October 03, 2015

Mitosens Mitochondrial Repair Project Funded and still raising funds

Engineering backup copies of mitochondrial genes to place in the nucleus of the cell, aiming to prevent age-related damage and restore lost mitochondrial function.

This is attacking one of seven kinds of known aging damage.

Each cell in the body is dependent on the efficient generation of cellular energy by mitochondria to stay alive. Critical to this process are genes encoded within the mitochondrial genome. Over time however, mutations in these genes occur as a result of constant exposure to reactive oxygen species produced by oxidative phosphorylation, the mitochondrial energy generation process. Unlike genes within the nucleus, mitochondria lack an efficient system to repair damaged DNA. This leads to accumulated mutations, resulting in mitochondrial defects and an increase in oxidative stress throughout the body. Closely correlated with this is the observation that organisms which age more slowly also consistently display lower rates of mitochondrial free radical damage. Thus, reversing and/or preventing damage to mitochondrial DNA may be a key factor in slowing the aging process.

At the SENS Research Foundation, we are in the early stages of creating an innovative system to repair these mitochondrial mutations. If this project is successful we will have demonstrated, for the first time, a mechanism that can provide your cells with a modified backup copy of the entire mitochondrial genome. This genome would then reside within the protective confines of the cell’s nucleus, thereby mitigating damage to the mitochondrial genome. In fact, during the long course of evolution, this gradual transfer of genetic information into the nucleus has already occurred with the majority of mitochondrial genome, leaving behind a mere 13 protein coding genes within the mitochondria. Demonstrating the effectiveness of this technology would be a major milestone in the prevention and reversal of aging in the human body.

Visualization of engineered ATP8 expressed in mutant cells

Humans split from chimps 10 million years ago and gorillas appeared 12.5 million years ago

A new analysis of an ape that lived 12.5 million years ago suggests it is a type of gorilla. If that’s true, it means gorillas evolved much earlier than thought, and also pushes back the time when humans split from chimps by about 2 million years.

David Begun of the University of Toronto in Canada reanalysed fossils of Dryopithecus apes, which lived in what is now Europe as early as about 12.5 million years ago. He says that the characteristics of the skull suggest that rather than evolving earlier than the great apes, as was previously thought, Dryopithecus was actually a great ape itself.

Features suggest Dryopithecus split from the human lineage about 14 million years ago, Begun says. From that, he says, we can extrapolate that the human lineage split from chimps about 10 million years ago.

That’s more than 2 million years earlier than the previous estimate based on the fossil record, but is actually close to recent estimates based on genetic analysis.

Current molecular clocks date the split between humans and chimps to at least 7 million years ago, matching the age of the oldest fossil thought to be in the human line, Sahelanthropus. But some reports quote molecular dates up to 13 million years.

Orang-utans are the earliest of the apes to have split from the human lineage, thought to be followed by Dryopithecus, then gorillas, then chimps. But if Dryopithecus is in fact a gorilla, that puts the species closer to humans and chimps.

Russia Su-25 Frogfoot is their equivalent to the US A-10 Warthog

The Frogfoot (SU-25) is an armored beast of an aircraft with an armored cockpit and multiple redundant systems. The Russian air force has upgraded dozens of Su-25s to the latest SM standard, which includes a glass cockpit, a GLONASS satellite navigation system and modern avionics that would allow for the use of precision-guided munitions. Eventually, the Russian air force will likely upgrade its entire Su-25 fleet since the Frogfoot still plays an important role in the service’s order of battle—as demonstrated by the Syrian deployment.

The Russian air force has deployed a dozen of the slow, low-altitude flying tanks to its base in Latakia. But it’s not clear which version of the jet Russia has sent to Syria, however it’s probable that these are the latest Su-25SM version of the aircraft.

The Sukhoi Su-25 (NATO reporting name: "Frogfoot") is a single-seat, twin-engine jet aircraft developed in the Soviet Union by the Sukhoi Design Bureau. It first flew in 1975. Early variants included the Su-25UB two-seat trainer, the Su-25BM for target-towing, and the Su-25K for export customers. Some aircraft were being upgraded to Su-25SM standard in 2012. The Su-25, and the Su-34, were the only armoured, fixed-wing aircraft in production in 2007

There are some similarities between the Su-25 and the A-10. For example, the Su-25 also utilises a dual redundant hydraulic control system and its cockpit is also placed in a ‘tub’ of titanium armour. Both aircraft are very suitable for unprepared, rough airfields close to the combat area. However, if an A-10 could be compared with a modern BMW X5, the Su-25 would be a classic Land Rover with a tyre on its bonnet and a spade tied to one of its doors.

October 02, 2015

War and Peacetime Profiteering Update - Gerald Ford Aircraft Carriers over budget, years behind schedule and technologically doomed on arrival

The Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier is now $6 billion over budget and will fall years behind schedule.

The program is now $6 billion over budget, according to a review by McCain’s staff. And while the lead ship is expected to be delivered next year, the second ship in the fleet is five years behind schedule and won’t be ready until 2024. The first ship will also be incomplete when delivered.

In an attempt to contain the cost of the ships, built by Newport News-based Huntington Ingalls Industries, Congress imposed caps. But those were blown, and now the cost of the first ship is estimated to be nearly $13 billion.

The Ford-class carriers suffered from unrealistic cost estimates and overly optimistic timelines. And key Pentagon officials pushed the program forward even though key technologies hadn’t been fully tested, developed or designed, officials testified.

