build a fully-functioning autonomous vehicle by 2020, Uber would want to buy 500,000 of them.

According to Charged EVs, that accounts for every model Tesla would be able to create in the auto’s first year.
Jurvetson also discussed the benefits of embracing the driving technology Tesla is developing, saying that the cars are an ideal way to eliminate traffic gridlock, get people moving more efficiently, and provide an exceptionally safe commute to travelers.

“I believe they are already safer than my parents,” Jurvetson said of the “robocars”, “and I would trust my kids with them.”

Although in the panel, the speakers make predictions about how fast Tesla’s production process will actually move, most are hopeful that fully autonomous cars will be available in the next 15 years.

During Tesla's Earnings call, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas asked Musk “is this a real business opportunity for Tesla, supplying cars for ride-sharing firms or does Tesla just cut out the middle man and sell on demand electric mobility services directly on its own platform?”

Musk responded with an excruciating six seconds of silence, before sheepishly saying Jonas’ was “an insightful question.”

“You don’t have to answer it,” replied Jonas.

“I don’t think I should, uh, answer it.”

First white laser paves way for better computer screens, televisions and laser wifi 1000 times faster than wifi

More luminous and energy efficient than LEDs, white lasers look to be the future in lighting and light-based wireless communication

While lasers were invented in 1960 and are commonly used in many applications, one characteristic of the technology has proven unattainable. No one has been able to create a laser that beams white light.

Researchers at Arizona State University have solved the puzzle. They have proven that semiconductor lasers are capable of emitting over the full visible color spectrum, which is necessary to produce a white laser.

The researchers have created a novel nanosheet – a thin layer of semiconductor that measures roughly one-fifth of the thickness of human hair in size with a thickness that is roughly one-thousandth of the thickness of human hair – with three parallel segments, each supporting laser action in one of three elementary colors. The device is capable of lasing in any visible color, completely tunable from red, green to blue, or any color in between. When the total field is collected, a white color emerges.

The technological advance puts lasers one step closer to being a mainstream light source and potential replacement or alternative to light emitting diodes (LEDs). Lasers are brighter, more energy efficient, and can potentially provide more accurate and vivid colors for displays like computer screens and televisions. Ning’s group has already shown that their structures could cover as much as 70 percent more colors than the current display industry standard.

Another important application could be in the future of visible light communication in which the same room lighting systems could be used for both illumination and communication. The technology under development is called Li-Fi for light-based wireless communication, as opposed to the more prevailing Wi-Fi using radio waves. Li-Fi could be more than 10 times faster than current Wi-Fi, and white laser Li-Fi could be 10 to 100 times faster than LED based Li-Fi currently still under development.

This schematic illustrates the novel nanosheet with three parallel segments created by the researchers, each supporting laser action in one of three elementary colors. The device is capable of lasing in any visible color, completely tunable from red, green to blue, or any color in between. When the total field is collected, a white color emerges. Photo by: ASU/Nature Nanotechnology

Composition-graded nanostructures on a single quartz substrate. a, Real color image of the as-grown full composition-grade sample under ambient lighting. The light grey and black regions on the substrate represent the ZnSand CdSe-rich compositions, respectively and the intermediate colors are associated with the quaternary alloys of intermediate compositions. Scale bar only for the width direction, 0.25cm. b and c, PL images of the region between the dashed lines under 10X (b) and 50X (c) of magnification . The sample was pumped by a 405 nm continuous wave (CW) laser diode. d, Cross-sectional SEM images from six representative points along the substrate, within the region between the dashed lines in a. Scale bars, 10m. e, EDS results from fourteen evenly-spaced points between the dashed lines in a, moving from left (ZnS-rich) to right (CdSe-rich). f, Corresponding EDS spectra of several points in e.

Nature Nanotechnology - A monolithic white laser

Stealth and anti-stealth technology arms race

Stealth planes are never completely invisible, as they will always generate a radar signature in the end according to Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. If you are seen five miles from your target, compared to be being spotted 100 miles away, then it will have done its job.

Anti-stealth countermeasures are now "proliferating". Whereas most radars operate between 2GHz and 40GHz, a low-band equivalent such as VHF radar operates between 1MHz and 2MHz and is able to pick out most stealth planes that are known to be flying today.

The Russians persevered with low-band radar due to their technological conservativism.

VHF can pick up "noise" such as clouds and rain, which was a reason why the West abandoned it – it does have basic physics on its side: its wavelength is the same magnitude as the prominent features on many stealth planes, so that its signal bounces back.

Russia and China (UK, USA, Australia, Israel, South Korea and basically any country with a modern air force) have VHF-Aesa (Actively scanned electronic array) radars.

