September 26, 2015

Graphic comparing navy fleets of China, Japan and other asian countries

China has 205 ships over 500 tons
Japan has 78 ships over 500 tons
Vietnam has 55 ships over 500 tons
Indonesia has 8 ships
Malaysia has 2 ships
Philippines has 4 ships

Not in the graphic are India, South Korea and North Korea.

India has about 137 ships
As of 2015, the Indian Navy has a strength of 58,350 personnel and a large operational fleet consisting of two aircraft carriers, one amphibious transport dock, 9 Landing ship tanks, 9 destroyers, 15 frigates, one nuclear-powered attack submarine, 14 conventionally-powered attack submarines, 25 corvettes, 7 mine countermeasure vessels, 47 patrol vessels, 4 fleet tankers and various other auxiliary vessels.

South Korea has about 160 ships
The ROK (south Korea) Navy has about 70,000 regular personnel including 29,000 Republic of Korea Marines (as of 2014). In addition, there are about 160 commissioned ships in service with the ROK Navy, including 12 destroyers, 10 frigates, 12 submarines, 21 corvettes and 84 patrol vessels (with a total displacement of about 193,000 tonnes). The naval aviation force consists of about 70 fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. The ROK Marine Corps has about 400 tracked vehicles including self-propelled artillery.

The ROK Navy aims to become a blue-water navy by 2020.

North Korea Navy - a lot of mostly obsolete ships

The annual report of North Korea's military capabilities by the U.S. Department of Defense, released in early 2014, identified the North Korean Navy's strength at 60,000 personnel, 70 submarines, 420 patrol combatants, 260 amphibious landing craft, 30 mine warfare vessels, and 30 support ships. North Korea’s submarine force purportedly consists of 70 mostly obsolete boats, primarily used for coastal defense and reconnaissance operations, with limited capability for more offensive anti-ship operations (partially mostly due to lack of long-range air cover). The Korean People’s Navy (KPN) is believed to possess 20 Romeo-class vessels, 1,800-ton diesel-electric subs based on 1950s Soviet technology; 40 home-built 370 tons Sang-O-class diesel-electric submarines specifically designed for the insertion of special operation forces into the South but also capable of laying mines and conducting antisurface warfare; and approximately ten 130 tons Yono-class midget submarines.

By 2020, China should have about 350 ships. by 2020 China’s navy will already increasingly look like a smaller version of the U.S. Navy and will be “the second most capable ‘far seas’ navy in the world.” In five years, the PLAN’s capabilities would dwarf most other navies – China would have as many aircraft carriers as Britain and India, more nuclear attack submarines than either Britain or France, and as many AEGIS-like destroyers as all the other non-US navies combined. China would have two aircraft carriers, 20-22 AEGIS like destroyers and 6-7 nuclear attack submarines, while United States would have eleven aircraft carriers; 88 AEGIS like destroyers; and 48 nuclear attack submarines.

China's Navy modernization and fleet composition

During the past 15 years, China’s ambitious naval modernization has produced a more technologically advanced and flexible force. The PLA(N) currently possesses more than 300 surface combatants, submarines, amphibious ships, and missile-armed patrol craft. Although the overall order-of-battle has remained relatively constant in recent years, the PLA(N) is rapidly retiring legacy combatants in favor of larger, multi-mission ships, equipped with advanced antiship, antiair, and antisubmarine weapons and sensors. Since 2000, the PLA(N) has been on track to dramatically increase its combat capability by 2020 through rapid acquisition and improved operational proficiency.

During 2014 alone, more than 60 naval ships and craft were laid down, launched, or commissioned, with a similar number expected through the end of 2015.

The JIANGKAI-class (Type 054A) frigate series, LUYANG-class (Type 052B/C/D) destroyer series, and the upcoming new cruiser (Type 055) class are considered to be modern and capable designs that are comparable in many respects to the most modern Western warships.

By 2020 the submarine force will likely grow to more than 70 submarines.

The YUAN SSP is China’s most modern conventionally powered submarine. Twelve are currently in service, with as many as eight more slated for production. Its combat capability is comparable to the SONG SS, as both are capable of launching Chinese-built ASCMs, but the YUAN SSP has the added benefit of an air independent power (AIP) system and may have incorporated quieting technology from the Russian-designed KILO SS. The AIP system provides a submarine a source of power other than battery or diesel engines while the vessel still submerged, increasing its underwater endurance, and therefore reducing its vulnerability to detection.

Perhaps the most anticipated development in China’s submarine force is the expected operational deployment of the JIN-class SSBN, which will mark China’s first credible at-sea second-strike nuclear capability. The JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), has nearly three times the range of the XIA-class SSBN’s JL-1 SLBM, which was only able to range targets in the immediate vicinity of China. The JL-2 SLBM underwent successful testing in 2012 and is likely ready to enter the force.

Design Tools for the Trillion-Device Future

Dr. Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, who holds the Buttner Chair of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California at Berkeley, dives into the implications of a near future in which everybody is connected to thousands of networked devices embedded everywhere—a sensory swarm that is instrumented, interconnected and intelligently responsive. He spoke at DARPA's "Wait, What? A Future Technology Forum" on Sept. 10, 2015.