As early as 2007, before the Navy awarded the contract to build the ship, the GAO said that there “were key risks in the program that would impair the Navy’s ability to deliver [the first ship] at cost, on time and with its planned capabilities.” The program consists of three nuclear-powered ships designed to serve as successors to the Nimitz-class carriers.

The GAO even predicted in 2007 that the cost of the first ship was in danger of going 22 percent over budget. “Fast forward to today, 2015, cost increases are 22 percent,” said Paul Francis, the GAO’s managing director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management.

The undersecretary’s office authorized the Navy to begin construction “when only 27 percent of the ship was designed and just five of its 13 new systems were mature,” McCain said. And it failed to heed the warnings from watchdogs and weapons testers.

Naval Experts believe reports that China will launch new 001A aircraft carrier by yearend and make it fully operational by 2020

Collin Koh Swee Lean, an associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore said taht “Assuming the [new type 001A aircraft] carrier is launched on Dec. 26 this year, and fitted out subsequently before entering into a series of harbor and sea trials, the carrier should be ready for service by 2020.”

Another clue that an indigenous carrier is under construction was the start of the serial production of the carrier-based J-15 jet fighter, which would be destined for the Liaoning and other carriers. IHS Jane’s reported last year that mass production of the fighter was gathering pace.

China currently dominates in the anti-ship missile field.

The 3,000 kilometer (1,800 mile) range DF-26 ballistic missile, as well as the 1,750 kilometer range DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile. Both "carrier killers" were displayed during China’s Sept. 3 military parade in Beijing.

In the future, aircraft carriers may become less important than quieter submarines and more-sophisticated surface warships, both with long-range anti-ship missiles and support from land-based, precision missiles deployed by PLA Second Artillery Force, Davis said.

Doomed on Arrival

Henry J. Hendrix of the Center for a New American Security argues that, like the battleships which carriers were originally designed to support, carriers may now be too expensive and vulnerable. US aircraft carriers are doomed and so are the Chinese aircraft carriers in terms of an actual war with a relatively equal opponent. They are useful for projecting power and bullying vastly weaker opponents.

Currently China has the Liaoning which is a refitted aircraft carrier from the Ukraine

Russia's big plans to modernize their nuclear powered submarines

Moscow is modernising or repairing 12 nuclear-powered submarines The modernised nuclear submarines are intended to serve 20 more years. This will maintain operational force levels as the new Project 885M Yasen-class boats enter service.

The modernisation program leaves current force levels as low as nine boats across the fleet.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu has set out details of an ambitious effort to reinvigorate Russia's shipbuilding and submarine order of battle.

During a visit to the Zvezda shipyard at Bolshoy Kamen on Russia's Pacific coast in September, the minister is reported to have informed Russian journalists that six nuclear-powered submarines are under repair and modernisation at Zvezda.

According to navy and shipyard representatives, the boats are planned to receive new missiles and other weapons, with the modernisation work also intended to extend their service lives by 20 years. The work aims to bring the submarines up to the same technological level as Russia's next-generation nuclear-powered boats, such as the new Project 885M Yasen-class submarines.

The Russian Navy Akula-class SSN Kuzbass alongside at the Zvezda shipyard in the Pacific. Source: Russian Ministry of Defence

SolarCity Unveils World’s Most Efficient Rooftop Solar Panel with 22% efficiency and lower manufacturing cost

SolarCity has built the world’s most efficient rooftop solar panel, with a module efficiency exceeding 22 percent. The new SolarCity panel generates more power per square foot and harvests more energy over a year than any other rooftop panel in production, and will be the highest volume solar panel manufactured in the Western Hemisphere.

SolarCity will begin producing the first modules in small quantities this month at its 100 MW pilot facility, but the majority of the new solar panels will ultimately be produced at SolarCity’s 1 GW facility in Buffalo, New York. SolarCity expects to be producing between 9,000 - 10,000 solar panels each day with similar efficiency when the Buffalo facility reaches full capacity.

SolarCity’s panel was measured with 22.04 percent module-level efficiency by Renewable Energy Test Center, a third-party certification testing provider for photovoltaic and renewable energy products. SolarCity’s new panel—created via a proprietary process that significantly reduces the manufacturing cost relative to other high-efficiency technologies—is the same size as standard efficiency solar panels, but produces 30-40 percent more power. SolarCity’s panel also performs better than other modules in high temperatures, which allows it to produce even more energy on an annual basis than other solar panels of comparable size.

SunPower’s X-Series panels have 21.5 percent module-level efficiency.

SolarCity created its new panel via a proprietary process that it claims not only ups the performance, but also significantly reduces the manufacturing cost relative to other high-efficiency technologies at the same size as other solar panels, adding an additional 30 to 40 percent more power per panel.

The percentages of overall energy production and module-level can be confusing but don’t get lost in them. The gist is these panels promise to have a higher output at a lower production cost – and SolarCity says it is the most efficient solar panel at the moment, reducing waste – cuttings costs for both consumer and company and adding an attractive amount of power performance.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 280

1. Forbes - James Conca - Is Radiation Necessary For Life?

Recent studies on the biological effects of radiation at essentially zero levels of radiation demonstrated that the absence of radiation is not good for organisms. Removing almost all traces of radioactivity from their environment inhibited bacterial growth and caused stress-related genes to turn on. Background and higher levels of radiation did not cause any adverse effects. These results are in direct contradiction to the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) dose hypothesis, adopted 60 years ago in the absence of data, that assumes all radiation is bad.