Aesa (Actively scanned electronic array) radars like those supposedly on China's Divine Eagle drone are made up of a large number of solid state, chip-like modules that each emit an individual radio wave; these meet in front of the antenna to form a beam that can be easily aimed at a very specific target – and, combined with VHF, are an effective stealth-hunting tool.

he image which allegedly describes the number of TR modules within the J-10B, J-16, and J-20 has been posted on numerous defense forums since at least December of 2013.

APG-63(V)2 radar installed on an United States F-15C. The APG-63(V)2 was the first fighter mounted AESA radar to enter service worldwide. The first American F-15C unit to receive the new radars were stationed at Elmendorf in 2000. In comparison, the first European AESA entered operational service in 2012 and the first Russian AESA equipped fighters (Mig-35) will not enter service until 2016

China's Fifth Generation Stealth Fighter are underpowered with second rate stealth but new prototypes are being built at low cost

China's J-20 Black Eagle could be fully operational by 2018, and a second model, the J-31 Gyrfalcon, by 2020. If true, China’s new generation of fighters could have a substantial impact on its ability to either defend what it considers to be sovereign airspace, or to mount an aerial offensive in a wartime scenario, particularly against Taiwan (ROC).

An obscure engineer named Yang Wei has rapidly risen to the leadership of the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute  —  a major warplane manufacturer responsible for quickly churning out Beijing's top warplanes. He developed the J-20, China's first stealth fighter (along with copied technology and information from Chinese hacking).

Still underpowered, with second rate stealth

China now builds fighters cheaply, quickly, and simply. However, China still has work to do to make a near-undetectable aircraft comparable to American designs  —  perhaps even Russian ones.

The J20 is underpowered considering its size and the fact that it wields twin AL-31F engines. Those engines are Russian and just a bit too weak for an aircraft that must balance speed and agility, which the J-20 appears to strive to do. Then there's the electronics and fire-control systems, both areas where Chinese innovations are lacking.

The J-20 could acting as a long-range sniper, speeding directly toward U.S. reconnaissance planes and tankers … and shooting them out of the sky. Without those support assets in the air, America's ability to wage war in the western Pacific drops dramatically.

Evolving designs

Chengdu has produced six prototypes. The designers are also taking J-20 and evolving it. The plane's engine nozzles, one of the big giveaways to radar sweeps from behind, have been partially concealed on later prototypes. And Chengdu has apparently modeled its electro-optical targeting arrangement after the F-35. Other features, such as the front, resemble the U.S. F-22. That's perhaps helped by data theft from America's stealth fighter programs.

Plus, the J-20 will likely have an advantage over the F-35 in terms of speed and maneuverability owing to its large, delta wing design. What the J-20 lacks is a bigger, reliable engine.

DARPA funds next phase of XS-1 spaceplane project

DARPA awarded Virgin Galactic and two others contracts to investigate how spaceplane could slash cost of putting satellites into space.

DARPA aims to build a reusable vehicle that it hopes will provide “quick, affordable and routine” access to space, which it says is “increasingly critical for both national and economic security”.

Darpa has now awarded three contracts to Boeing, Masten Space Systems and Northrop Grumman, which will subcontract Virgin Galactic, to develop a demonstration vehicle, identify and reduce risks to the technologies on board, and come up with a plan to build and flight-test the spaceplane. Each of three companies got $6.5 million for Phase 1B of XS-1 program.

The XS-1 demo vehicle would be able to fly at hypersonic speeds - defined as five times the speed of sound or more - at least once. It would also be capable of being launched 10 times in 10 days and should be able to launch into orbit a dummy payload simulating a satellite.

It also aims to take the price of getting small payloads – ranging from 3,000lb to 5,000lb – into space down to less than $5 million.

August 07, 2015

New Nanoscale Programmable Memristive Switches from DARPA

By combining complementary mindsets on the leading edges of electronic and radiofrequency device engineering, a pair of researchers in DARPA’s Young Faculty Award program has devised ultratiny, electronic switches with reprogrammable features resembling those at play in inter-neuron communication. These highly adaptable nanoscale switches can toggle on and off so fast, and with such low loss, they could become the basis of not only computer and memory devices but also multi-function radiofrequency (RF) chips, which users might reprogram on the fly to behave first like a cell-phone’s signal emitter but then, say, as a collision-avoidance radar component or a local radio jammer.

Reconfigurable RF systems like these depend on the availability of minuscule RF switches that can be integrated into chips and whose switching characteristics can be readily reprogrammed to serve different RF functions. So far, however, reconfigurable RF switches have been of limited use because of their performance drawbacks including added noise, size, power consumption, functional instability and lack of durability.

