August 06, 2016

Nanoscale particle charge and discharge battery secrets

An interdisciplinary team has developed a way to track how particles charge and discharge at the nanoscale, an advance that will lead to better batteries for all sorts of mobile applications.


In a paper published this week in the journal Science, a team led by William Chueh, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford and a faculty scientist at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, has devised a way to peer as never before into the electrochemical reaction that fuels the most common rechargeable cell in use today: the lithium-ion battery.

By visualizing the fundamental building blocks of batteries – small particles typically measuring less than one hundredth of a human hair in size – the team members have illuminated a process that is far more complex than once thought. Both the method they developed to observe the battery in real time and their improved understanding of the electrochemistry could have far-reaching implications for battery design, management and beyond.

“It gives us fundamental insights into how batteries work,” said Jongwoo Lim, a co-lead author of the paper and post-doctoral researcher at the Stanford Institute for Materials & Energy Sciences at SLAC. “Previously, most studies investigated the average behavior of the whole battery. Now, we can see and understand how individual battery particles charge and discharge.”

The heart of a battery

At the heart of every lithium-ion battery is a simple chemical reaction in which positively charged lithium ions nestle in the lattice-like structure of a crystal electrode as the battery is discharging, receiving negatively charged electrons in the process. In reversing the reaction by removing electrons, the ions are freed and the battery is charged.


Lithiation and delithiation


These basic processes – known as lithiation (discharge) and delithiation (charge) – are hampered by an electrochemical Achilles heel. Rarely do the ions insert uniformly across the surface of the particles. Instead, certain areas take on more ions, and others fewer. These inconsistencies eventually lead to mechanical stress as areas of the crystal lattice become overburdened with ions and develop tiny fractures, sapping battery performance and shortening battery life.

“Lithiation and delithiation should be homogenous and uniform,” said Yiyang Li, a doctoral candidate in Chueh’s lab and co-lead author of the paper. “In reality, however, they’re very non-uniform. In our better understanding of the process, this paper lays out a path toward suppressing the phenomenon.”

For researchers hoping to improve batteries, like Chueh and his team, counteracting these detrimental forces could lead to batteries that charge faster and more fully, lasting much longer than today’s models.

This study visualizes the charge / discharge reaction in real-time – something scientists refer to as operando – at fine detail and scale. The team dutilized brilliant X-rays and cutting-edge microscopes at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Light Source.

“The phenomenon revealed by this technique, I thought would never be visualized in my lifetime. It’s quite game-changing in the battery field,” said Martin Bazant, a professor of chemical engineering and of mathematics at MIT who led the theoretical aspect of the study.

Chueh and his team fashioned a transparent battery using the same active materials as ones found in smartphones and electric vehicles. It was designed and fabricated in collaboration with Hummingbird Scientific. It consists of two very thin, transparent silicon nitride “windows.” The battery electrode, made of a single layer of lithium iron phosphate nanoparticles, sits on the membrane inside the gap between the two windows. A salty fluid, known as an electrolyte, flows in the gap to deliver the lithium ions to the nanoparticles.

“This was a very, very small battery, holding ten billion times less charge than a smartphone battery,” Chueh said. “But it allows us a clear view of what’s happening at the nanoscale.”

Significant advances

In their study, the researchers discovered that the charging process (delithiation) is significantly less uniform than discharge (lithiation). Intriguingly, the researchers also found that faster charging improves uniformity, which could lead to new and better battery designs and power management strategies.

“The improved uniformity lowers the damaging mechanical stress on the electrodes and improves battery cyclability,” Chueh said. “Beyond batteries, this work could have far-reaching impact on many other electrochemical materials.” He pointed to catalysts, memory devices, and so-called smart glass, which transitions from translucent to transparent when electrically charged.

In addition to the scientific knowledge gained, the other significant advancement from the study is the X-ray microscopy technique itself, which was developed in collaboration with Berkeley Lab Advanced Light Source scientists Young-sang Yu, David Shapiro, and Tolek Tyliszczak. The microscope, which is housed at the Advanced Light Source, could affect energy research across the board by revealing never-before-seen dynamics at the nanoscale.

“What we’ve learned here is not just how to make a better battery, but offers us a profound new window on the science of electrochemical reactions at the nanoscale,” Bazant said.


IBM lab on a chip can sort 20 nanometer nanoparticles such as DNA, viruses and exos

IBM scientists have developed a new lab-on-a-chip technology that can, for the first time, separate biological particles at the nanoscale and could help enable physicians to detect diseases such as cancer before symptoms appear.


As reported today in the journal Nature Nanotechnology*, the IBM team’s results show size-based separation of bioparticles down to 20 nanometers (nm) in diameter, a scale that gives access to important particles such as DNA, viruses and exosomes. Once separated, these particles can be analyzed by physicians to potentially reveal signs of disease even before patients experience any physical symptoms and when the outcome from treatment is most positive. Until now, the smallest bioparticle that could be separated by size with on-chip technologies was about 50 times or larger, for example, separation of circulating tumor cells from other biological components.

IBM is collaborating with a team from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to continue development of this lab-on-a-chip technology and plans to test it on prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men in the U.S.

View of a sample being separated using continuous flow

In the era of precision medicine, exosomes are increasingly being viewed as useful biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of malignant tumors. Exosomes are released in easily accessible bodily fluids such as blood, saliva or urine. They represent a precious biomedical tool as they can be used in the context of less invasive liquid biopsies to reveal the origin and nature of a cancer.

The IBM team targeted exosomes with their lab-on-chip technology as existing scientific techniques face challenges for separating and purifying exosomes in liquid biopsies. Exosomes range in size from 20-140nm and contain information about the health of the originating cell that they are shed from. A determination of the size, surface proteins and nucleic acid cargo carried by exosomes can give essential information about the presence and state of developing cancer and other diseases.

IBM’s results show they could separate and detect particles as small as 20 nm from smaller particles, that exosomes of size 100 nm and larger could be separated from smaller exosomes, and that separation can take place in spite of diffusion, a hallmark of particle dynamics at these small scales. With Mount Sinai, IBM plans to confirm their technology is able to pick up exosomes with cancer-specific biomarkers from patient liquid biopsies.

“The ability to sort and enrich biomarkers at the nanoscale in chip-based technologies opens the door to understanding diseases such as cancer as well as viruses like the flu or Zika,” said Gustavo Stolovitzky, Program Director of Translational Systems Biology and Nanobiotechnology at IBM Research. “This extra amount of time could allow physicians to make more informed decisions and when the prognosis for treatment options is most positive.”