2. Neutron Bytes - Dan Yurman - Terrapower inks deal with China’s CNNC to build fast reactor

China National Nuclear Corp. and Terrapower will build the first unit in China and then deploy commercial versions of the sodium-cooled fast reactor to global markets within 15 years.

3. Neutron Bytes - Dan Yurman - Can coal state Kentucky embrace nuclear energy?

In the 1980s the Kentucky legislature enacted a law, as one of the leading coal states in the county, which said, in effect, “nuclear energy, drop dead.” Nearly four decades later the state may be on the path to reversing the moratorium and with that action, gaining new jobs for the Paducah uranium site.

October 01, 2015

Optical memory success which combined with photonic logic will enable computers 100 times faster than today

Researchers have developed the first non-volatile all-optical chip memory based on phase change material. The technology needed to commercialize this solution already exists and pairing their solution with photonic logic chips will lead to computers that are 100 times faster than currently available machines.

Scientists of KIT, the University of Münster, Oxford University, and Exeter University have now developed the first all-optical, non-volatile on-chip memory. “Optical bits can be written at frequencies of up to a gigahertz. This allows for extremely quick data storage by our all-photonic memory,” Professor Wolfram Pernice explains. Pernice headed a working group of the KIT Institute of Nanotechnology (INT) and recently moved to the University of Münster. “The memory is compatible not only with conventional optical fiber data transmission, but also with latest processorsThe new memory can store data for decades even when the power is removed. Its capacity to store many bits in a single cell of a billionth of a meter in size (multi-level memory) also is highly attractive. Instead of the usual information values of 0 and 1, several states can be stored in an element and even autonomous calculations can be made. This is due to so-called phase change materials, novel materials that change their optical properties depending on the arrangement of the atoms: Within shortest periods of time, they can change between crystalline (regular) and amorphous (irregular) states. For the memory, the scientists used the phase change material Ge2Sb2Te5 (GST). The change from crystalline to amorphous (storing data) and from amorphous to crystalline (erasing data) is initiated by ultrashort light pulses. For reading out the data, weak light pulses are used.,” Professor Harish Bhaskaran of Oxford University adds.

All-optical data memory: Ultra-short light pulses make the GST material change from crystalline to amorphous and back. Weak light pulses read out the data. (Photo: C. Rios/Oxford University

Nature Photonics - Integrated all-photonic non-volatile multi-level memory

Reality of Skynet update with Drones with 150KW High Energy Lasers in 2017

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., or GA-ASI, the San Diego-based company that makes the Predator and Reaper drones, is undertaking a privately funded study to integrate a 150-kilowatt solid-state laser onto its Avenger drone. If the company succeeds, a drone with a high-energy laser will be a reality at some point in 2017. Patrick Tucker, technology editor Defense One, provides the report and had gotten direct information from General Atomics.

In June, the company delivered a 150-kilowatt liquid laser to the Pentagon for extensive testing at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. For comparison, the 30 kw laser (output) currently on the Ponce in the Persian Gulf has more than enough output to destroy an enemy drone or blow a hole in a boat. In addition to 5 times the power, the significant increase in beam quality provides significantly higher lethality than the system on the Ponce.

Bringing these two technologies together involves a lot more than strapping a laser cannon under the drone’s wings. Hitting a target with a laser mounted on a vibrating platform moving quickly through air laden with dust and water vapor is tougher than launching a Hellfire at a moving vehicle.

After you solve the targeting problem, the laws of physics present their own challenges. Lasers in the 150-kilowatt range are big, heavy, and power-hungry. Shrinking size-weight-and-power, or SWAP, scores to workable levels remains the biggest obstacle to arming aircraft with lasers. Weight alone will likely bar 150 kw lasers from the MQ-1; engineers have set their sights on building weapons for the Predator-C and its 3,000-pound payload capacity.

Lasers with power levels in the tens of kilowatts could have more capability for countering UAVs, and could counter at least some small boats as well.
Lasers with a power level of about 100 kW would have a greater ability for countering UAVs and small boats, as well as some capability for countering rockets, artillery, and mortars.
Lasers with power levels in the hundreds of kilowatts could have greater ability for countering targets mentioned above, and could also counter manned aircraft and some missiles.
Lasers with power levels in the megawatts could have greater ability for countering targets mentioned above—including supersonic ASCMs and ballistic missiles—at ranges of up to about 10 nautical miles.

The Congressional Research service recently provided a Navy report of Shipboard Lasers for Surface, Air, and Missile Defense: Background and Issues for Congress.

US F22 stealth fighter vs Russian T50 fighter

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is a single-seat, twin-engine, all weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft developed for the United States Air Force (USAF). The result of the USAF's Advanced Tactical Fighter program, the aircraft was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but has additional capabilities including ground attack, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence roles. There are 187 operational F-22s. The last F-22 was delivered to the USAF in 2012.

Russia is developing the T-50 stealth fighter.

F-22 and T-50 have a lot in common
Defense analyst Dave Majumdar says that both the fighter jets have a lot in common. The PAK FA has been optimized as a fast, stealthy, and high-flying air superiority fighter. The two have an equivalent service ceiling of approximately 65,000 feet. Russia's PAK FA has a maximum speed of 1,520 mph, slightly higher than F-22's 1,500 mph. Sukhoi PAK FA has a range of 2,175 miles compared to 1,820 miles for the F-22 Raptor.