As a step toward overcoming these constraints, two of DARPA’s Young Faculty Award (YFA) recipients, Qiangfei Xia and Joseph Bardin, both Assistant Professors in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, teamed up to invent and demonstrate new nanoscale RF switches based on so-called memristor technology. Bardin (in the YFA program since 2011) brought to the duo expertise in reconfigurable RF integrated circuits, while Xia (in the YFA program since 2012) contributed prowess in the design and fabrication of nanoscale memristor devices. Inspired by discussions with their YFA mentor—DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office Director Bill Chappell—Xia and Bardin combined their strengths to devise what they describe in a recent Nature Communications article as “nanoscale memristive radiofrequency switches.”

In this scanning electron micrograph of a programmable memristor switch, a pair of gold and silver electrodes is separated by an air gap of only 35 nanometers. Its switching behavior can be reprogrammed by applying a specific voltage across the electrodes that either leads to the formation or rupture of tiny silver filaments between them.

Radical Life extension, birthrates and different world population scenarios to 2100

There is a projection of world population based upon the availability of procedures that would extend life expectancy by 20 years or more appearing around 2020 and getting utilized in increasing amounts from 2020-2050.

In 2000-2005 there were many projections that world population would peak at 9 billion or below. In 2010, the projections were 10.1 billion and in 2012 it was 10.9 billion. The change was that African birthrates did not drop as quickly as expected. Since 2012, the estimates are that world population could be 11 to 12 billion in 2100 and would not peak.

Those projection are before consideration about success with longevity treatments. Also if Africa's birthrate stayed at current levels and did not drop at all then world population would be about 20-25 billion in 2100.

The extreme longevity scenarios could add 1 billion, 3 billion or 6 billion people to projections.
1 billion would be the difference between the 2010 and 2012 African fertility adjustment.
3 billion would be the difference between 2000 and 2015 African fertility adjustments.
6 billion would be like a worldwide fertility increase of about 0.5 children per couple.

Later in this article I discuss how we can scale food production.

I have also previously looked at scaling nuclear power.

Deep burn nuclear power options -
* fast neutron breeder reactors with onsite or offsite reprocessing of fuel can close the fuel cycle and eliminate nuclear waste (unburned fuel)
* molten salt reactors (like Terrestrial Energy) can increase the power derived from existing uranium by six times

Various reactors from China and Terrestrial Energy and others can be factory mass produced.

Could Russia Breakup after Putin ?

The Soviet Union came apart because it overstretched itself and ran out of money and ideas. Local elites saw no benefit in remaining part of a bankrupt country. It fragmented along the administrative borders of the 15 republics that made up the giant country.

Yet there was no reason why the process had to stop there. Indeed, many of Russia’s regions—including Siberia, Ural, Karelia and Tatarstan—declared their “sovereignty” at the time. To prevent further disintegration Russia’s then president, Boris Yeltsin, came up with the idea of a federation, promising each region as much “sovereignty as it could swallow”. Yeltsin made this promise in Kazan, the ancient capital of Tatarstan, which acquired many attributes of a separate state: a president, a constitution, a flag and, most important, its own budget. In exchange, Tatarstan promised to stay part of Russia.

This is an analysis by the Economist magazine with some more specific historical information from the NY Times and Aljazeera.

Putin is keeping Russia together through force and payoffs to regions and regional leaders. Putin will turn 63 this year (born Oct 1952). An average life expectancy for a wealthy Russian man who takes care of his health would be about 75-80 years. So a post Putin situation would likely become a reality by 2027-2032 based on his death from aging or earlier if he lost power for other reasons.

President Boris Yeltsin made statements to Russia's regions in August 1990 to "take as much sovereignty as you can swallow". It was taken earnestly by Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, who engineered a Tatarstan declaration of sovereignty later that same month.

There was a vote in March, 1992 by Tartarstan on sovereignty

A majority of Tatarstan's citizens then voted for state sovereignty in the referendum.

August 06, 2015

Technical details on the US Navy 150 kw combat laser development

The 2015 Navy Expo proceedings for solid state lasers is here (42 pages)

The Navy will soon deploy a new laser gun that will be 100 to 150 kw instead of the 30 kw system they are currently testing. That weapon will go out to sea for a demonstration by FY 2018.

Here is a US Navy presentation on the progress in their development of higher power combat lasers.

US Navy railgun research and progress

The 2015 Navy Expo proceedings for Electromagnetic railguns and solid state lasers is here (42 pages)

The Navy is already working on a railgun that would allow for 10 shots per minute. This “rep rate” version, despite challenges including thermal management in the barrel, is expected to go to sea by FY 2019.

There will be railgun tests in 2016, where about 20 shots will be fired at targets 25-50 miles away.