For a trillion devices -
* we need to be able to handle the increased complexity
* more abstraction, more tools and algorithms

Different Proteins can be used for CRISPR gene editing which will get around legal issues on CRISPR-Cas9

The cutting protein Cas9 can be replaced by a different protein, Cpf1, which Feng Zhang, a researcher at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard says will also work as a versatile editing tool. The background for the Broad announcement is a bruising patent fight with the University of California, Berkeley, over who invented the first CRISPR editing tools, in particular Cas9.

Zheng was the scientist who first harnessed the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 system for mammalian genome editing has now identified a different CRISPR system with the potential for even simpler and more precise genome engineering.

Zhang and his collaborators searched through hundreds of CRISPR systems in different types of bacteria, searching for enzymes with useful properties that could be engineered for use in human cells. Two promising candidates were the Cpf1 enzymes from bacterial species Acidaminococcus and Lachnospiraceae, which Zhang and his colleagues then showed can target genomic loci in human cells.

The new system, because it has a different cutting protein, could offer a way around the legal quagmire. “The greatest value may be more in terms of the patent landscape than a scientific advancement,” says Dan Voytas, a genome-editing researcher at the University of Minnesota.

The stakes are high as startups race to develop gene editing as a basis for possible medical treatments. Editas Medicine, which is connected with Feng’s lab, raised an additional $120 million in August. Intellia, a competitor connected to the Berkeley team, raised $70 million this month.

CRISPR is based on a natural system some bacteria use to defend against viruses by shredding their invading genes. In the laboratory, it’s been adapted as a tool that consists of two key components: a short stretch of RNA that lines up with a specific gene, and then a cutting protein that moves in to snip the gene open.

Journal Cell - Cpf1 Is a Single RNA-Guided Endonuclease of a Class 2 CRISPR-Cas System

•CRISPR-Cpf1 is a class 2 CRISPR system
•Cpf1 is a CRISPR-associated two-component RNA-programmable DNA nuclease
•Targeted DNA is cleaved as a 5-nt staggered cut distal to a 5′ T-rich PAM
•Two Cpf1 orthologs exhibit robust nuclease activity in human cells


The microbial adaptive immune system CRISPR mediates defense against foreign genetic elements through two classes of RNA-guided nuclease effectors. Class 1 effectors utilize multi-protein complexes, whereas class 2 effectors rely on single-component effector proteins such as the well-characterized Cas9. Here, we report characterization of Cpf1, a putative class 2 CRISPR effector. We demonstrate that Cpf1 mediates robust DNA interference with features distinct from Cas9. Cpf1 is a single RNA-guided endonuclease lacking tracrRNA, and it utilizes a T-rich protospacer-adjacent motif. Moreover, Cpf1 cleaves DNA via a staggered DNA double-stranded break. Out of 16 Cpf1-family proteins, we identified two candidate enzymes from Acidominococcus and Lachnospiraceae, with efficient genome-editing activity in human cells. Identifying this mechanism of interference broadens our understanding of CRISPR-Cas systems and advances their genome editing applications.

Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Review and Presentations

There is a Molten Salt Reactor Review by Energy Process Developments

Terrestrial Energy – Integrated MSR (IMSR)

The Integral MSR is also based on the MSR Experiment but has been modified to have a more sealed, passive approach. The design team is based in Canada with international involvement and support. An 80 MWth prototype reactor is proposed.
Operating in the thermal spectrum with a graphite moderator inside the sealed unit, it can fit on the back of an articulated truck. This unit contains the fuel salt, moderator, heat exchangers and pumps. The plant is fuelled with 5% low enriched uranium where the U-235 is denatured with U-238. This core is modular, designed for a high power density and replacement after a seven year cycle in a plant with an overall lifetime of over thirty years. This ‘seal and swap’ approach reduces on site complications and risks. Using low enriched uranium, it has a fuel cycle with which regulators are familiar. This proposal is suitable for developing fully and launching commercially immediately.

Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR features self-contained reactor Core-unit, where all key components are permanently sealed for operating lifetime. At the end of 7-year design life, the IMSR Core-unit is shut down to cool. Power is switched to a new IMSR Core-unit, in an adjacent silo within the facility. Once sufficiently cool, the spent IMSR Core-unit is removed and prepared for long-term storage, a process similar to existing industry protocols for long-term nuclear waste containment. The sealed nature of the IMSR Core-unit offers low-cost operational safety and simplicity.

Dr. David LeBlanc presented for Terrestrial Energy at TEAC7 (Thorium Energy Alliance Conference #7), held in 2015 Palo Alto.

Flibe Energy - Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR)

Flibe Energy, one of the first to resurrect the molten salt reactor concept, and based in the USA, proposes a 2MWth two fluid breeder design. It is based on work carried out by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory team in the 1970’s. It operates in the thermal spectrum moderated by graphite. Its fissile element is uranium-233 which is bred from thorium in a blanket salt at the outer edge of the reactor core.

Kirk Sorensen estimates that it will cost "several hundred million dollars" to get to the first LFTR

Black Phosphorous has great electrical and optical properties

Since 2014, black phosphorous can be split into layers 10 to 20 atoms thick. Black phosphorous has an inherent bandgap, something that graphene lacks. The bandgap can be tuned from 0.3 to 2.0 electron volts. No other 2D material has this range. It bridges the bandgaps of graphene (0 eV) and of transition-metal dichalcogenides such as molybdenum disulfide, which range from 1.0 to 2.5 eV.