Combining the best parts of supercapacitors and Batteries with production like printing DVDs

A group at the University of California, Los Angeles, has created microsupercapacitors using a simple DVD burner to forge the one-atom- thick sheets known as graphene on which these devices are formed, in arrays. Together with a battery, such supercapacitors could run a cellphone for days. And because an array is less than 10 micrometers thick—far finer than a human hair—it is completely flexible. Build these arrays on flexible substrates and they could power a roll-up display.

All these things can be done at low cost. Our fabrication method can easily be scaled up, and our microsupercapacitors can be readily integrated onto silicon chips

New components combine laser-scribed graphene, or LSG — a material that can hold an electrical charge, is very conductive, and charges and recharges very quickly — with manganese dioxide, which is currently used in alkaline batteries because it holds a lot of charge and is cheap and plentiful.

Their hybrid device combines the best features of capacitors and batteries. The hybrid can be recharged in minutes, yet it has an energy density up to 10 times that of commercially available microbatteries. The hybrid device is only one-fifth the thickness of a sheet of paper; its footprint can vary from a few square micrometers up to the centimeter scale. The centimeter-scale devices would have capacitances in the range of 400 to 1,000 millifarads—easily enough to power an LED flashlight for an hour.

The design also sidesteps one of the main challenges in today’s power supplies: leaking electrolyte. Both batteries and conventional supercapacitors use highly corrosive liquid for this function, and as the devices age, this liquid sometimes escapes to eat away at circuits and surrounding components. The result is failure and sometimes even fire. Our microsupercapacitors employ an all-solid-state electrolyte, which we apply directly onto the interdigitated pattern.

For this solid electrolyte, we have plenty of choices. We can use gelled polymer electrolytes, made by swelling a polymer matrix with an electrolyte solution, or we can solidify ionic liquids by adding polymers or silica nanopowder. This nonleaking design, together with a virtually unlimited number of charge and discharge cycles, means that our supermicrocapacitors will likely outlast all other electronic devices on the chip. Such long life will be particularly useful whenever it is inconvenient or dangerous to open things up to replace a power source, as in pacemakers, defibrillators, and other medical implants.

Printing supercapacitor battery hybrids like burning a DVD

They can now produce 100 of the devices on a disc in less than 30 minutes, and there is plenty of room for improvement. Of course, a manufacturer could speed things up by simply running a roomful of DVD burners in parallel. It would be even better to optimize a burner for mass production with industrial-scale laser engravers, which are now widely used in industry to mark products so that they can be tracked later on. The laser engraving machines can be constructed on a conveyor-belt system using long rolls of graphite oxide.

September 30, 2015

Granular gel as a 3D writing medium to create fragile and complex things like artificial jelly fish and can write and grow living tissue cells

University of Florida Researcher Angelini came up with the idea to use microscopic hydrogel particles as a medium for 3-D printing of soft matter. These particles are 99.8 percent water and 20 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. He found that he could manufacture soft materials into shapes more fragile than anything found in nature, all with structural integrity. The discovery is reported today in a paper in the journal Science Advances.

3-D printing soft matter leads to new engineering discipline. The discovery will require new tools, theory and modeling techniques in mechanical engineering. Hahn said much of that work will take place in the College of Engineering’s new Soft Matter Engineering Research Group, which already has attracted collaborators across several disciplines. The group’s work also has attracted financial support from two international companies intrigued by the prospects for soft matter manufacturing.

Building it soft and letting it stay soft and not collapse

“In simple terms, a hundred-plus years that we’ve built a foundation on in traditional mechanics is largely off the table with soft matter,” Hahn said. “It really is a whole new frontier of engineering.”

“What if I could print you a structure that never solidified but it still held into place? That’s a new idea. It’s no longer about solidification, it’s more about placing things in space and leaving them where you put them. They aren’t going to move,” said Angelini, who conducted the work using his National Science Foundation Early Career Development Award, NSF’s most prestigious award for promising junior faculty. “This level of control is the foundation of all manufacturing.”

Sawyer, pointing to one of the laboratory jellyfish, adds, “Nobody in the world can make that jellyfish. We make them everyday. When we have soft matter manufacturing, we can make things, and then it is the realm of the engineer. It’s kind of like an

Gels made from soft microscale particles smoothly transition between the fluid and solid states, making them an ideal medium in which to create macroscopic structures with microscopic precision. While tracing out spatial paths with an injection tip, the granular gel fluidizes at the point of injection and then rapidly solidifies, trapping injected material in place. This physical approach to creating three-dimensional (3D) structures negates the effects of surface tension, gravity, and particle diffusion, allowing a limitless breadth of materials to be written. With this method, we used silicones, hydrogels, colloids, and living cells to create complex large aspect ratio 3D objects, thin closed shells, and hierarchically branched tubular networks. We crosslinked polymeric materials and removed them from the granular gel, whereas uncrosslinked particulate systems were left supported within the medium for long times. This approach can be immediately used in diverse areas, contributing to tissue engineering, flexible electronics, particle engineering, smart materials, and encapsulation technologies.