With the ability to sort bioparticles at the nanoscale, Mount Sinai hopes that IBM’s technology can provide a new method to eavesdrop on the messages carried by exosomes for cell-to-cell communications. This can elucidate important questions about the biology of diseases as well as pave the way to noninvasive and eventually affordable point-of-care diagnostic tools. Monitoring this intercellular conversation more regularly could allow medical experts to track an individual’s state of health or progression of a disease.

“When we are ahead of the disease we usually can address it well; but if the disease is ahead of us, the journey is usually much more difficult. One of the important developments that we are attempting in this collaboration is to have the basic grounds to identify exosome signatures that can be there very early on before symptoms appear or before a disease becomes worse,” said Carlos Cordon-Cardo, MD, PhD, Chair of the Department of Pathology at the Mount Sinai Health System and Professor of Pathology, Genetics and Genomic Sciences, and Oncological Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine. “By bringing together Mount Sinai’s domain expertise in cancer and pathology with IBM’s systems biology experience and its latest nanoscale separation technology, the hope is to look for specific, sensitive biomarkers in exosomes that represent a new frontier to offering clues that might hold the answer to whether a person has cancer or how to treat it.”

Sorting bioparticles at the nanoscale

Lab-on-a-chip technologies have become an incredibly helpful tool for physicians as they can be significantly faster, portable, easy to use and require less sample volume to help detect diseases. The goal is to shrink down to a single silicon chip all of the processes necessary to analyze a disease that would normally be carried out in a full-scale biochemistry lab.

Using a technology called nanoscale deterministic lateral displacement, or nano-DLD, IBM scientists Joshua Smith and Benjamin Wunsch led development of a lab-on-a-chip technology that allows a liquid sample to be passed, in continuous flow, through a silicon chip containing an asymmetric pillar array. This array allows the system to sort a microscopic waterfall of nanoparticles, separating particles by size down to tens of nanometers resolution. IBM has already scaled down the chip size to 2cm by 2cm, while continuing development to increase the technology density to improve functionality and throughput.

Much like how a road through a small tunnel only allows smaller cars to pass while forcing bigger trucks to detour around, nano-DLD uses a set of pillars to deflect larger particles while allowing smaller particles to flow through the gaps of the pillar array unabated, effectively separating this particle “traffic” by size while not disrupting flow. Interestingly, IBM scientists noticed that nano-DLD arrays can also split a mixture of many different particle sizes into a spread of streams, much like a prism splits white light into different colors. The continuous flow nature of this technology circumvents stop-and-go batch processing typical of conventional separation techniques.

Leveraging IBM’s vast semiconductor expertise with its growing capabilities in experimental biology, IBM scientists used manufacturable silicon processes to produce the nano-DLD arrays for their lab-on-a-chip technology. As part of its on-going strategy, IBM researchers are working to increase the diversity of bioparticles that can be separated with their technology, and improving the precision and specificity for real-world clinical applications.

*Nanoscale Lateral Displacement Arrays for Separation of Exosomes and Colloids Down to 20nm, Benjamin H. Wunsch (IBM Research), Joshua T. Smith (IBM Research), Stacey M. Gifford (IBM Research), Chao Wang (current affiliation: Arizona State University), Markus Brink (IBM Research), Robert Bruce (IBM Research), Robert H. Austin (Princeton University), Gustavo Stolovitzky (IBM Research), and Yann Astier (current affiliation: Roche Molecular Systems), Nature Nanotechnology, DOI: 10.1038/NNANO.2016.134


Top Internet populations by country

Internet live stats has the online Internet population by country projected to the end of 2016

China    721 million    52% penetration  2.2% annual growth
India    462 million    35% penetration 30% growth
USA      287 million    89% penetration  1.1% growth
Brazil   139 million    66% penetration  5% growth

India is 5 to 6 years behind China in Internet adoption

DARPA developing programmable, self healing building material

DARPA seeks to develop design tools and methods for creating programmable, self-healing, living building materials


The structural materials that are currently used to construct homes, buildings, and infrastructure are expensive to produce and transport, wear out due to age and damage, and have limited ability to respond to changes in their immediate surroundings. Living biological materials—bone, skin, bark, and coral, for example—have attributes that provide advantages over the non-living materials people build with, in that they can be grown where needed, self-repair when damaged, and respond to changes in their surroundings. The inclusion of living materials in human-built environments could offer significant benefits; however, today scientists and engineers are unable to easily control the size and shape of living materials in ways that would make them useful for construction.

DARPA is launching the Engineered Living Materials (ELM) program with a goal of creating a new class of materials that combines the structural properties of traditional building materials with attributes of living systems. Living materials represent a new opportunity to leverage engineered biology to solve existing problems associated with the construction and maintenance of built environments, and to create new capabilities to craft smart infrastructure that dynamically responds to its surroundings.

“The vision of the ELM program is to grow materials on demand where they are needed,” said ELM program manager Justin Gallivan. “Imagine that instead of shipping finished materials, we can ship precursors and rapidly grow them on site using local resources. And, since the materials will be alive, they will be able to respond to changes in their environment and heal themselves in response to damage.”

Grown materials are not entirely new, but their current manifestations differ substantially from the materials Gallivan envisions. For instance, biologically sourced structural materials can already be grown into specified sizes and shapes from inexpensive feedstocks; packing materials derived from fungal mycelium and building blocks made from bacteria and sand are two modern examples. And, of course, wood has been used for ages. However, these products are rendered inert during the manufacturing process, so they exhibit few of their components’ original biological advantages. Scientists are making progress with three-dimensional printing of living tissues and organs, using scaffolding materials that sustain the long-term viability of the living cells. These cells are derived from existing natural tissues, however, and are not engineered to perform synthetic functions. And current cell-printing methods are too expensive to produce building materials at necessary scales.

ELM looks to merge the best features of these existing technologies and build on them to create hybrid materials composed of non-living scaffolds that give structure to and support the long-term viability of engineered living cells. DARPA intends to develop platform technologies that are scalable and generalizable to facilitate a quick transition from laboratory to commercial applications.

The long-term objective of the ELM program is to develop an ability to engineer structural properties directly into the genomes of biological systems so that neither scaffolds nor external development cues are needed for an organism to realize the desired shape and properties. Achieving this goal will require significant breakthroughs in scientists’ understanding of developmental pathways and how those pathways direct the three-dimensional development of multicellular systems.