Black phosphorus’s bandgap range means it can absorb and emit light with wavelengths of 0.6 to 4.0 micrometers—covering the visible to infrared. That spectrum could be key to its use in sensors and in optical communications.

However, black phosphorous is tough to make. High temperature and pressure is needed to make it. It degrades in a few hours when exposed to air.

Background on doping to tune bandgap

Science - Observation of tunable band gap and anisotropic Dirac semimetal state in black phosphorus

Black phosphorus consists of stacked layers of phosphorene, a two-dimensional semiconductor with promising device characteristics. We report the realization of a widely tunable band gap in few-layer black phosphorus doped with potassium using an in situ surface doping technique. Through band structure measurements and calculations, we demonstrate that a vertical electric field from dopants modulates the band gap, owing to the giant Stark effect, and tunes the material from a moderate-gap semiconductor to a band-inverted semimetal. At the critical field of this band inversion, the material becomes a Dirac semimetal with anisotropic dispersion, linear in armchair and quadratic in zigzag directions. The tunable band structure of black phosphorus may allow great flexibility in design and optimization of electronic and optoelectronic devices.

Devices made from Black Phosphorous

2D Materials - Design of black phosphorus 2D nanomechanical resonators by exploiting the intrinsic mechanical anisotropy

Black phosphorus (P), a layered material that can be isolated down to individual 2D crystalline sheets, exhibits highly anisotropic mechanical properties due to its corrugated crystal structure in each atomic layer, which are intriguing for two-dimensional (2D) nanomechanical devices. Here we lay the framework for describing the mechanical resonant responses in free-standing black P structures, by using a combination of analytical modeling and numerical simulation. We find that thicker devices (over 100 nm) operating in the elastic plate regime exhibit pronounced signatures of mechanical anisotropy, and can lead to new multimode resonant characteristics in terms of mode sequences, shapes, and orientational preferences that are unavailable in nanomechanical resonators made of isotropic materials. In addition, through investigating devices with different geometries, we identify the resonant responses’ dependence on crystal orientation in asymmetric devices, and evaluate the effects from the degree of anisotropy. The results suggest a pathway towards harnessing the mechanical anisotropy in black P for building novel 2D nanomechanical devices and resonant transducers with engineerable multimode functions.

A dozen Russian T-50 stealth fighters to go into service 2017

Russia’s Sukhoi T-50 fifth generation prototype fighter jets will enter into service with the Russian Armed Force in 2017, Russian Air and Space Forces Commander Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev told reporters Saturday.

The T-50 is currently undergoing flight tests that have so far been successful, Bondarev said. Previous reports stated that the aircraft would enter into service in 2016.

“Under the program, we will finish testing next year and will begin to receive the T-50 jets in 2017," Bondarev said.
According to Bondarev, the aircraft fully meets the requirements.

The T-50 prototype aircraft is designed by the Russian Sukhoi aircraft manufacturer for the PAK FA, a fifth-generation fighter program of the Russian Air Force.

The fighter jet is expected to become the first operational stealth aircraft for the Russian Air Force and will incorporate advanced avionics and all-digital flight systems.

The aircraft is a stealthy, single-seat, twin-engine jet fighter, and will be the first operational aircraft in Russian service to use stealth technology. It is a multirole fighter designed for the air superiority and attack roles. The fighter is planned to have supercruise, stealth, supermaneuverability, and advanced avionics to overcome the prior generation of fighter aircraft as well as ground and maritime defences. The PAK FA is intended to be the successor to the MiG-29 and Su-27 in the Russian Air Force and serve as the basis for the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) being co-developed by Sukhoi and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force. The T-50 prototype first flew on 29 January 2010 and the first production aircraft is slated for delivery to the Russian Air Force starting in late 2016 or early 2017. The prototypes and initial production batch will be delivered with a highly upgraded variant of the AL-31F used by the Su-27 family as interim engines while a new clean-sheet design powerplant is currently under development.

The Russian Air Force is expected to procure more than 150 PAK FA aircraft, the first of which is slated to be delivered in 2016. India plans on acquiring modified PAK FA as a part of its Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) program. It originally planned on buying 166 single-seat and 44 two-seat variants, but this has been reduced to 130-145 single-seat aircraft and the requirement for 45-50 twin-seat fighters has been dropped by 2014. The Russian Defence Ministry plan on purchasing the first 10 evaluation example aircraft after 2012 and then 60 production standard aircraft after 2016.

In December 2014, the Russian Air Force planned to receive 55 fighters by 2020. But Yuri Borisov, Russia's deputy minister of defence for armaments stated in March 2015 that the Air Force will slow PAK FA production and reduce its initial order to 12 jets due to the nation's deteriorating economy. Due to the aircraft's complexity and rising costs, the Russian Air Force will retain large fleets of fourth-generation Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-35S

Long March 6 and Long March 5 can be converted into ICBMs with multiple independently targetable warheads

China's Long March 6 (CZ-6) carrier rocket can also be used to fire 20 missile warhead at once. The Long March 6 was used to luanch 20 microsatellites. Microsatellites can be switched to warheads. They had a successful launch.

A CZ-6 rocket can technically be a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) for up to 20 missiles, each of which is capable of being aimed to hit one of a group of targets. This offers a distinct advantage over multiple reentry vehicles (MRV), which can carry several warheads which are dispersed but not individually aimed.