Once the Navy reaches the higher-powered laser gun and the more operationally useful “rep rate” railgun, the service will have to figure out how to deploy them. Fuller said the Navy just wrapped up a feasibility study on the Zumwalt-class DDG-1000 destroyers, and leadership will be briefed on the results soon. Other studies, including one on the Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 destroyers, are ongoing.

Navy targets FY2019 for field testing ten shot per minute railgun and FY2018 for 100-150 kw laser tests

The Navy will shortly ward a development contract for the larger follow-on to USS Ponce laser system. The new laser gun will be 100 to 150 kw instead of 30 kw. That weapon will go out to sea for a demonstration by FY 2018, keeping in line with the goal of transitioning technology from the lab to the warfighter as quickly as possible for operational testing.

The other half of the Navy’s push to deliver energy weapons to the fleet is the electromagnetic railgun. A manual-load version will go to sea on a Joint High Speed Vessel next year, but the Navy is already working on a version that would allow for 10 shots per minute. This “rep rate” version, despite challenges including thermal management in the barrel, is expected to go to sea by FY 2019.

Once the Navy reaches the higher-powered laser gun and the more operationally useful “rep rate” railgun, the service will have to figure out how to deploy them. Fuller said the Navy just wrapped up a feasibility study on the Zumwalt-class DDG-1000 destroyers, and leadership will be briefed on the results soon. Other studies, including one on the Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 destroyers, are ongoing. The results will help the Navy identify where to put these weapons when they first go out to sea and what challenges they may face – with power conditioning and integration being a big concern for the Navy at this time, Fuller said.

The railgun may also make an appearance in Army ground units. Army Brig. Gen. Neil Thurgood, program executive officer for missiles and space, said at the same panel presentation that his service would like the railgun to address the short-range ballistic missile threat. The Navy is taking the lead on development but the Army is already working on doctrine and tactics, techniques and procedures for using such a weapon. It will help the Army conduct missile defense with more rounds shot off faster, that can hit incoming missiles farther out from their target, and at a lower cost per engagement

The 2015 Navy Expo proceedings on Electromagnetic railguns and solid state lasers is here (42 pages)

All optical communications could become over ten times faster with optical transistors 5000 times faster than silicon

Researchers have created a new "plasmonic oxide material" that could make possible devices for optical communications that are at least 10 times faster than conventional technologies.

In optical communications, laser pulses are used to transmit information along fiber-optic cables for telephone service, the Internet and cable television.

Researchers at Purdue University have shown how an optical material made of aluminum-doped zinc oxide (AZO) is able to modulate – or change – how much light is reflected by 40 percent while requiring less power than other "all-optical" semiconductor devices.

"Low power is important because if you want to operate very fast - and we show the potential for up to a terahertz or more - then you need low energy dissipation," said doctoral student Nathaniel Kinsey. "Otherwise, your material would heat up and melt when you start pushing it really fast. All-optical means that unlike conventional technologies we don't use any electrical signals to control the system. Both the data stream and the control signals are optical pulses."

Optical Society Journal - Epsilon-near-zero Al-doped ZnO for ultrafast switching at telecom wavelengths

Could the new Intel Micron 3D Xpoint be a breakthrough form of Phase Change Memory ?

Ron Neale, Independent Electrical/Electronic Manufacturing Professional speculated on what the technical basis is for the new class of computer memory 3D Xpoint.

3D Xpoint has 128 gigabit array memory chips which is non-volatile (does not electricity to retain memory) and has 10s nanosecond read latency.

Volume production at a fabrication plant in Utah is expected in 2016. Claimed operating speed and write durability are both up to 1,000 times higher than flash memory.

While NAND flash uses electric charge and block addressing to store data, 3D XPoint uses electrical resistance and is bit addressable. Individual data cells do not need a transistor, so packing density will be 8-10 times greater than DRAM, and similar to NAND. Operating speed is expected to be slower than DRAM, while price per bit will be higher than NAND and lower than DRAM.

After looking through patents, he came to the following conclusions.

* if 3D Xpoint is really new and not a new composition recipe for PCM, then it is most likely some combination of a binary oxide, metal vanadium oxides (MVOs), or molecular device, with a second star for a born-again PCM.

* all that is required for 3DXPoint to be chalcogenide PCM-based is for Intel/Micron to have found or developed a new phase change memory material that at a low temperature has a high crystallization rate, equal or better than that of GST close to its melting point, combined with an activation energy of crystallization that moves its crystallization rate at elevated temperature well outside the planned operating chip temperature range.

* Is it possible that Intel/Micron have found or developed such a Golden++ material from the chalcogenide family of compounds? Or is there some property of the chalcogenides that has not yet been exploited? On the balance of probability my answer would be no. I would look somewhere else for what is under the hood of 3D XPoint.