Work on ELM will be fundamental research carried out in controlled laboratory settings. DARPA does not anticipate environmental release during the program




Liquid metal enable dynamically reconfigurable soft circuits

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, are setting the foundation for moving beyond solid state electronics towards flexible and dynamically reconfigurable soft circuit systems.

Modern electronic technologies like smart phones and computers are mainly based on circuits that use solid state components, with fixed metallic tracks and semiconducting devices.

Spectrolab making 30.7% efficient solar cells for space applications

Boeing subsidiary Spectrolab Inc of Sylmar, CA, USA, which manufactures multi-junction solar cells and panels for concentrated photovoltaic and spacecraft power systems, says that it has begun manufacturing a higher-efficiency space solar cell, providing opportunities for the aerospace industry to develop lighter and less expensive spacecraft.

Due to Spectrolab's advances in manufacturing, the new XTJ Prime cell has achieved a solar energy conversion efficiency of 30.7% (higher than any other comparable model currently available, it is claimed). First delivery of the higher-efficiency XTJ Prime cells is expected later this year




Two Frenchmen pedaling 24 miles per day in pedal powered submarine

Two French engineers on Friday began an attempt to cross the Channel between England and France in a pedal-powered submarine.

Antoine Delafargue and Michael de Lagarde started their journey in Plymouth, southwest England and hope to arrive in St Malo in western France 250 kilometres (150 miles) away on August 12.

"The submarine is on its way," Gael Brelet, a spokesman for the project, told AFP. "They are travelling at about three kilometres per hour."

The submarine reportedly weighs 3.5 tonnes and is six metres long. The two men are expected to pedal for up to 12 hours a day each.

The Plymouth Herald newspaper quoted Delafargue as saying that he had funded the project himself at a cost of some £100,000 (118,000 euros, $130,000).

"I'd always wanted to build a submarine since I was a kid," he told the paper earlier this week.

"I suddenly thought: 'Wow, now I have the skills as an engineer, maybe I can just go about it and build it.'"

On the Pilot Fish Project's website, it explains that, as well as crossing the stretch of sea, the two men aim to "explore the deepest areas" of the ocean as well as filming the seabed and promoting energy conservation.


Unconventional laser generates terahertz waves that are five times stronger which will enable IED scanning from 100 feet away

Here's the scene: a suspicious package is found in a public place. The police are called in and clear the area. Forced to work from a distance and unable to peer inside, they fear the worst and decide to detonate the package.

New research at the University of Rochester might help authorities in the not-too-distant future be better informed in tackling such situations and do so more safely. Working with a special type of electromagnetic wave--called terahertz (THz)--that's capable of sensing and/or imaging objects behind barriers, the team demonstrated that they can detect a THz wave at a distance of up to 100 feet. The THz wave created by the researchers is more than five times stronger than what is generated by more conventional means, leading them to believe that a THz wave--and the image of a hidden object--can be detected at much greater distances in the future.



August 05, 2016

Asthma pill could reduce symptoms in severe sufferers

"This new drug could be a game changer for future treatment of asthma" - Professor Chris Brightling, NIHR Senior Research Fellow at the University of Leicester

The first new asthma pill for nearly 20 years has the power to significantly reduce the severity of the condition, a study led by the University of Leicester has found.


The research was funded by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the EU (AirPROM), and is described by the lead researcher as "a game changer for future treatment of asthma."

Three people die every day because of asthma attacks and research shows that two thirds of asthma deaths are preventable, according to Asthma UK.

Fevipiprant (QAW039) significantly decreased the symptoms of asthma, improved lung function, reduced inflammation and repaired the lining of airways.

The drug is currently being evaluated in late stage clinical trials for efficacy in patients with severe asthma, according to ClinTrials.gov.

A total of 61 people took part in the research. One group was given 225mg of the drug twice a day for 12 weeks and the other participants were assigned to a placebo group. Fevipiprant and the placebo were added to the medications the participants were already taking.

The study was designed primarily to examine the effects on inflammation in the airway by measuring the sputum eosinophil count.

The sputum eosinophil is an inflammation measurement of a white blood cell that increases in asthma and is used to assess the severity of this condition.

People who do not have asthma have a percentage of less than one and those with moderate-to-severe asthma typically have a reading of about five per cent.

The rate in people with moderate-to-severe asthma taking the medication was reduced from an average of 5.4 percent to 1.1 percent over 12 weeks, according to the study published today in the prestigious The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal.

Professor Christopher Brightling, who is a NIHR Senior Research Fellow and Clinical Professor in Respiratory Medicine at the University of Leicester, led the study at the NIHR Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit, which is based at the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester.

Professor Brightling said: "A unique feature of this study was how it included measurements of symptoms, lung function using breathing tests, sampling of the airway wall and CT scans of the chest to give a complete picture of how the new drug works.

"Most treatments might improve some of these features of disease, but with Fevipiprant improvements were seen with all of the types of tests.

"We already know that using treatments to target eosinophilic airway inflammation can substantially reduce asthma attacks.

"This new treatment, Fevipiprant, could likewise help to stop preventable asthma attacks, reduce hospital admissions and improve day-to-day symptoms- making it a 'game changer' for future treatment."

Gaye Stokes from Grantham in Lincolnshire has had severe asthma for 16 years. She took part in the trial and was part of the Fevipiprant group.

The 54-year-old said: "I knew straight away that I had been given the drug. I felt like a completely different person. I had more get up and go, I was less wheezy and for the first time in years I felt really, really well.

"For me, it felt like a complete wonder drug and I can't wait for it to be available because I really think it could make a huge difference to me."

After the 12 week trial and Gaye stopped receiving the drug, she said her health started to "go downhill again very quickly".

Professor Brightling added that the latest advance underpinned the work of the Leicester Precision Medicine Institute, a Centre of Excellence that coalesces and aligns the research missions of the University of Leicester and the NHS in Leicester.

Future treatment of human disease will increasingly move from a 'one size fits all' approach to one of tailoring the treatment to the individual patient.

Asthma is a long-term condition that affects the airways. When a person with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates their sensitive airways it causes the body to react in several ways which can include wheezing, coughing and can make breathing more difficult.

The NIHR Leicester Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit - a partnership between the University of Leicester and Leicester's Hospitals - focuses on promoting the development of new and effective therapies for the treatment of respiratory diseases including severe asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

AirPROM stands for 'Airway Disease Predicting Outcomes through Patient Specific Computational Modelling'.

This is the technical name for the five year Europe-wide, EU funded project, which aimed to produce computer and physical models of the whole human airway system for people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

AirPROM has demonstrated how an integrated approach, involving modelling, measurement and clinical validation, can accelerate the development of new therapies and improve existing methods.