The Dongfeng-41 (DF-41, CSS-X-10) is a Chinese nuclear solid-fueled road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile.
It has an estimated operational range of between 12,000 km to 15,000 km. This could make the DF-41 the world's longest ranged missile, surpassing the range of the US LGM-30 Minuteman which has a reported range of 13,000 km. It is believed to have a top speed of Mach 25, and to be capable of MIRV delivery (up to 10). China had test-launched a DF-41 using multiple reentry vehicles for the first time on 13 December 2014.

A Long March 5 will be a larger version of the Long March 6. Long March 5 (LM-5, CZ-5, or Changzheng 5) is a Chinese next-generation heavy lift launch system that is currently under development by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). Currently, six CZ-5 vehicle configurations are planned for different missions, with a maximum payload capacity of 25,000 kg to LEO and 14,000 kg to GTO.

September 25, 2015

Patent details for Nuclear Fusion using lasers and ultradense deuterium

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg and the University of Iceland are researching a new type of nuclear fusion process. This produces almost no neutrons but instead fast, heavy electrons (muons), since it is based on nuclear reactions in ultra-dense heavy hydrogen (deuterium). The new fusion process can take place in relatively small laser-fired fusion reactors fueled by heavy hydrogen (deuterium). They have gotten twice the energy from what they put in and believe they can get to 20 times the energy out as put in.

Leif Holmlid filed a patent in 2012.

The nuclear fusion method comprises the following steps:

1. bringing hydrogen in a gaseous state into contact with a hydrogen transfer catalyst configured to cause a transition of the hydrogen from the gaseous state to an ultra-dense state;

2. collecting the hydrogen in the ultra-dense state on a carrier configured to substantially confine the hydrogen in the ultra-dense state within a fuel collection portion of the carrier;

3. transporting the carrier to an irradiation location; and subjecting, at the irradiation location, the hydrogen in the ultra-dense state to irradiation having sufficient energy to achieve break-even in energy generation by nuclear fusion.

Computational studies of the laser pulse energy required for break-even exist (see S.A. Slutz and R.A. Vesey, "Fast ignition hot spot break-even scaling". Phys. Plasmas 12 (2005) 062702 ). These studies yield a pulse energy around 1 J at break-even. In their experiments, break-even is indeed observed at 1 J pulse energy. From break-even to an energy gain of 1000, a further factor of at least 4 in laser pulse energy is required. they conclude that the available information agrees that useful power output from nuclear fusion in ultra-dense hydrogen will be found at laser pulse energy of 4 J - 1 kJ. Such a pulse energy is feasible.

Near term Commercial Fusion Power Possible - Laser induced fusion of ultra-dense deuterium with double net energy gain has been produced and gain of 20 times is within reach

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg and the University of Iceland are researching a new type of nuclear fusion process. This produces almost no neutrons but instead fast, heavy electrons (muons), since it is based on nuclear reactions in ultra-dense heavy hydrogen (deuterium).

The new fusion process can take place in relatively small laser-fired fusion reactors fuelled by heavy hydrogen (deuterium). It has already been shown to produce more energy than that needed to start it. Heavy hydrogen is found in large quantities in ordinary water and is easy to extract. The dangerous handling of radioactive heavy hydrogen (tritium) which would most likely be needed for operating large-scale fusion reactors with a magnetic enclosure in the future is therefore unnecessary.

" A considerable advantage of the fast heavy electrons produced by the new process is that these are charged and can therefore produce electrical energy instantly. The energy in the neutrons which accumulate in large quantities in other types of nuclear fusion is difficult to handle because the neutrons are not charged. These neutrons are high-energy and very damaging to living organisms, whereas the fast, heavy electrons are considerably less dangerous."

Both heating generators and generators for electricity could be developed within a few years, according to research that has primarily been conducted at the University of Gothenburg.

Neutrons are difficult to slow down or stop and require reactor enclosures that are several metres thick. Muons - fast, heavy electrons - decay very quickly into ordinary electrons and similar particles.

Research shows that far smaller and simpler fusion reactors can be built. The next step is to create a generator that produces instant electrical energy.

International Journal of Hydrogen Energy - Spontaneous ejection of high-energy particles from ultra-dense deuterium D(0)


• Spontaneous high-energy particles from D(0) are detected by energy spectroscopy.
• These high-energy unstable particles give linear Kurie plots, indicating beta decay.
• The signal due to the unstable particles is strongly increased by glass converters.
• Spontaneous line-spectra are observed in the energy spectra.
• The signal may be due to spontaneous nuclear processes in D(0).


High-energy particles are detected from spontaneous processes in an ultra-dense deuterium D(0) layer. Intense distributions of such penetrating particles are observed using energy spectroscopy and glass converters. Laser-induced emission of neutral particles with time-of-flight energies of 1–30 MeV u−1 was previously reported in the same system. Both spontaneous line-spectra and a spontaneous broad energy distribution similar to a beta-decay distribution are observed. The broad distribution is concluded to be due to nuclear particles, giving straight-line Kurie-like plots. It is observed even at a distance of 3 meters in air and has a total rate of 10^7–10^10 per second. If spontaneous nuclear fusion or other nuclear processes take place in D(0), it may give rise to the high-energy particle signal. Low energy nuclear reactions (LENR) and so called cold fusion may also give rise to such particles.