3D XPoint Innovations

Cross Point Array Structure
Perpendicular conductors connect 128 billion densely packed memory cells. Each memory cell stores a single bit of data. This compact structure results in high performance and high density.

Escape Dynamics Microwave launch designs and technical details

Escape Dynamics primary objective is to develop a rapidly reusable, single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) launch system and introduce space access solutions to customers at a price point 10x below the cost of current alternatives.

Escape Dynamics recently completed tests where propulsion was generated using microwaves.

Escape Dynamics is developing external microwave propulsion technology that allows reusable single-state-to-orbit space flight. In external propulsion all or part of the energy necessary for launch is coming from the ground in the form of a focused microwave beam allowing a dramatic increase in efficiency of propulsion compared to chemical rockets and enabling engines with specific impulse above 750 seconds.

Escape Dynamics’ baseline technology uses a wireless energy transfer system based on millimeter-wave high power microwave sources. The baseline frequency is 92 GHz; however, other mm-wave frequencies (90-170GHz) are also considered. The energy is delivered to the moving vehicle via a phased array of antennas enclosed in proprietary side-lobe suppressing radomes, which ensure safety of the energy transfer.

Our baseline propulsion approach is a thermal thruster which uses hydrogen as a working fluid and a heat exchanger for coupling external microwave energy into the thermal energy of the hydrogen. External microwave energy is absorbed in a ceramic matrix composite (CMC) heat exchanger with dimensions of approximately 3meters by 5meters. The hydrogen is initially stored as a liquid in a cryogenic tank and is supplied to the heat exchanger via a turbopump designed to raise the hydrogen’s pressure to approximately 150atm. The hydrogen is heated to above 2000C as it flows through the heat exchanger and is exhausted through an aerospike nozzle optimized for a SSTO flight. The heat exchanger also serves as a primary component of the thermal protection system (TPS) during the return from orbit.

The specific impulse of 750-850 seconds is consistent with single-stage-to-orbit operation and allows for a propellant mass fraction below 72% thereby enabling a path to full and rapid reusability. Our thermal thruster approach allows useful payload fractions between approximately 8% and 12%. In comparison, chemical rockets today are limited to Isp of approximately 450 seconds, are completely or partially expandable, and typically operate with useful payload fractions of 1.5%-3%.

Escape Dynamics is also developing a next generation system, which relies on the direct heating of plasmas flowing through a resonant cavity with a weight similar to that of the weight of the heat exchanger in a thermal thruster. The goal of this development is to allow operation with specific impulse above 1,500 seconds, leading to propellant mass fraction below 50%, which is comparable to airplanes

August 05, 2015

US Military months from testing a Non-lethal sonic weapon that is reminiscent of Star Wars

The Laser-Induced Plasma Effect, or LIPE, is a weapon that the U.S. military hopes to begin testing in coming months.

LIPE’s lasers fire extremely short bursts (around a nanosecond, or a billionth of a second) of directed high energy at a target. That target could be on a person, a windshield, or merely a single point in space. The energy, relatively harmless at the LIPE levels, separates electrons and nuclei at the target area to create a blue ball of plasma. Additional pulses of directed laser energy manipulate the ball to make a noise that seems to come from nowhere.

“We’ve demonstrated it in the lab at very short ranges. But we haven’t been able to demonstrate it at even 100 meters. That’s … the next step,” said David Law, the technology division chief at JNLWD.

The total cost will be about $3 million, paid out in two $1.5-million small-business-innovation-research contracts to Physical Optics Corp., which is working on the lighting effects, and a Tucson-based company called GEOST, which is working on the sound.

GEOST has an advanced laser beam control system. They change focus and tilt of a high-power laser beam over large ranges at very high rates. The fast focusing mirror requirements were beyond state of the art and we were able to model, develop, integrate, test, and deliver the system within six months.

In 2009, earlier plasmas reached 100 decibels but the new system should get to 130 decibels and beyond.

First Star Wars had Kenobi Startle Sand People with a Krayt Dragon call

Carnival of Space 417

1. Kirk, Spock and Sulu Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before — Charon!

The names of Uhura, Spock, Kirk and Sulu are on the latest map of Pluto’s jumbo moon Charon. The monikers are still only informal, but new maps of Charon and Pluto submitted to the IAU for approval feature some of our favorite real life and sci-fi characters. Come on — Vader Crater? How cool is that?

Four naming themes were selected for Charon’s features, three of which are based on fiction — Fictional Explorers and Travelers, Fictional Origins and Destinations, Fictional Vessels — and one on Exploration Authors, Artists and Directors.

This image contains the initial, informal names being used by the New Horizons team for the features on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. Names were selected based on the input the team received from the Our Pluto naming campaign. Names have not yet been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

2. Nextbigfuture - Star Trek: Renegades, is a professionally produced pilot intended for presentation to CBS as a possible online series.