AirPROM is led by the University of Leicester and coordinated by Professor Brightling.

The Lancet has the paper on this study

China will use G20 as an efficient platform for world governance

China will promote the G20 summit as an efficient platform for world governance including economic development, trade and investment, Turkish experts said on Monday.

The upcoming G20 summit is to be held in September in Hangzhou with the theme of "Toward an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy."

It will be the first time in G20 summit history that development is being given priority in a global macro-policy framework, and the first time to outline steps to implement the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

"It is the first time to put 'innovation' on the priority at the G20 summit," Guven Sak, chief of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, told Xinhua.

China emphasizes "Innovation for development", he continued, adding the upcoming G20 summit in Hangzhou will put more focus on reforms.

Ussal Sahbaz, another expert at the foundation, said he was very glad the forum for small- and medium-sized enterprises, created at the last G20 summit in Turkey, was also put on priority of the agenda at the this year's summit.

The 10th G20 summit was held in Turkish city of Antalya last November with the main theme of "Inclusiveness, Implementation and Investment for growth", or "THREE I'S".

Mustafa Kutlay, an associate professor at the International Relations Institute of TOBB University of Economics and Technology, hoped the "THREE I'S" could continue at the G20 summit in Hangzhou.

The upcoming summit will have an important influence on world governance and world economy, said Kutlay, adding China, as the second largest economy in the world, has the resources and abilities to ensure the success of the summit.

Altay Atli, an expert at the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), noted the summit will provide an opportunity for China to show the world that it will rise peacefully.



China begins developing a spaceplane that is targeting operations by 2030

China has launched a program to develop hybrid spacecraft. The vehicle is expected to make space travel much cheaper if it proves successful. According to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the new vehicle will be powered by multiple engines in different phases of the flight into orbit.

It seems like it will be spaceplane that is similar to the scramjet or skylon spaceplane concepts

These engines include turbine, ramjet and rocket. The core technique is using the air's oxygen as an oxidiser to create power.

Researchers say the hybrid launch vehicle will be mainly used for expeditions of between dozens to hundreds of kilometers from the earth.

"We have made a long-term plan of taking about three to five years to master the key technologies, and significantly improve the capability of the spacecraft during the application," said Zhang Yong, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp..

"We aim to implement the technology in suborbital flight and orbital insertion by 2030."


Zebra fish, Salamander and bichir have the same genetic control mechanisms for limb regeneration

In a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE, MDI Biological Laboratory scientists Benjamin L. King, Ph.D., and Voot P. Yin, Ph.D., identified these common genetic regulators in three regenerative species: the zebrafish, a common aquarium fish originally from India; the axolotl, a salamander native to the lakes of Mexico; and the bichir, a ray-finned fish from Africa.

The discovery of genetic mechanisms common to all three of these species, which diverged on the evolutionary tree about 420 million years ago, suggests that these mechanisms aren't specific to individual species, but have been conserved by nature through evolution.

"I remember that day very well—it was a fantastic feeling," said King of the discovery. "We didn't expect the patterns of genetic expression to be vastly different in the three species, but it was amazing to see that they were consistently the same."

The discovery of the common genetic regulators is expected to serve as a platform to inform new hypotheses about the genetic mechanisms underlying limb regeneration. The discovery also represents a major advance in understanding why many tissues in humans, including limb tissue, regenerate poorly—and in being able to possibly manipulate those mechanisms with drug therapies.

"Limb regeneration in humans may sound like science fiction, but it's within the realm of possibility," said Yin. "The fact that we've identified a genetic signature for limb regeneration in three different species with three different types of appendages suggests that nature has created a common genetic instruction manual governing regeneration that may be shared by all forms of animal life, including humans."



New light by combining photon with one electron

New research suggests that it is possible to create a new form of light by binding light to a single electron, combining the properties of both.

According to the scientists behind the study, from Imperial College London, the coupled light and electron would have properties that could lead to circuits that work with packages of light – photons – instead of electrons.

It would also allow researchers to study quantum physical phenomena, which govern particles smaller than atoms, on a visible scale.

In normal materials, light interacts with a whole host of electrons present on the surface and within the material. But by using theoretical physics to model the behaviour of light and a recently-discovered class of materials known as topological insulators, Imperial researchers have found that it could interact with just one electron on the surface.



This would create a coupling that merges some of the properties of the light and the electron. Normally, light travels in a straight line, but when bound to the electron it would instead follow its path, tracing the surface of the material.

In the study, published today in Nature Communications, Dr Vincenzo Giannini and colleagues modelled this interaction around a nanoparticle – a small sphere below 0.00000001 metres in diameter – made of a topological insulator.


Their models showed that as well as the light taking the property of the electron and circulating the particle, the electron would also take on some of the properties of the light.

Normally, as electrons are travelling along materials, such as electrical circuits, they will stop when faced with a defect. However, Dr Giannini's team discovered that even if there were imperfections in the surface of the nanoparticle, the electron would still be able to travel onwards with the aid of the light.

If this could be adapted into photonic circuits, they would be more robust and less vulnerable to disruption and physical imperfections.


Automated detection and patching of software vulnerabilities demonstrated by DARPA cyber challenge winner

Automated system outperforms competing machines in high-stakes final event aimed at revolutionizing software vulnerability detection and patching

Capping an intensive three-year push to spark a revolution in automated cyber defense, DARPA today announced that a computer system designed by a team of Pittsburgh-based researchers is the presumptive winner of the Agency’s Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC), the world’s first all-hacking tournament.

The winning computer system, dubbed Mayhem, was created by a team known as ForAllSecure—one of seven teams that competed for nearly $4 million in prizes in today’s all-day competition, performed in front of 5,000 computer security professionals and others at the Paris Las Vegas Conference Center.

Xandra, a computer system designed by team TECHx of Ithaca, N.Y., and Charlottesville, Va., was declared the presumptive second-place winner. And Mechanical Phish, a system designed by team Shellphish of Santa Barbara, Calif., was named the presumptive third-place winner. Judges will spend the night verifying those preliminary results, and winners will be officially crowned at an award ceremony Friday morning, immediately before the launch of DEF CON, the nation’s largest hacker tournament, also being hosted at the Paris Hotel. First place in the CGC carries a cash award of $2 million; second- and third-place teams will receive $1 million and $750,000, respectively.

At Friday’s ceremony, DEF CON organizers are expected to formally invite Mayhem to participate in this year’s DEF CON Capture the Flag competition, marking the first time a machine will be allowed to play in that historically all-human tournament.