New Ion Drive achieves 14,600 ISP which is 50% better than NASAs best

University of Sydney doctoral candidate in Physics, Paddy Neumann, has developed a new kind of ion space drive that has 153% more fuel efficiency than the previous record ion drive built by NASA.

The current record, held by NASA’s HiPEP system, allows 9600 (+/- 200) seconds of specific impulse. However, results recorded by the Neumann Drive have been as high as 14,690 (+/- 2000), with even conservative results performing well above NASA’s best. That suggests the drive is using fuel far more efficiently, allowing for it to operate for longer. Furthermore NASA’s HiPEP runs on Xenon gas, while the Neumann Drive can be powered on a number of different metals, the most efficient tested so far being magnesium.

The drive works through a reaction between electricity and metal, where electric arcs strike the chosen fuel (in this case, magnesium) and cause ions to spray, which are then focused by a magnetic nozzle to produce thrust. Unlike current industry standard chemical propulsion devices, which operate through short, high-powered bursts of thrust and then coasting, Neumann’s drive runs on a continuous rhythm of short and light bursts, preserving the fuel source but requiring long-term missions.

The drive—which allegedly outperforms NASA’s HiPEP in fuel efficiency, but not acceleration—could potentially function as the packhorse of space travel, allowing for the transportation of cargo over long distances. Most interestingly, as it runs on metals commonly found in space junk, it could potentially be fuelled by recycling exhausted satellites, repurposing them into fresh fuel.

According to NASA's Technology Readiness Level scale, they are at TRL4

Hall thrusters produced 30 to 40 µN/W of thrust, the Neumann drive managed only in the 20s micronewtons per watt.

September 24, 2015

Booming cubesat market and capabilities are still the beginning of fundamental change to the space industry

Craig Clark, satellite builder and CEO of Clyde Space Ltd., discusses the changing nature of the space industry and the potential benefits of small satellites made available on a much wider basis. He spoke at DARPA's "Wait, What?" forum on Sept. 10, 2015

Clyde Space is an award winning supplier of small and micro spacecraft systems. They are mostly kept busy with work on our high performance power subsystems, DC-DC Converters, lithium polymer batteries and high efficiency solar panels, typically for small satellite missions.

Over 40% of all CubeSat missions fly Clyde Space hardware; more than any other vendor. Their hardware also has more flight heritage and success stories than any other vendor. This is due to the high performance nature of their products and excellent customer service that we provide consistently for all of our customers. Clyde Space is also the only major CubeSat vendor with an ISO9001:2008 accredited quality system.

within 3 years a 3 kg satellite will have 2 gigabit per second laser communication

In 3-5 years there will be sub-1 meter imaging from small satellites. Deployable structures from cubesats will push the technology forward.

Bill Gates Terrapower and China national nuclear corp will build a prototype traveling wave reactor- a liquid sodium-cooled fast reactor

Bill Gate’s efforts to close a deal with China National Nuclear Corp. have finally paid off. The company has inked a deal to build a first-of-a-kind unit of their sodium cooled fast reactor in China and then manufacture a commercial version of it.

Zhimin Qian, President of China National Nuclear Corp. signed the deal with Lee McIntire, CEO of TerraPower at a U.S. Trade and Investment Cooperation Conference held in Seattle on September 22.

TerraPower Chief Executive Lee McIntire just signed an agreement with China National Nuclear Corporation for the two companies to work together to create this new kind of nuclear reactor.

Zhimin Qian, President of China National Nuclear Corp, left, shakes hands with Lee McIntire, CEO of TerraPower, following a signing ceremony linking the two organizations at a U.S. Trade and Investment Cooperation Conference Tuesday. Elaine Thompson AP

TerraPower’s traveling wave reactor (TWR) is designed to be a 1150 megawatt-electric liquid sodium-cooled fast reactor that uses depleted uranium as fuel. It will greatly simplify the current nuclear fuel cycle by reducing the need for uranium mining, enrichment facilities, reprocessing plants and storage facilities. This will result in enormous cost savings, highly enhanced safety, greatly reduced toxic waste, greater ease in waste disposal and a high level of weapons proliferation resistance

German Rheinmetall shows off 80 kilowatt naval combat laser with four 20 kw laser barrels

This week at the Defence and Security Equipment Industry in London, German defense contractor Rheinmetall Defence Electronics showcased a new sea-based anti-drone laser system. The system, according to Chinese web site, features not one but four high energy lasers (HEL) mounted on turret, making it look like some kind of laser gun.

The principles behind the laser gatling aren't exactly the same as a regular, bullet-spitting gatling gun. The four 20 kilowatt HELs are designed to be fired simultaneously, in a technique known as superimposition. All four fire at a target at once, and Rheinmetall's technology combines them into a single powerful 80 kilowatt beam.

The four 20 kilowatt HELs are designed to be fired simultaneously, in a technique known as superimposition. All four fire at a target at once, and Rheinmetall's technology combines them into a single powerful 80 kilowatt beam.

According to the company, using superimposition there's not limit to the amount of energy that can be focused on a target—just add more lasers. also had coverage of the Rheinmetall navalised laser Rheinmetall displayed its latest high energy laser (HEL) configuration at DSEI 2015, with five 20 kW-class laser beam forming units (BFU) fitted to an MLG27 light naval gun mount.