This film was funded by the generous donations of fans from around the world. All monies went directly to the costs of making this high quality broadcast pilot. It is our hope that CBS finds "Star Trek: Renegades" to be a worthy endeavor and will continue the Star Trek franchise and legacy as an online episodic series (or on their own broadcast or cable network).

The official premier took place today at the Crest Theater (Saturday August 1, 2015 at 4:30 pm)
Renegades is also to be screened in Las Vegas on Friday, August 7th. The screening will be at 9:00pm at the AMC TOWN SQUARE 18, 6587 Las Vegas Blvd South.

You can still support the production. A $50 donation will get you a DVD or $60 for a Bluray copy of the pilot. This will be delivered in a month or so. There are other donation levels to get phaser and tricorder props.

Integrated radar, sensors, flight automation and easy flight control software needed for drones to operate against actual air defenses

In June, the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board completed a study (the first of three) that suggested the Air Force could modify the Reaper to be at least somewhat useful against a well-defended enemy The military has long thought drones to be “useless” against against decent air defenses with radar, interceptor missiles, or aircraft. Currently they only operate where the US air force has destroyed all air defenses.

A tougher and more versatile Reaper will

* be given a radar warning receiver and other improvements for situational awareness.
* upgraded ground cockpits, or control stations, to allow operators to steer drones, select targets, and fire at them,

* Drones in heavily contested environments will also need precision navigation and timing systems so they can continue their missions even when a sophisticated enemy knocks out their ability to use GPS. And the Air Force will have to use advanced modeling and simulation to develop more detailed technology program plans for contested environments
* a much wider variety of weapons can be applied based on the existing airframe size and power
* more autonomous operation

Currently flying a drone is like using Excel spreadsheet to perform maintenance while also trying to target a terrorist and hit him with a missile.

There is a detailed 33 page study that discusses how to make drones more Autonomous.

France funding combat laser for wing mounted pod for French Dassault Rafale fighter

Quantel Laser (Paris, France) has been awarded a $7-million, multi-year contract by a Tier 1 defense contractor to supply lasers to be built into a wing-mounted fighter aircraft pod, such as on the French Dassault Rafale fighter. The military aircraft lasers will provide critical telemetry as well as target designation functions.

Quantel designs and manufactures high-power, solid-state lasers for scientific, industrial, military, and medical applications. This contract covers a specific production series of lasers and follows Quantel’s successful development of the compact, ruggedized laser source as well as delivery of several earlier production runs.

This Quantel Laser Diodes video shows a high energy QCW laser diode array operating at 120 Hz that can provide up to 150 kW peak power of infrared energy. Maximum average power is 10 kW.

Escape Dynamics tested 100 kw microwave system and produced thrust the goal is Single stage to orbit reusable launch

A small Colorado company has successfully tested a new type of propulsion technology that it believes could eventually enable low-cost, single-stage-to-orbit launch vehicles.

UPDATE - There is a second Nextbigfuture article with more technical details.

Broomfield, Colorado-based Escape Dynamics announced July 17 it carried out a small-scale test in the laboratory of its beamed microwave thruster. In that test, the company beamed microwave energy to a thruster, heating helium propellant and generating a small amount of thrust.

Escape Dynamics designed and built a 100kW-class high power microwave system operating in a continuous wave (CW) mode at 92.3GHz. The system incorporates a gyrotron, a power conditioning unit designed to supply highly stable current and voltage and a modular power supply unit. The gyrotron and the power conditioning unit, which provides power to the gyrotron, are designed and built in-house by Escape Dynamics’ team and conform to the highest levels of performance and efficiency.

The primary application for the high power microwave system in our lab is to provide power to a wireless energy transfer system that delivers a microwave beam to externally powered engines. The beam is converted in the engine into a highly efficient, combustion-free thrust.

EDI is currently developing a 500kW CW system at 92.3GHz designed to fully support the needs of an orbital launch facility.

EDI’s external propulsion launch system will operate at a specific impulse above 750 seconds and this breakthrough increase in efficiency reduces the fraction of mass dedicated to propellant to less than 72%. The increase of 3x in the mass fraction dedicated to structure and payload for the first time opens doors for reusability and single-stage-to-orbit flight. Our first generation vehicle is optimized for 100-200 kg payloads and is designed to operate like an airplane: the vehicle flies into orbit, delivers the payload, re-enters the atmosphere after completing one or more orbits around Earth and lands back at the spaceport.