“I’m enormously gratified that we achieved CGC’s primary goal, which was to provide clear proof of principle that machine-speed, scalable cyber defense is indeed possible,” said Mike Walker, the DARPA program manager who launched the challenge in 2013. “The effort by the teams, the DARPA leadership and staff, and all the hundreds of people who helped make this unique, open-to-the-public test happen was enormous. I’m confident it will speed the day when networked attackers no longer have the inherent advantage they enjoy today.”

DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge was designed to accelerate the development of advanced, autonomous systems that can detect, evaluate, and patch software vulnerabilities before adversaries have a chance to exploit them. The seven competing teams in today’s final event were composed of white-hat hackers, academics, and private-sector cyber systems experts.

The need for automated, scalable, machine-speed vulnerability detection and patching is large and growing fast as more and more systems—from household appliances to major military platforms—get connected to and become dependent upon the internet. Today, the process of finding and countering bugs, hacks, and other cyber infection vectors is still effectively artisanal. Professional bug hunters, security coders, and other security pros work tremendous hours, searching millions of lines of code to find and fix vulnerabilities that could be taken advantage of by users with ulterior motives.

The Heartbleed security bug existed in many of the world’s computer systems for nearly two and a half years, for example, before it was discovered and a fix circulated in spring 2014. By that time, the bug had rendered an estimated half million of the internet’s secure servers vulnerable to theft and other mischief. Analysts have estimated that, on average, such flaws go unremediated for 10 months before being discovered and patched, giving nefarious actors ample opportunity to wreak havoc in affected systems before they move on to exploit new terrain.

Today’s event was the first head-to-head competition among developers of some of the most sophisticated automated bug-hunting systems ever developed. For almost 10 hours, competitors played the classic cybersecurity exercise of Capture the Flag in a specially created computer testbed laden with an array of bugs hidden inside custom, never-before-analyzed software. The machines were challenged to find and patch within seconds—not the usual months—flawed code that was vulnerable to being hacked, and find their opponents’ weaknesses before the defending systems did. The entire event was visualized for attendees on giant monitors and livestreamed for remote viewers, with expert “sportscasters” documenting the historic competition.

“This may be the end of DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge but it’s just the beginning of a revolution in software security,” Walker said. “In the same way that the Wright brothers’ first flight—although it didn’t go very far—launched a chain of events that quickly made the world a much smaller place, we now have seen for the first time autonomy involving the kind of reasoning that’s required for cyber defense. That is a huge advance compared to where the cyber defense world was yesterday.”


August 04, 2016

Implantable neural dust powered by ultrasound within a body

First in vivo tests demonstrate ultrasound can be used to wirelessly power and communicate with millimeter-scale devices surgically placed in muscles and nerves


Therapeutic modulation of the activity of the body’s peripheral nervous system (PNS) holds a world of potential for mitigating and treating disease and other health conditions—if researchers can figure out a feasible long-term mechanism for communicating with the nerves and pathways that make up the body’s information superhighway between the spinal cord and other organs.

What does “feasible” look like? Small is the best start—small enough to someday perhaps be injected or ingested—but also precise, wireless, stable, and comfortable for the user. Modern electrode-based recording technologies feature some, but not all of these qualities. Hardwired solutions present challenges for chronic use, while existing wireless solutions cannot be adequately scaled down to the sizes needed to record activity from small-diameter nerves and record independently from many discrete sites within a nerve bundle. DARPA’s Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRx) program is focused in part on overcoming these constraints and delivering interface technologies that are suitable for chronic use for biosensing and neuromodulation of peripheral nerve targets.

Now, as described in results published today in the journal Neuron, a DARPA-funded research team led by the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences has developed a safe, millimeter-scale wireless device small enough to be implanted in individual nerves, capable of detecting electrical activity of nerves and muscles deep within the body, and that uses ultrasound for power coupling and communication. They call these devices “neural dust.” The team completed the first in vivo tests of this technology in rodents.

“Neural dust represents a radical departure from the traditional approach of using radio waves for wireless communication with implanted devices,” said Doug Weber, the DARPA program manager for ElectRx. “The soft tissues of our body consist mostly of saltwater. Sound waves pass freely through these tissues and can be focused with pinpoint accuracy at nerve targets deep inside our body, while radio waves cannot. Indeed, this is why sonar is used to image objects in the ocean, while radar is used to detect objects in the air. By using ultrasound to communicate with the neural dust, the sensors can be made smaller and placed deeper inside the body, by needle injection or other non-surgical approaches.”

The prototype neural dust “motes” currently measure 0.8 millimeters x 3 millimeters x 1 millimeter as assembled with commercially available components. The researchers estimate that by using custom parts and processes, they could manufacture individual motes of 1 cubic millimeter or less in size—possibly as small as 100 microns per side. The small size means multiple sensors could be placed near each other to make more precise recordings of nerve activity from many sites within a nerve or group of nerves.

Though their miniscule size is an achievement in itself, the dust motes are as impressive for the elegant simplicity of their engineering. Each sensor consists of only three main parts: a pair of electrodes to measure nerve signals, a custom transistor to amplify the signal, and a piezoelectric crystal that serves the dual purpose of converting the mechanical power of externally generated ultrasound waves into electrical power and communicating the recorded nerve activity. The neural dust system also includes an external transceiver board that uses ultrasound to power and communicate with the motes by emitting pulses of ultrasonic energy and listening for reflected pulses. During testing, the transceiver board was positioned approximately 9 millimeters away from the implant.

The piezoelectric crystal is key to the design of neural dust. Pulses of ultrasonic energy emitted by the external board affect the crystal. While some of the pulses are reflected back to the board, others cause the crystal to vibrate. This vibration converts the mechanical power of the ultrasound wave into electrical power, which is supplied to the dust mote’s transistor. Meanwhile, any extracellular voltage change across the mote’s two recording electrodes—generated by nerve activity—modulates the transistor’s gate, which changes the current flowing between the terminals of the crystal. These changes in current alter the vibration of the crystal and the intensity of its reflected ultrasonic energy. In this way, the shape of the reflected ultrasonic pulses encodes the electrophysiological voltage signal recorded by the implanted electrodes. This signal can be reconstructed externally by electronics attached to the transceiver board to interpret nerve activity. “One of the most appealing features of the neural dust sensors is that they are completely passive. Because there are no batteries to be changed, there is no need for further surgeries after the initial implant,” Weber said.