Front view of Rheinmetall's MLG27-mounted laser weapon, showing the weather flaps in their open positions and BFUs just visible. Source: IHS/Nick Brown and Popular Mechanics shots of the laser

Rheinmetall High Energy Lasers

With its high-energy laser effector (HEL), Rheinmetall Defence last year made another important step toward a field-ready version of this groundbreaking technology. Rheinmetall has not only increased the laser power on the dynamic target over a distance of 3,000 meters but also made the laser weapon mobile.

Advanced memristors are a pathway to affordable human scale neuromorphic artificial general intelligence

It may be possible to create neuromorphic human-level Artificial General Intelligence within 5 to 15 years for 30 to 100 thousand dollars, of marginal cost using memristors.

The extreme complexity of the human cerebral cortex,featuring in particular ~10^14 synapses, makes the hardware implementation of neuromorphic networks with a comparable number of devices exceptionally challenging. One of the most prospective candidates to provide comparable complexity, while operating muchfaster and with manageable power dissipation, are so-called CrossNets based on hybrid CMOS/memristor circuits. In these circuits, the usual complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) stack is augmented with one or several crossbar layers, with adjustable two-terminal resistive devices (“memristors”) at each crosspoint. Recently, there was a significant progress in improvement of technology of fabrication of such memristive crossbars and their integration with CMOS circuits,including first demonstrations of their vertical integration. Separately, there have been several demonstrations of discrete memristors as artificial synapses for neuromorphic networks.Very recently such experiments were extended to crossbar arrays of phase-change memristive devices

Arxiv - Training and Operation of an Integrated Neuromorphic Network Based on Metal-Oxide Memristors by Prezioso, Merrikh-Bayat, Hoskins, Adam, Likharev, and Strukov:

“… a CrossNets based on a hybrid CMOS/memristor circuit with 5 layers of 30-nm-pitch crossbars, 2 memristors per synapse, and 10^4 synapses per neural cell would have an areal density of ~25 million cells per cm^2, i.e. higher than that in the human cerebral cortex, at comparable average connectivity. Estimates show that at the same time, such CrossNets may provide comparable power efficiency, at a much higher operation speed – for example, an intercell signal transfer delay of ~0.02 ms (cf. ~10 ms in biology) [my comment: i.e., 500 times faster] at a readily manageable energy dissipation rate of ~1 W/cm2.”

HP's CTO showed off a wafer of memristor memory for getting to 100 TB drives. Neuromorphic human scale AFI would need memristors that mimicked synapses. Logic and memory mixed together with analog behavior

Russian Economy Facing Depression, High Interest Rates and Low Oil and Gas Prices

Russia has fallen into full-blown depression and faces a mounting fiscal crisis as oil and gas revenues plummet. Output from country’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom has collapsed by 19pc over the past year as demand shrivels in Europe.

The Russian authorities have the crisis under control for now. They have allowed the ruble to fall rather than burning up reserves, providing a cushion for the budget and for oil and gas producers. But this policy is inflationary, and politically toxic.

It is 66 rubles to 1 US dollar

In March 2015, the government was forced to amend the budget in order to adapt to the $50 oil price level, and it is likely that the 2016 budget will also be tailored accordingly.

Russia has been able to weather the challenges facing its economy a bit better than Nextbigfuture thought they would back in March 2015. However, if oil prices stay low it seems to be a matter of time (1 to 4 years) before Russia has a bigger crisis. With China's economy in what appears to be long term slower growth, it seems oil prices could stay at $60 per barrel or less through 2020.

Gazprom’s revenues are likely to drop by almost a third to $106bn this year from $146bn in 2014, seriously eroding Russia’s economic base. Gazprom alone generates a tenth of Russian GDP and a fifth of all budget revenues.

The economy has contracted by 4.9pc over the past year and the downturn is certain to drag on as oil prices crumble after a tentative rally. Half of Russia’s tax income comes from oil and gas.

“Russia is going to be in a very difficult fiscal situation by 2017,” said Lubomir Mitov from Unicredit. “By the end of next year there won’t be any money left in the oil reserve fund and there is a humongous deficit in the pension fund. They are running a budget deficit of 3.7pc of GDP but without developed capital markets Russia can't really afford to run a deficit at all.”

The official reserves have dropped from $524bn to $361bn since the Ukraine crisis first erupted in late 2014. Unicredit said the true figure is nearer $340bn once other commitments are stripped out.

New porous hydrogel could boost the success of stem-cell-based tissue regeneration

Stem cell therapies are often limited by low survival of transplanted stem cells and the lack of precise control over their differentiation into the terminal cell types needed to repair or replace injured tissues. Now, a team led by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member David Mooney, Ph.D., has developed a new strategy – embedding stem cells into porous, transplantable hydrogels – that has experimentally improved bone repair by boosting the survival rate of transplanted stem cells and influencing their cell differentiation.

Stem cell therapies bear tremendous hopes for the repair of many tissues and bone or even the replacement of entire organs. Tissue–specific stem cells can now be generated in the laboratory. However, no matter how well they grow in the laboratory, stem cells must survive after they are transplanted and function correctly at the site of injury to be useful for clinical regenerative therapies. As of now, transplanted cell death remains a major challenge.