To explore the stability of writing in granular gels, they have generated several complex structures that would otherwise disperse, sag, or fall apart. For example, they created a 4-cm-long model of DNA by arranging long thread-like features about 100 μm in diameter made entirely from uncrosslinked 1-μm fluorescent polystyrene microspheres

Granular gel as a 3D writing medium. (A) A microscale capillary tip sweeps out a complex pattern as material is injected into the granular gel medium. Complex objects can be generated because the drawn structure does not need to solidify or generate support on its own. (B) As the tip moves, the granular gel locally fluidizes and then rapidly solidifies, leaving a drawn cylinder in its wake. The reversible transition allows the tip to traverse the same regions repeatedly. (C) The soft granular gel is a yield stress material, which elastically deforms at low shear strains and fluidizes at high strains. (D) Stress-strain measurements reveal a shear modulus of 64 Pa and a yield stress of 9 Pa for 0.2% (w/v) Carbopol gel. (E) The cross-sectional area of written features exhibits nearly ideal behavior over a wide range of tip speeds, v, and flow rates, Q. The trend line corresponds to the volume conserving relationship

Writing solid shells and capsules. (A) A thin-shell model octopus is made from multiple connected hydrogel parts with a complex, stable surface before polymerization. (B) A fluorescence image of the octopus model after polymerization, still trapped in granular gel, exhibits no structural changes from the polymerization process. (C) The polymerized octopus model retains integrity after removal from the granular gel, shown floating in water. (D) A model jellyfish incorporates flexible high aspect ratio tentacles attached to a closed-shell body. (E) Freely floating in water, the jellyfish model exhibits robustness and flexibility. (F) Model Russian dolls demonstrate the ability to encapsulate with nested thin shells. Photographs in (A), (C), and (E) were illuminated with white light, and those in (B), (D), and (F) were illuminated with UV light, shown with false-color look-up table (LUT) to enhance weak features

Science Advances - "Writing in the granular gel medium" by Tapomoy Bhattacharjee1, Steven M. Zehnder, Kyle G. Rowe, Suhani Jain, Ryan M. Nixon, W. Gregory Sawyer and Thomas E. Angelini

September 29, 2015

China reveals updated J-31 Gyrfalcon stealth fighter

China has unveiled an updated version of the J-31 "Gyrfalcon" fighter jet, which is expected to be marketed internationally within the next five years, reports the Beijing-based Sina Military Network.

An updated model of the J-31 — a single-seat, twin-engine, fifth-generation stealth multirole fighter developed by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation — was recently on display at the 16th China Aviation Expo in Beijing from Sept. 16-19.

With a redesigned tail, the J-31's aerodynamic and stealth capabilities are said to have already surpassed most traditional fighter jets and will soon have an upgraded avionics system. Its current Russian-made RD-93 engine is also expected to be upgraded with a new version of the Chinese-made WS-13 engine in the future.

The main selling point of the J-31 is its low price, which might even be cheaper than some third-generation fighters out on the market, the report said.

Some analysts expect a three to one kill ratio disadvantage for the J31 versus the F35 However, the J-31 will be more than three times cheaper than the F35.

Solar Cells Will be Made Obsolete by 3D rectennas aiming at 40-to-90% efficiency

A new kind of nanoscale rectenna (half antenna and half rectifier) can convert solar and infrared into electricity, plus be tuned to nearly any other frequency as a detector.

Right now efficiency is only one percent, but professor Baratunde Cola and colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech, Atlanta) convincingly argue that they can achieve 40 percent broad spectrum efficiency (double that of silicon and more even than multi-junction gallium arsenide) at a one-tenth of the cost of conventional solar cells (and with an upper limit of 90 percent efficiency for single wavelength conversion).

It is well suited for mass production, according to Cola. It works by growing fields of carbon nanotubes vertically, the length of which roughly matches the wavelength of the energy source (one micron for solar), capping the carbon nanotubes with an insulating dielectric (aluminum oxide on the tethered end of the nanotube bundles), then growing a low-work function metal (calcium/aluminum) on the dielectric and voila--a rectenna with a two electron-volt potential that collects sunlight and converts it to direct current (DC).

"Our process uses three simple steps: grow a large array of nanotube bundles vertically; coat one end with dielectric; then deposit another layer of metal," Cola told EE Times. "In effect we are using one end of the nanotube as a part of a super-fast metal-insulator-metal tunnel diode, making mass production potentially very inexpensive up to 10-times cheaper than crystalline silicon cells."

For commercialization, billions or even trillions of carbon-nanotube bundles could be grown side-by-side, ramping up the power output into the megaWatt range, after optimization for higher efficiency.

"We still have a lot of work to do to lower contact resistance which will improve the impedance match between the antenna and diode, thus raising efficiency," Cola told us."Our proof-of-concept was tuned to the near-infrared. We used infrared-, solar- and green laser-light and got efficiencies of less than one percent, but what was key to our demo was we showed our computer model matched our experimental results, giving us the confidence that we can improve the efficiency up to 40 percent in just a few years."

For the future, Cola's group has a three tiered goal--first develop sensor applications that don't require high efficiencies, second to get the efficiency to 20 percent for harvesting waste heat in the infrared spectrum, then start replacing standard solar cells with 40 percent efficient panels in the visible spectrum. The team is also seeking suitable flexible substrates for applications that require bending.