Key benefits of external propulsion:
* Space launch vehicles become fully and rapidly reusable.
* Cost per launch can eventually be reduced to $150 per kg.
* The need for combustion is eliminated, leading to safer and simpler launch vehicles.
* Useful payload fraction goes up from 1.5-3% to 8-12% and the structural mass is increased by 1.5-2x.
* Small satellites can be launched as primary payloads allowing higher degree of flexibility for customers.
* Space launch is effectively powered with electricity from the grid through a battery-storage system pioneered by the company, and in the long term can rely on renewable sources of energy.

August 04, 2015

Progress to fast plasmonic chips with nanoscale optical components

Researches from the Laboratory of Nanooptics and Plasmonics at the MIPT Center of Nanoscale Optoelectronics have developed a new method for optical communication on a chip, which will give a possibility to decrease the size of optical and optoelectronic elements and increase the computer performance several tenfold. According to their article published in Optics Express, they have proposed the way to completely eliminate energy losses of surface plasmons in optical devices.

"Surface plasmon polaritons have previously been proposed to be used as information carriers for optical communication, but the problem is that the signal is rapidly attenuated propagating along plasmonic waveguides. Now, we have come very close to the complete solution of this problem. Our approach clears the way for the development of a new generation of high performance optoelectronic chips", says Dmitry Fedyanin, the head of the research.

Arxiv - Full loss compensation in hybrid plasmonic waveguides under electrical pumping

Surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs) give an opportunity to break the diffraction limit and design nanoscale optical components, however their practical implementation is hindered by high ohmic losses in a metal. Here, we propose a novel approach for efficient SPP amplification under electrical pumping in a deep-subwavelength metal-insulator-semiconductor waveguiding geometry and numerically demonstrate full compensation for the SPP propagation losses in the infrared at an exceptionally low pump current density of 0.8 kA/cm2. This value is an order of magnitude lower than in the previous studies owing to the thin insulator layer between a metal and a semiconductor, which allows injection of minority carriers and blocks majority carriers reducing the leakage current to nearly zero. The presented results provide insight into lossless SPP guiding and development of future high dense nanophotonic and optoelectronic circuits.

Silver-based microparticles in bottle plastic extends shelf life from seven to 15 days

Agrindus, an agribusiness company located in São Carlos, São Paulo state, Brazil, has increased the shelf life of grade A pasteurized fresh whole milk from seven to 15 days.

This feat was achieved by incorporating silver-based microparticles with bactericidal, antimicrobial and self-sterilizing properties into the rigid plastic bottles used as packaging for the milk.

"We already knew use of our antimicrobial and bactericidal material in rigid or flexible plastic food packaging improves conservation and extends shelf life. So we decided to test it in the polyethylene used to bottle grade A fresh milk in Brazil. The result was that we more than doubled the product's shelf life solely by adding the material to the packaging, without mixing any additives with the milk", said the Nanox CEO, Luiz Pagotto Simões.

According to Simões, the microparticles are included as a powder in the polyethylene preform that is used to make plastic bottles by blow or injection molding. The microparticles are inert, so there is no risk of their detaching from the packaging and coming into contact with the milk.

USA Increasing hypersonic weapons program funding again to try to get to deployable weapons early in 2020s

The US is planning to scale up development and testing of hypersonic missiles again.

Conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) hypersonic weapons would allow the United States to strike targets anywhere on Earth in as little as an hour. This capability may bolster U.S. efforts to deter and defeat adversaries by allowing the United States to attack high-value targets or “fleeting targets” at the start of or during a conflict. Congress has generally supported the PGS mission, but it has restricted funding and suggested some changes in funding for specific programs. CPGS weapons would not substitute for nuclear weapons, but would supplement U.S. conventional capabilities. They would provide a “niche” capability, with a small number of weapons directed against select, critical targets. A 'hypersonic' weapon would reach speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10. There are hypersonic designs with speeds up to mach 20.

The DOD budget request for FY2016 includes $78.8 million for Prompt Global Strike Capability Development. Within this total, DOD has allocated $2 million to the HTV-2 program—the Hypersonic Glide Experiment and Conceptions Demonstration Support—line and $72.95 million to the AHW—Alternate Re-Entry System/Warhead Engineering—line. The request also includes $2.9 million for CPGS studies and $1 million for test range development. This request, along with the plans to move forward with the testing program for the AHW, further indicates that DOD has essentially concluded the HTV-2 program and is moving toward the development and deployment of a system using the AHW glider and an intermediate-range booster, possibly deployed at sea.

DOD plans to spend a total of $887.5 million over the next five years. The increase supports planned flight tests in 2017 and 2020.

Army Advanced Hypersonic Weapon

The US Army is also developing a hypersonic glide vehicle, known as the advanced hypersonic weapon (AHW). Like the HTV-2, the AHW would use a hypersonic glider to deliver a conventional payload, but could be deployed on a booster with a shorter range than HTV-2 and, therefore, may need to be deployed forward, on land or at sea. It would be based on a conical design, rather than the wedged-shape design of the HTV-2. Upon nearing a target, the weapon would be able to maneuver and home in on target using precision guidance system.