To improve the therapeutic ability of transplanted stem cells, Mooney's team has drawn inspiration from naturally occurring stem cell "niches". A 'stem cell niche' is a unique support system for stem cells consisting of other cell types and an extracellular molecular matrix that affects their fate.

Over a period of 14 days, this image shows void spaces forming in a novel injectable hydrogel developed by Wyss Core Faculty member David Mooney. The void spaces act as a 'stem cell niche' to boost the proliferation and maturation of transplanted stem cells, which could be leveraged to improve tissue regeneration therapies. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Novel active mixing and switching printheads enable 3D printing of complex fluids and gels

Three dimensional printing is revolutionizing the production of new devices and structures, including soft robots, flexible electronics and engineered tissue replacements, but advances have been challenged by the inherent complexity of integrating multiple materials. Now, breaching the next frontier in 3D printing, Jennifer A. Lewis, Sc.D., has designed new systems to actively mix and print concentrated viscoelastic inks that, for the first time, allow for the simultaneous control of composition and geometry during printing.

The goal of integrating different material and structural properties within printed objects has demanded the invention of new, flexible printing platforms. For example, to print a functional "wearable" device including its electronic components, a 3D printer would need to seamlessly transition from the flexible material that moves with the wearer’s joints to the rigid material that holds the electronic components. It would also need to embed electrical circuitry with multiple inks of varying conductivity and resistivity, precisely switching between them. And, it would be ideal to do all of this inside one continuous print job with active mixing of complex fluids

A new "active" 3D printhead, developed by Wyss Core Faculty member Jennifer Lewis, mixes complex inks using a rotational impeller inside a microscale nozzle, allowing heterogeneous materials to be printed in three dimensions. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

DARPA Warrior Web Exosuit is undergoing outdoor Army tests on a 6 mile course

Harvard’s Warrior Web exoskeleton prototype is undergoing performance testing by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Soldiers wear the prototype underneath a full set of battle gear and hike a three mile course, including roadways and moderately rugged, wooded terrain. ARL technicians monitor the soldiers’ stride lengths and frequency, muscle activity, and energy expenditure. The goal is to allow soldiers to walk longer distances carrying heavy loads with less effort, while also minimizing risk of injury.

Worn like a pair of pants and meant to fit underneath a soldier’s regular gear, the suit is made of soft, functional textiles, and mimics the action of leg muscles and tendons.

The suit was tested over a three-mile cross-country course, which consists of paved road and two miles of semi-rugged terrain. According to Boynton, the suit’s been in development for about three years. In October, it will be tested on a six-mile course.

“It’s like a rubber band,” said one soldier, who noted he wasn’t sure how well the suit would boost performance. However, medically, the apparatus may help prevent muscle tears, and other injuries that stem from carrying heavy loads over long distances.

September 23, 2015

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 279

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 279 is up at Hiroshima Syndrome

Neutron Bytes – The Chicken and Egg Conundrum of Forging a Future for Advanced Nuclear Reactors

The bad news is that anyone who is paying attention to the barriers to market entry for advanced nuclear reactors knows what they are. The good news is that more people are paying attention.” A RAND study (Overcoming Obstacles to Advanced Reactor Technologies) which addresses overcoming the barriers. There are links to several related sources of information on the subject.

Bridging the Valley of Death – The Role of Test Beds for Advanced Nuclear Reactors. Source: Todd Allen, Idaho National Laboratory, and Jessica Lovering, Breakthrough Institute.

Unfortunately, because of the historical predominance of LWRs in the United States, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is poorly equipped to evaluate the safety of alternative technologies. Although the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is supposed to collaborate with industry to develop and commercialize new nuclear reactor technologies, several attempts to do so have consumed billions of dollars without producing a prototype plant. In the face of institutional dysfunction, regulatory uncertainty, and unpredictable economic prospects for nuclear energy, industry is understandably reluctant to invest again in new technologies.”

The objective of nuclear safety regulation should be to minimize the health and economic impacts of large-scale accidents, rather than to minimize the theoretical incidence of damage to reactors. Key quotable points include;

* Rather than focus on saving the reactor, the goal should be to protect the public from the outside in. Plants might be designed so that, in the worst-case scenario, they fail elegantly so as to create an accident
with characteristics more favorable to effective emergency management.

* Instead of perpetuating the hubristic, and infeasible, ambition to somehow prevent all accidents,” the aim should be to prevent accidents from becoming catastrophes. To encourage the development of new civilian nuclear technologies, the United States should forge relationships with other nations to develop the operational experience and technical data necessary to commercialize non-LWR nuclear plants.

* To face the possible energy challenges of the 21st century, he says that DOE has a responsibility to explore all potentially promising energy technologies, and this is feasible only by partnering with nuclear research programs in states that are aggressively developing advanced reactors.

Spacex Heavy capable of sending a Dragon V2 capsule to Europa

The Falcon Heavy is the next Spacex rocket. The current plan is for the first launch in the spring of 2016.

The Spacex dragon 2 It is the second version of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft which will be a human-rated vehicle capable of making a terrestrial soft landing. It includes a set of four side-mounted thruster pods with two SuperDraco engines each which can serve as a Launch Abort System (LAS) or be used for propulsive landings. In addition, it has much larger windows, landing legs which extend from the bottom of the spacecraft, new computers and avionics, and redesigned solar arrays, all packaged in a spacecraft with a changed outer mold line from the initial cargo Dragon that has been flying for several years.