Schematic of the components making up the optical rectenna--carbon nanotubes capped with a metal-oxide-metal tunneling diode. (Credit: Thomas Bougher)
(Source: Georgia Tech)

Nature Nanotechnology - A carbon nanotube optical rectenna

An optical rectenna—a device that directly converts free-propagating electromagnetic waves at optical frequencies to direct current—was first proposed over 40 years ago, yet this concept has not been demonstrated experimentally due to fabrication challenges at the nanoscale. Realizing an optical rectenna requires that an antenna be coupled to a diode that operates on the order of 1 pHz (switching speed on the order of 1 fs). Diodes operating at these frequencies are feasible if their capacitance is on the order of a few attofarads but they remain extremely difficult to fabricate and to reliably couple to a nanoscale antenna. Here we demonstrate an optical rectenna by engineering metal–insulator–metal tunnel diodes, with a junction capacitance of ∼2 aF, at the tip of vertically aligned multiwalled carbon nanotubes (∼10 nm in diameter), which act as the antenna. Upon irradiation with visible and infrared light, we measure a d.c. open-circuit voltage and a short-circuit current that appear to be due to a rectification process (we account for a very small but quantifiable contribution from thermal effects). In contrast to recent reports of photodetection based on hot electron decay in a plasmonic nanoscale antenna a coherent optical antenna field appears to be rectified directly in our devices, consistent with rectenna theory. Finally, power rectification is observed under simulated solar illumination, and there is no detectable change in diode performance after numerous current–voltage scans between 5 and 77 °C, indicating a potential for robust operation.

Carbon-neutral Cement Manufacturing

Each year, manufacturers produce around 5 billion tons of portland cement — the gray powder that mixes with water to form the “glue” that holds concrete together. That’s nearly three-quarters of a ton for every person on Earth. For every ton of cement produced, the process creates approximately a ton of carbon dioxide, all of which accounts for roughly 7 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

And with demand increasing every year — especially in the developing world, which uses much more portland cement than the U.S. does — scientists are determined to lessen the growing environmental impact of portland cement production.

One of those scientists is Gaurav Sant of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, who recently completed research that could eventually lead to methods of cement production that give off no carbon dioxide, the gas that composes 82 percent of greenhouse gases.

Industrial Engineering and Chemical Research - Direct Carbonation of Ca(OH)2 Using Liquid and Supercritical CO2: Implications for Carbon-Neutral Cementation

Galfenol can convert 70 percent of an applied mechanical energy into magnetic energy

An alloy first made nearly two decades ago by the U. S. Navy could provide an efficient new way to produce electricity. The material, dubbed Galfenol, consists of iron doped with the metal gallium. In new experiments, researchers from UCLA, the University of North Texas (UNT), and the Air Force Research Laboratories have shown that Galfenol can generate as much as 80 megawatts of instantaneous power per square meter under strong impacts.

Galfenol converts energy with high efficiency; it is able to turn roughly 70 percent of an applied mechanical energy into magnetic energy, and vice versa. (A standard car, by contrast, converts only about 15 to 30 percent of the stored energy in gasoline into useful motion.) Significantly, the magnetoelastic effect can be used to generate electricity. "If we wrap some wires around the material, we can generate an electrical current in the wire due to a change in magnetization," Domann said.

Galfenol in experiments using a device called a Split-Hopkinson Pressure Bar to generate high amounts of compressive stress (e.g., powerful impacts). They found that when subjected to impacts, Galfenol generates as much as 80 megawatts of instantaneous power per cubic meter.

By way of comparison, a device known as an explosively driven ferromagnetic pulse generator produces 500 megawatts of power per cubic meter. However, as their name implies, such generators require an explosion—one that destroys the ferromagnet, even as it produces power.

Among the potential applications, Galfenol-powered devices could be used as wireless impact detectors. "Essentially, we could fabricate small devices that send out a detectable electromagnetic wave when a mechanical pulse moves through it," Domann said. These devices could be embedded in vehicles—military or civilian—to detect collisions. Because electromagnetic waves travel three orders of magnitude faster than mechanical waves, information about the impact could be transmitted ahead of the waves created by the impact.

This picture is of the experimental setup showing the Hopkinson bar surrounded by a water-cooled electromagnet. A cylinder of Galfenol is inside of the electromagnet, sandwiched between the Hopkinson bars. The magnet was used to apply a wide range of static magnetic fields to Galfenol while it was mechanically impacted. Credit: John Domann/UCLA

Journal of Applied Physics - High strain-rate magnetoelasticity in Galfenol

Shell drops Alaska oil project but Canada oilsands, North Dakota and Texas continue at slower pace

On Monday, Royal Dutch Shell ended its nine-year effort to explore for oil in the Alaskan Arctic — a $7 billion investment — in another sign that the entire industry is trimming its ambitions in the wake of collapsing oil prices.

An oil forecast by Kirk Spano (Bluemound Asset Management) is that oil prices will be range bound for a long time. The Supply and demand imbalance will narrow and oil prices could stabilize around $80 per barrel by next year (2016).

Oilsand projects continues

The oil sands have been particularly resilient, with production continuing to grow, even as producers cancel projects left and right. And this is only the beginning. Investment dealer Peters and Co., which specializes in the energy sector, predicts that oil sands production will grow from 2.1 million barrels per day today to 2.75 million b/d by 2020.

Peters also identified the projects that will propel this growth. We take a closer look below.

The first wave

Peters identified three oil sands projects that will make up the “first wave” of new production: Kearl phase 2, Sunrise phase 1, and Surmont phase 1.

The Kearl project is jointly owned by Exxon Mobil Corp. and Imperial Oil Limited. Its second phase began producing at the beginning of this year, and will produce 110,000 b/d once it’s fully ramped up.

Sunrise is owned by Husky Energy, and its first phase is expected to produce 60,000 b/d by the end of next year. The company also has regulatory approvals in place for phase 2, which would add another 200,000 b/d if the project gets the go-ahead.