Ballistic Missiles with tungsten flechette kinetic energy warheads

An Congressional analysis of hypersonic weapons also looked at modifying ballistic missiles to have non-nuclear warheads. The Navy looked closely at tungsten rod kinetic energy weapons on several occasions.

A 47 page Congressional Research Bureau report Conventional Prompt Global Strike and Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues was written by Amy F. Woolf, Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy.

Navy Reentry Vehicle Research

In 2009, there was the Medium Lift Reentry Body program. It would be too large to fit on a Trident missile, but could carry the warhead on the intermediate range submarine-launched ballistic missile described below. It would carry a tungsten-rod (“flechette”) warhead, which would be designed to destroy area targets such as airfields and military bases.

Conventional Trident Modification

The Navy began to speak publicly about its plans for the conventional Trident modification (CTM) in early March 2006. Under this concept, the Navy planned to deploy each of its 12 Trident submarines on patrol (two would be in overhaul at any given time) with two missiles equipped to carry four conventional warheads each. The remaining 22 missiles on each submarine would continue to carry nuclear warheads, and the submarines would continue to patrol in areas that would allow them to reach targets specified in the nuclear war plan, although the patrol areas could be adjusted to accommodate targeting requirements for the CTM.

Kinetic Energy Warheads

The Navy considered two types of warheads for the CTM program in the near term. One warhead would be designed to destroy or disable area targets like airfields or buildings, using a reentry vehicle loaded with tungsten rods—known as flechettes—that would rain down on the target and destroy everything within an area of up to 3,000 square feet. The other might be able to destroy hardened targets, like underground bunkers or reinforced structures, if it were accurate enough to strike very close to the target. Each would be deployed within the reentry body developed and tested under the E2 program. The Navy also explored, for possible future deployment, technologies that might be able to penetrate to destroy hardened, buried targets

The two primary advantages of a kinetic energy rod warhead is that 1) it does not rely on precise navigation as is the case with “hit-to-kill” vehicles and 2) it provides better penetration then blast fragmentation type warheads.

A 6.1 m × 0.3 m tungsten cylinder impacting at Mach 10 has a kinetic energy equivalent to approximately 11.5 tons of TNT (or 7.2 tons of dynamite). The mass of such a cylinder is itself greater than 9 tons, so it is clear that the practical applications of such a system are limited to those situations where its other characteristics provide a decisive advantage—a conventional bomb/warhead of similar weight to the tungsten rod, delivered by conventional means, provides similar destructive capability and is a far more practical method. Some other sources suggest a speed of 36,000 ft/s (11,000 m/s), which for the aforementioned rod would amount to a kinetic energy equivalent to 120 tons of TNT or 0.12 kt. With 6–8 satellites on a given orbit, a target could be hit within 12–15 minutes from any given time, less than half the time taken by an ICBM and without the warning. Such a system could also be equipped with sensors to detect incoming anti-ballistic missile-type threats and relatively light protective measures to use against them (e.g. Hit-To-Kill Missiles or megawatt-class chemical laser)

There is a Raytheon patent Kinetic energy rod warhead with optimal penetrators

Project Thor Orbital Rods from God

Project Thor was an idea for a weapons system that launches kinetic projectiles from Earth's orbit to damage targets on the ground.

At speeds of at least 9 kilometers per second. Smaller weapons can deliver measured amounts of energy as large as a 225 kg conventional bomb. Some systems are quoted as having the yield of a small tactical nuclear bomb. These designs are envisioned as a bunker busters.

High-Performance Single-Molecule Diode that outperforms the best of its predecessors by a factor of 50.

A team of researchers from Columbia University and Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry has passed a major milestone in molecular electronics with the creation of a single-molecule diode that outperforms the best of its predecessors by a factor of 50.

“Using an ionic solution, two gold electrodes of dramatically different exposed surface areas, and a single symmetric molecule specially designed by the Luis Campos’ group at Columbia, we were able to create a diode that resulted in a rectification ratio, the ratio of forward to reverse current at fixed voltage, in excess of 200, a record for single-molecule devices,” says Latha Venkataraman, Associate Professor of Applied Physics at Columbia University.

Researchers from Berkeley Lab and Columbia University have created the world’s highest-performance single-molecule diode using a combination of gold electrodes and an ionic solution. (Image courtesy of Latha Venkataraman, Columbia University)

Schematic of the molecular junction created using asymmetric area electrodes which functions as a diode, allowing current to flow in one direction only.

Nature Nanotechnology - Single-molecule diodes with high rectification ratios through environmental control

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