The spacecraft was unveiled on May 29, 2014. Dragon V2 could make its first flight as early as late 2015, with its first flight with people as early as 2016.

General Heithold wants combat lasers on AC130 gunships by 2020 ahead of previously stated plans

The head of Air Force Special Operations Command says he wants to put a laser cannon on the nation’s fleet of gunships by 2020. Air Force Special Operations Command boss Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold is in charge of 19,000 air commandos.

The Air Force has stated they want the system to weigh less than 5,000 pounds — roughly the weight of a Jeep Wrangler — and would like the laser to occupy a space no greater than one gun position on the latest AC-130J “Ghostrider” gunship, set to begin operational service in 2017. The Ghostrider, currently undergoing testing at Eglin Air Force Base in Okaloosa County, is set to be armed with a World War II-era 105mm howitzer and modern 30mm cannon, along with various guided munitions.

The AC-130’s 105mm howitzer is both more accurate and much more affordable than the precision guided bombs and missiles that were set to replace it. While considered a “dumb” bomb, the gun’s precision is credited to its lower explosive yield than even small guided — or “smart” — bombs and missiles. Even still, the howitzer fires explosives that can destroy an entire city block in one swift pull of the trigger by an enlisted airman in the back of the aircraft — all while flying safely at 20,000 feet. The gun is so powerful that aircrew have said that when fired, the entire aircraft is pushed several feet in the opposite direction of where it’s firing, due to the massive forces produced by the cannon.

The cost difference is also no secret — a 105mm howitzer shell costs a few hundred dollars, while a guided bomb can easily cost tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Air Force and USSOCOM have nearly 30 gunships in operation around the world. By 2021, up to 32 J-model AC-130s may join the fleet.

DARPA successfully demos remote control A10 thunderbolt II for Persistent Close Air Support

DARPA recently demonstrated its Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) prototype system on an A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, marking the system’s debut on a U.S. Air Force platform. The tests, which involved 50 successful sorties near Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, showed that a warfighter serving as a joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) on the ground could, in seamless coordination with a pilot, successfully command an airstrike with as few as three clicks on a tablet.

The PCAS program envisions more precise, prompt and easy air-ground coordination for close air support (CAS)—delivery of airborne munitions to support ground forces—and other missions under stressful operational conditions and in complex environments. It aims to do so through the development of a system that enables the sharing of real-time situational awareness and weapons-systems data, using technologies compatible with almost any aircraft. Among the system’s envisioned benefits is a capacity to use smaller munitions to hit smaller, multiple or moving targets while minimizing the incidence of friendly fire and collateral damage.

During the recent A-10 tests, ten of the sorties featured live-fire weapons engagements using a mixture of laser- and GPS-guided munitions—all of which were completed successfully within the six-minute goal the program has set. Coordination was enabled by PCAS-Ground software running on customized tablet computers working in conjunction with PCAS-Air, an onboard, automated targeting system. PCAS tactical datalinks facilitated data sharing between the pilot and JTAC to determine the timed release of precision-guided munitions.

September 22, 2015

3D-printed guide helps regrow complex nerves after injury

A national team of researchers has developed a first-of-its-kind, 3D-printed guide that helps regrow both the sensory and motor functions of complex nerves after injury. The groundbreaking research has the potential to help more than 200,000 people annually who experience nerve injuries or disease.

Collaborators on the project are from the University of Minnesota, Virginia Tech, University of Maryland, Princeton University, and Johns Hopkins University.

Nerve regeneration is a complex process. Because of this complexity, regrowth of nerves after injury or disease is very rare, according to the Mayo Clinic. Nerve damage is often permanent. Advanced 3D printing methods may now be the solution.

Advanced Functional Materials - 3D Printed Anatomical Nerve Regeneration Pathways

Detailed analysis of China's GDP indicates economy is actually 15% larger than official figures

There is a new 244 page analysis of China's economy. A study of China's economy by Daniel Rosen and Beibei Bao for the Center for Strategic and International Studies indicates in 2014 instead of a $10 trillion economy it was closer to $11.5 trillion. Most of the work indicates that China still needs to match up with the international standard national accounts to calculate GDP.

This revisions shows that elements of rebalancing are further along than generally credited, key components of this reform process still need to be accelerated.

China has greater inequality with more wealth with the richest people.

China is bigger, not smaller:
Their reassessment suggests that China’s 2008 GDP was most likely 13.1 to 16.3 percent larger than official statistics indicated at the time. Beijing’s reappraisal of 2008 GDP (released in Spring 2015) adjusted up the official number by less than 1 percent, leaving the bulk of activity we identified uncounted.

The service sector is most problematic:
We can rank the areas of the economy where the greatest adjustments are required. At the broadest sector level, the hard to count services cluster is unsurprisingly in greatest need of upward revision—22.2 percent in our estimate. The secondary sector, consisting of industry and construction, needs a smaller but important 8.3 percent revision. The primary sector, meanwhile, still requires a modest discounting by our reckoning. Last, we examined elements not even covered in China’s official GDP, but which should be once practices are modernized—in particular the capitalization of research and development investment

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