Another benefit of the system is that ultrasound is safe in the human body; ultrasound technologies have long been used for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Most existing wireless PNS sensors use electromagnetic energy in the form of radio waves for coupling and communication, but these systems become inefficient for sensors smaller than 5 millimeters. To work at smaller scales, these systems must increase their energy output, and much of that energy gets absorbed by surrounding tissue. Ultrasound has the advantage of penetrating deeper into tissue at lower power levels, reducing the risk of adverse effects while yielding excellent spatial resolution.

This proof of concept was developed under the first phase of the ElectRx program. The research team will continue to work on further miniaturizing the sensors, ensuring biocompatibility, increasing the portability of the transceiver board, and achieving clarity in signals processing when multiple sensors are placed near each other.


Another five quit trapped ion question Antrim computer

In May this year, IBM announced it was making such a device available for anyone to use over the internet. Its computer has five quantum bits, or qubits, so can only handle relatively small problems – but it’s programmable just like a regular PC. Researchers at Google have developed a similar device, although have not made it accessible to the public.

Both of these computers use superconducting qubits built using techniques from the conventional computer chip industry. Now, a team at the University of Maryland has succeeded with its own quite different approach to making a programmable five-qubit computer.

Their qubits are made from ytterbium ions held in place by magnetic fields and lasers, a technology with its origins in atomic clocks. “Ions are nature’s quantum units,” says team member Shantanu Debnath. “If you have a bunch of them in a processor, all of them are identical, and that is a significant advantage.”

Trapped-ion qubits have another edge over the superconducting variety in being able to communicate with each other at a distance, thanks to the weird property of quantum entanglement. This allows the computer to process data more easily. “Any ion can interact within any other,” says Debnath. “Quantum entanglement is at the heart of parallel processing and speed-up.”





China will make high temperature gas nuclear reactors in Indonesia

China will make high temperature gas nuclear reactors in Indonesia

Under the agreement, CNEC and Batan intend to cooperate on an Indonesian HTGR project and to train workers.
Batan is promoting the introduction of nuclear power plants in Indonesia to help meet the county's demand for power. It envisages the start-up of conventional large light-water reactors on the populous islands of Bali, Java, Madura and Sumatra from 2027 onwards. In addition, it is planning for small HTGRs (up to 100 MWe) for deployment on Kalimantan, Sulawesi and other islands to supply power and heat for industrial use.

Prior to the introduction of commercial reactors in Indonesia, Batan is considering building a test and demonstration HTGR with an electrical output of 3-10 MWe and a thermal output of 10-30 MWt.

In August 2014, Batan signed a cooperation agreement with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) on research and development of HTGRs. JAEA has developed a small prototype gas-cooled reactor, the High-Temperature Test Reactor. This is a 30 MWt graphite-moderated helium gas-cooled reactor which achieved first criticality in November 1998.
In April 2015, Rosatom announced that a consortium of Russian and Indonesian companies led by NUKEM Technologies had won a contract for the preliminary design of a multi-purpose 10 MWe HTGR at Serpong in Indonesia.

CNEC has been working with Tsinghua University since 2003 on the design, construction and commercialization of HTR technology. The partners signed a new agreement in March 2014 aimed at furthering cooperation in both international and domestic marketing of the advanced reactor technology.

A demonstration HTR-PM unit is under construction at Shidaowan near Weihai city in China's Shandong province. That plant will initially comprise twin HTR-PM reactor modules driving a single 210 MWe steam turbine. Construction started in late 2012 and commercial operation is scheduled to start in late 2017.

A proposal to construct two 600 MWe HTRs at Ruijin city in China's Jiangxi province passed a preliminary feasibility review in early 2015. The design of the Ruijin HTRs is based on the smaller Shidaowan demonstration HTR-PM. Construction of the Ruijin reactors is expected to start next year, with grid connection in 2021.

MIT makes micro fluidic chip that replicates nerve muscle junction which enable testing for many nerve-muscle diseases

MIT engineers have developed a microfluidic device that replicates the neuromuscular junction — the vital connection where nerve meets muscle. The device, about the size of a U.S. quarter, contains a single muscle strip and a small set of motor neurons. Researchers can influence and observe the interactions between the two, within a realistic, three-dimensional matrix.

The researchers genetically modified the neurons in the device to respond to light. By shining light directly on the neurons, they can precisely stimulate these cells, which in turn send signals to excite the muscle fiber. The researchers also measured the force the muscle exerts within the device as it twitches or contracts in response.
The team’s results, published online today in Science Advances, may help scientists understand and identify drugs to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, as well as other neuromuscular-related conditions.

“The neuromuscular junction is involved in a lot of very incapacitating, sometimes brutal and fatal disorders, for which a lot has yet to be discovered,” says Sebastien Uzel, who led the work as a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “The hope is, being able to form neuromuscular junctions in vitro will help us understand how certain diseases function.”


NASA proposes asteroid redirect mission with ion engine 20 times more powerful than recent Dawn mission

NASA has a proposed asteroid redirect mission which would use an ion propulsion that is 20 times bigger than the recent Dawn mission to Ceres and Vesta.

NASA is developing a first-ever robotic mission to visit a large near-Earth asteroid, collect a multi-ton boulder from its surface, and redirect it into a stable orbit around the moon. Once it’s there, astronauts will explore it and return with samples in the 2020s. This Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is part of NASA’s plan to advance the new technologies and spaceflight experience needed for a human mission to the Martian system in the 2030s.

NASA has identified multiple candidate asteroids and continues the search for one that could be redirected to near the moon in the 2020s. Since the announcement of the Asteroid Initiative in 2013, NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observation Program has catalogued more than 1,000 new near-Earth asteroids discovered by various search teams. Of those identified so far, four could be good candidates for ARM. Scientists anticipate many more will be discovered over the next few years, and NASA will study their velocity, orbit, size and spin before deciding on the target asteroid for the ARM mission.

The Asteroid Redirect Mission is one part of NASA’s Asteroid Initiative. The initiative also includes an Asteroid Grand Challenge, designed to accelerate NASA’s efforts to locate potentially hazardous asteroids through non-traditional collaborations and partnerships. The challenge could also help identify viable candidates for ARM.

NASA plans to launch the ARM robotic spacecraft at the end of this decade. The spacecraft will capture a boulder off of a large asteroid using a robotic arm. After an asteroid mass is collected, the spacecraft will redirect it to a stable orbit around the moon called a “Distant Retrograde Orbit.” Astronauts aboard NASA's Orion spacecraft, launched from a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, will explore the asteroid in the mid-2020s.