First AP1000 nuclear reactor should be operating Sept 2016 and the first CAP1400 should start construction this year

China's first AP1000 reactor, Sanmen 1, is expected to begin commercial operation in September 2016, while governmental permission is expected for work to start on the first Chinese-designed CAP1400 by the end of this year

Sanmen 1, in Zhejiang province, is one of four Westinghouse-designed AP1000s currently under construction in China. Work officially began on the unit when the first concrete was poured in March 2009, with a second unit at Sanmen beginning construction in December the same year. Work began on two units at Haiyang in Shandong province in September 2009 and June 2010, respectively.

Wang said that validation and verification work on SNPTC's CAP1400 design, which is based on the AP1000, is making good progress. Many enhancements have been incorporated to further improve the reactor's passive safety features to incorporate lessons learned from the Fukushima accident, including new venting and filtering systems to preserve the integrity of the containment under severe accident conditions. China's National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) has completed its safety review of the design.

A Huge Leap Forward is possible for the bottom 2 billion people within 5 to 10 years

This article is part of the 2015 ‘Think Further’ series, sponsored by Fred Alger Management, Inc. For more ‘Think Further’ content and videos, visit thinkfurtheralger.com

A Huge Leap Forward is possible for the bottom 2 billion people within 5 to 10 years.

Two thirds of the rural population in developing countries are without electricity. This leaves limited options for lighting.

Many turn to kerosene or paraffin oil. It was estimated that 88 billion liters of kerosene are burned purely for light. One liter of kerosene is estimated to produce 3kg CO2 when burnt. On average, rural households in five Sub-Saharan countries covered in the study pay 35% more for kerosene than their urban counterparts. The price differential was most stark in Ghana, where kerosene in rural areas retailed at 170% the price in urban centers. In Kenya, kerosene in the villages costs 46% more than in pump stations in urban areas.

Research has shown that basic oil lamps typically produce just 1% of the light of a 100W light bulb.

A $13 solar lamp in rural areas would pay for itself in about 5 months compared to the previously estimated 8 months, enabling families to enjoy cleaner, safer, higher quality domestic lighting sooner. Actually estimates 3 years ago was higher at 11 months because the solar lamp would have cost $20. Two 20 lumen solar lamps are now $10 each and in packs of 48 would be $8.

September 28, 2015

Aerial photos of likely new Type 001A 60,000 ton Chinese aircraft carrier

A new navel hull, first noted under construction in imagery captured on 10 March, is in an advanced state of assembly at Dalian shipyard.

China was reported to be ready to launch its first domestically built aircraft carrier, known as the Type 001A, on Dec. 26 according to Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao.

IHS Jane's first noted preparations for a new vessel's assembly at the dry dock in Airbus Defence and Space imagery captured on 27 February. After the launch of a large commercial cargo vessel, the empty dry dock contained multiple support blocks used to provide a base for keel assembly. On 10 March, further imagery showed the initial stages of hull construction. At the time, the support layout suggested a hull of 150 to 170 m in length with a beam of about 30 m.

The hull assembly continued through the summer. Imagery from 22 September shows a lengthened aft section and expanded bow. The hull is currently assessed to have a length of about 240 meters and a beam of about 35 meters. The incomplete bow suggests a length of at least 270 meters for the completed hull.

Given the incomplete nature of the upper decks, definitive identification of the Dalian hull as the first so-called '001A' aircraft carrier is not possible. It is believed that the type 001A is about 55,000 to 67,500 tons. The tonnage depends upon which Russian design is being copied and modified. The new ship will use a conventional propulsion package, have the large, phased array radars already installed on the Liaoning‘s island structure, and also have 40 to 45 J-15 or Su-33 fighters.

The 60,000 ton Liaoning aircraft carrier is 270 meters long at the waterline

It is believed that two new domestically produced aircraft carriers Type 001A would be 60,000 tons and about that length.

Airbus Defence and Space imagery shows an overview of Dalian shipyard in China. Source: CNES 2015, Distribution Airbus DS / 2015 IHS

India's Modi looks to Elon Musk Tesla batteries to boost solar electricity

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Tesla Motors this weekend, he will most seeking Tesla batteries to help boost solar electricity in India India receives 5-7 kilowatt hours per square meter for 300 to 330 days of the year.

India has a target of 100 GW of solar power by 2022. Currently India has 276 GW of electricity. India is the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gas after China and the USA.

Multi-Year deal upgrades Dwave Quantum Annealers with more qubits for Google, NASA And USRA’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab

D-Wave Systems Inc., the world's first quantum computing company, announced that it has entered into a new agreement covering the installation of a succession of D-Wave systems located at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. This agreement supports collaboration among Google, NASA and USRA (Universities Space Research Association) that is dedicated to studying how quantum computing can advance artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the solution of difficult optimization problems. The new agreement enables Google and its partners to keep their D-Wave system at the state-of-the-art for up to seven years, with new generations of D-Wave systems to be installed at NASA Ames as they become available.

“The new agreement is the largest order in D-Wave’s history, and indicative of the importance of quantum computing in its evolution toward solving problems that are difficult for even the largest supercomputers,” said D-Wave CEO Vern Brownell. “We highly value the commitment that our partners have made to D-Wave and our technology, and are excited about the potential use of our systems for machine learning and complex optimization problems.”

NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars

New findings from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water -- albeit briny -- is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

These downhill flows, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), often have been described as possibly related to liquid water. The new findings of hydrated salts on the slopes point to what that relationship may be to these dark features. The hydrated salts would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly. Scientists say it’s likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening.

September 27, 2015

Elon Musk talks about 1200 kilometer (745 mile) range for Tesla Electric cars in 2020 and

In a Danish television interview, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company will steadily increase the range of its electric cars over the next few years.