New York will subsidize nuclear plants against natural gas to meet clean energy goals

New York’s Public Service Commission enacted a landmark Clean Energy Standard that calls for propping up the state’s ailing nuclear plants with a multibillion-dollar subsidy. It’s the most significant step yet by a state government to rescue nuclear power providers, which have been buffeted by low-priced electricity from natural-gas plants.

Under the new plan, ratepayers will subsidize the operation of three of the state’s four nuclear power stations through 2029, providing funding that will average about half a billion dollars a year and could total $7.6 billion. The plan also aims to slash carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent and produce half the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

The plants’ operators had publicly stated that they planned to shut down if regulators didn’t come up with public funding. Entergy, which owns the James A. FitzPatrick plant, situated on the shore of Lake Ontario, said it would shut the plant down by early 2017. Exelon, owner of the R.E. Ginna and Nine Mile Point plants, has said it would close those plants in the next few years without state support. (The Indian Point Energy Center, located near New York City, is not included in the new subsidies because, the commission stated, power prices are higher in its region and the plant is not in danger of closing.)

August 03, 2016

Toshiba makes 64-Layer 3D Flash for 32 gigabytes on one chip and will mass produce it in 2017

Toshiba Corporation has disclosed the latest generation of its BiCS FLASH three-dimensional (3D) flash memory with a stacked cell structure, a 64-layer device that it claims as the first to start sample shipments.

The new device incorporates 3-bit-per-cell (triple-level cell, TLC) technology and achieves a 256-gigabit (32 gigabytes) capacity, an advance that underscores the potential of Toshiba’s proprietary architecture. Toshiba continues to refine BiCS FLASH, and the next milestone on the development roadmap is a 512-gigabit (64-gigabytes) device, also with 64 layers.

Mass production of 64-layer BiCS FLASH is scheduled to start in the first half of 2017.



Moon Express given approval for 2017 lunar mission

The FAA and the federal government has granted approval for startup Moon Express to send a mission to the moon. Moon Express intends to launch a small, single-stage spacecraft to land on the Moon by the end of 2017.

Eventually the federal government would like to come up with a standard launch licensing process for deep space missions, but that will probably take a couple of years to finalize. It is not clear whether the FAA would be the lead agency for such missions as well, as it currently is for Earth orbit payloads. In addition to reviewing safety, the government is responsible for ensuring that deep space missions follow proper planetary protecting procedures.

Moon Express isn’t alone in its race against the 2017 deadline. Several international competitors want to win the $20 million first prize that comes with being the first privately developed spacecraft to land on the moon, travel at least half a kilometer across the surface, and return photos and videos. MoonEx has contracted with the New Zealand-based Rocket Lab for a launch on its Electron vehicle.



IBM Scientists Imitate the Functionality of Neurons with a Phase-Change Device that is All-memristive

IBM scientists have created randomly spiking neurons using phase-change materials to store and process data. This demonstration marks a significant step forward in the development of energy-efficient, ultra-dense integrated neuromorphic technologies for applications in cognitive computing.

The technology could lead to the development of neuromorphic computers with highly co-located memory and processing units to speed up cognitive computing and analyze IoT Big Data.

Inspired by the way the biological brain functions, scientists have theorized for decades that it should be possible to imitate the versatile computational capabilities of large populations of neurons. However, doing so at densities and with a power budget that would be comparable to those seen in biology has been a significant challenge, until now.

“We have been researching phase-change materials for memory applications for over a decade, and our progress in the past 24 months has been remarkable,” said IBM Fellow Evangelos Eleftheriou. “In this period, we have discovered and published new memory techniques, including projected memory, stored 3 bits per cell in phase-change memory for the first time, and now are demonstrating the powerful capabilities of phase-change-based artificial neurons, which can perform various computational primitives such as data-correlation detection and unsupervised learning at high speeds using very little energy.”






China's straddle bus has been built and is starting road testing, the cost is claimed by 10 times cheaper than a subway

World's first transit elevated bus, TEB-1 on its launching test Tuesday in Qinhuangdao, N China's Hebei.

On May 21, a model of a Transit Elevated Bus (TEB), also known as land airbus, debuted at the 19th China Beijing International High-Tech Expo has attracted worldwide attention. Today, the bus comes into being and starts its road test.

The passenger compartment of this bus rises far above other vehicles on the road, allowing cars to pass underneath.

The bus will run along a fixed route, and its passenger compartment spans the width of two traffic lanes. Its undercarriage rides along the edges of the two lanes it straddles and the overall height is 4 to 4.5 m (13.1 to 14.8 ft). Vehicles lower than 2 m (6.6 ft) high will be able to pass underneath the bus, reducing the number of traffic jams caused by ordinary buses loading and unloading at bus stops.

Passengers on board the bus are expected to experience a ride comparable to riding in the upper level of a double decker bus. They will board and alight at stations at the side of the road with platforms at the bus floor height similar to stations of an elevated railway, or via stairs descending through the roof of the bus from a station similar to a pedestrian overpass. The bus will be electrically powered using overhead lines or other roof electrical contact systems designed for it, supplemented with photovoltaic panels, batteries or supercapacitors on board. It will travel at up to 60 km/h (37 mph)

The 3D Express Coach (straddling bus, straddle bus, or tunnel bus) was a proposed new bus designed by Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Company back in 2010. It was recognized by Time magazine as the innovation of the year in 2010.

A proposed trial project was to cost about 500 million yuan (~US$74.5 million) to build the bus with a 40 km (25 mi) guideway. This is claimed to be at 10% of the cost of building an equivalent subway, and is estimated to reduce traffic congestion by 20–30%.







Carnival of Nuclear Energy 319

1. Forbes James Conca - New York Chooses A Clean Energy Standard As The Best Way To Lower Carbon

It’s about time we instituted a true Clean Energy Standard that promotes all low-carbon energy rather than continuing with a Renewable Energy Standard. If you care about climate change, and don’t just have an ideological stand on a particular technology, then you know that we need all low-carbon sources as fast as possible to have any hope of reigning in the most adverse environmental effects of burning fossil fuels. New York’s Governor seems committed to do just that, directing the Department of Public Service to develop a Clean Energy Standard to meet the State’s policy goals of generating 50% of electricity from renewable resources by 2030, while maintaining existing nuclear power plants so that their carbon savings are maintained.

2. Vermont Yankee - No Country for Old Nukes? Mike Twomey guest post

Mike Twomey, a vice-president at Entergy, reviews the subsidies and market distortions that are currently forcing nuclear plants to close. The title of the post comes from the Cormac McCarthy novel (No Country for Old Men) in which an assassin taunts the man he is about to kill: "If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?"