In the interview (the relevant section begins at 6:22), Musk said that Tesla could increase the range of the Model S to 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) "within a year or two."

Musk noted that the Model S distance record already stands at over 700 km, although that isn't really achievable under everyday conditions.

Elon Musk interview with Danish newspaper Borsen on Sep 23 says autopilot will be out in a month, and fully autonomous driving in 3 years. It will take a few more years for regulators to allow them.

As far as reliable range in the 600-mile neighborhood, Musk said that it will definitely be possible in 2017, and perhaps earlier.

By 2020, he expects a range of 1,200 km (745 mi) to be achievable.

That's the point when Musk wants Tesla to be selling 500,000 electric cars per year.

At 5% improvement per year just in the batteries, Tesla will get from today's 300 miles of range to 382 miles in 2020, and at 10% per year, Tesla get to 483 miles in 2020.

China's first domestic aircraft carrier the Type 001A reported to be launched Dec 26, 2015

China is ready to launch its first domestically built aircraft carrier, known as the Type 001A, on Dec. 26 to mark the 122th birthday of Mao Zedong, according to Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao.

President Xi Jinping reportedly visited the Dalian Shipyard to inspect the progress of work on the carrier in August.

Previous reports with photographs, dating from June, show the beginnings of the hull of what has been called the Type 001A carrier taking form in the Dalian shipyard. The photographs suggest work on the ship was proceeding quickly, as the lines are now a lot clearer than they were in previous photographs that emerged in April and the ship appears to have adopted a relatively rare bow flare design. Assembly should have begun in August.

Micromotors remove carbon dioxide in the lab and could eventually be scaled to remove from ocean

Machines that are much smaller than the width of a human hair could one day help clean up carbon dioxide pollution in the oceans. Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego have designed enzyme-functionalized micromotors that rapidly zoom around in water, remove carbon dioxide and convert it into a usable solid form.

The proof of concept study represents a promising route to mitigate the buildup of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas in the environment, said researchers. The team, led by distinguished nanoengineering professor and chair Joseph Wang, published the work this month in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

“We’re excited about the possibility of using these micromotors to combat ocean acidification and global warming,” said Virendra V. Singh, a postdoctoral scientist in Wang’s research group and a co-first author of this study.

In their experiments, nanoengineers demonstrated that the micromotors rapidly decarbonated water solutions that were saturated with carbon dioxide. Within five minutes, the micromotors removed 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from a solution of deionized water. The micromotors were just as effective in a sea water solution and removed 88 percent of the carbon dioxide in the same timeframe.

Nanoengineers have invented tiny tube-shaped micromotors that zoom around in water and efficiently remove carbon dioxide. The surfaces of the micromotors are functionalized with the enzyme carbonic anhydrase, which enables the motors to help rapidly convert carbon dioxide to calcium carbonate. (credit: Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

Journal Angewandte Chemie - Micromotor-Based Biomimetic Carbon Dioxide Sequestration: Towards Mobile Microscrubbers

Carbon fiber with Molybdenum disulfide promising for large scale hydrogen production

A team from Singapore and Taiwan have shown that carbon fiber cloths coated in inexpensive catalysts can generate hydrogen, and perform not only in water but in seawater as well.

IEEe Spectrum notes, the new material generated pure hydrogen roughly as efficiently as other state-of-the-art catalysts, the researchers say. Moreover, the new catalyst was more than six times more stable in water than platinum catalysts were after an hour of activity.

Molybdenum disulfide has is that it is already widely used in industrial applications such as lubrication and petroleum refining, and that techniques for its mass production already exist. This makes it one of the most promising candidates for sustainable large-scale hydrogen production

Science Advances - Hierarchical Ni-Mo-S nanosheets on carbon fiber cloth: A flexible electrode for efficient hydrogen generation in neutral electrolyte (August 21, 2015)

Jianwei Miao1, Fang-Xing Xiao1, Hong Bin Yang1, Si Yun Khoo1, Jiazang Chen, Zhanxi Fan, Ying-Ya Hsu, Hao Ming Chen, Hua Zhang, and Bin Liu1, Science Advances, Vol. 1, no. 7, e1500259 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500259

A unique functional electrode made of hierarchal Ni-Mo-S nanosheets with abundant exposed edges anchored on conductive and flexible carbon fiber cloth, referred to as Ni-Mo-S/C, has been developed through a facile biomolecule-assisted hydrothermal method. The incorporation of Ni atoms in Mo-S plays a crucial role in tuning its intrinsic catalytic property by creating substantial defect sites as well as modifying the morphology of Ni-Mo-S network at atomic scale, resulting in an impressive enhancement in the catalytic activity. The Ni-Mo-S/C electrode exhibits a large cathodic current and a low onset potential for hydrogen evolution reaction in neutral electrolyte (pH ~7), for example, current density of 10 mA/cm2 at a very small overpotential of 200 mV. Furthermore, the Ni-Mo-S/C electrode has excellent electrocatalytic stability over an extended period, much better than those of MoS2/C and Pt plate electrodes. Scanning and transmission electron microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, x-ray diffraction, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and x-ray absorption spectroscopy were used to understand the formation process and electrocatalytic properties of Ni-Mo-S/C. The intuitive comparison test was designed to reveal the superior gas-evolving profile of Ni-Mo-S/C over that of MoS2/C, and a laboratory-scale hydrogen generator was further assembled to demonstrate its potential application in practical appliances.

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