August 02, 2016

Immune cell therapy inducing complete remission in some cancer patients and improved t-cell therapy could work for most patients

After a long, intense pursuit, researchers are close to bringing to market a daring new treatment: cell therapy that turbocharges the immune system to fight cancer.

It was 1968. Dr. Rosenberg witnessed an extraordinary case in which a patient’s immune system had vanquished cancer. Hoping there was an elixir in the man’s blood, Dr. Rosenberg got permission to transfuse some of it into a patient dying of stomach cancer. The effort failed. But it was the beginning of a lifelong quest.

Now, versions of the therapy for a limited number of blood cancers are nearing approval by federal regulators, and could reach the market as early as next year.

The technique, known as cell therapy, gives each patient an individualized and souped-up version of their own immune system, one that “works better than nature made it,” as Dr. June puts it.

The patient’s T-cells, the soldiers of the immune system, are extracted from the patient’s blood, then genetically engineered to recognize and destroy cancer. The redesigned cells are multiplied in the laboratory, and millions or billions of them are put back into the patient’s bloodstream, set loose like a vast army of tumor assassins.

This is an unusual pharmaceutical — a drug that is alive and can multiply once inside the body. Dr. June calls these cells “serial killers.” A single one can destroy up to 100,000 cancer cells.

The killer cells are genetically engineered to produce a complex protein, an amalgam of pieces from different parts of the immune system that is unlike anything seen before.

This radical, science-fiction like therapy differs sharply from the more established type of immunotherapy, developed by other researchers. Those off-the-shelf drugs, known as checkpoint inhibitors, release a molecular brake on the immune system, freeing it to fight the cancer much as it fights infections by bacteria or viruses.

Cell therapy, in contrast, is brewed specially for each patient, one of the many challenges the field faces in broadening its use. So far, the number of patients treated with cell therapy is in the hundreds, not thousands. And for now it works only for certain types of blood cancers, not common malignancies like breast and lung cancer. Researchers are also still working out how to control potentially lethal side effects. Just recently, a clinical trial was briefly halted after three patients died of brain swelling.

Still, cell therapy has produced complete remissions in some patients who were out of treatment options, stirring excitement among doctors and patients and setting off a race among companies to bring the treatments to market.


US Air Force Declares F35A ready for basic combat missions so want to ramp construction up to at least 60 F-35s per year

The U.S. Air Force has declared its F-35A Joint Strike Fighter ready for war, the latest positive step for the expensive project in recent months. Now the Air Force wants more of them.

In June, Pentagon officials reaffirmed the need to buy a total of 2,443 of the warplanes for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy. Now Carlisle, along with other Pentagon officials and plane-maker Lockheed Martin, say buying more jets will lower their expensive per-plane price tag. The Air Force currently spends about $100 million (in 2012 dollars) to buy each F-35A; its goal is push that down to $85 million by the end of the decade.

“If you buy more, it drives the cost down,” Carlisle said.

Obtaining F-35s faster would also allow the service to more quickly retire old and maintenance-hungry F-16s. Delays in the F-35 program have kept many F-16s flying longer than expected, and some will need expensive overhauls if they are not retired soon.

“I would like to see the number go up to at least 60 [F-35 per year] if I can,” Carlisle said. “Eighty would be optimum, but given the fiscal constraints that we’re in today, 80 would be very, very hard to get to.”

It would be hard enough to achieve 60 in the next few years. In the Pentagon’s 2017 budget proposal, which Congress has not yet approved, the Air Force asked for 43 F-35s. Current plans would reach reach 60 planes per year in 2021

Right now, the Air Force’s battle-ready fleet of F-35s consists of 15 planes at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. Carlisle took pains to underscore that jet could fight if needed.

Currently, it could take on a limited set of missions: it can fly “basic” close air support, interdict enemy aircraft, and carry out “limited” suppression of enemy air defenses. It will be several years before F-35s can carry a full arsenal of weapons, and before all of its high-tech sensors, software, and displays are operational.




Next five years could see significant successes or failures for first major SENS antiaging treatments

Fightaging notes the importance of the next five years for antiaging therapy.

Donate to SENS research antiaging here

The next five years are critical precisely because the first few startup companies to work on the first rejuvenation therapies following the SENS model of damage repair will succeed or fail in this short span of time. The most important of these companies are probably Oisin Biotechnologies and UNITY Biotechnology, both working on senescent cell clearance. They have what looks like the best chance of success given the present state of the science, and are already well underway. Technical success does not necessarily translate to rapid clinical availability in medicine, however. You only have to look at Pentraxin Therapeutics and their work on transthyretin amyloid clearance to see that: they have been locked into a development program with GlaxoSmithKline that took six years to get to a small clinical trial, and there is no sign that this will move any faster following the success of that trial, or that it will be made available for anyone other than late stage amyloidosis patients. Clearance of transthyretin amyloid should be undergone by every human being every few years after the age of 40, given that buildup of this form of amyloid contributes to heart disease and a range of other conditions - but that development group simply isn't heading in that direction. It is one thing to catch the interest of Big Pharma, another thing entirely to make them work rapidly, or to agree with the vision of treating aging as a medical condition.

Thus there is a very large difference between (a) a world in which companies conservatively sell to Big Pharma or raise funds themselves to creep through the regulatory process to gain approval for use with a tiny number of patients in the late stages of aging, and (b) a world in which the first destination is clinical availability via medical tourism in regulatory regions where only safety must be demonstrated, and anyone can walk in and undergo treatment. Stem cell medicine would be nowhere near as far along without the decade of its widespread availability outside the US and Europe. I am very much in favor of a similar progression of availability and development for the range of potentially useful human gene therapies that will be developed in the years ahead, and for the first SENS rejuvenation technologies, such as senescent cell clearance.

Nonetheless, whether or not the outcome is much delayed availability of therapies, success in building a company based on SENS therapies is a very important step. It will in some cases, as for Oisin Biotechnologies, bring significant funding for other lines of SENS research as various advocates and the SENS Research Foundation are early investors. More importantly, success in clinical development of a treatment that meaningfully addresses easily measured metrics of aging after one set of treatments - metrics such as the epigenetic clock based on DNA methylation, or inflammation, or skin elasticity, or blood vessel elasticity, and so on - will be widely noted. That will go a long way towards opening many doors to much larger sources of funding. Either this happens soon, for the companies already under way, or they will fail, possibly damaging the view of SENS even should that failure happen for reasons unrelated to the technical aspects of the work. Failure will push back ultimate success in the medical control of aging for years, and that has an enormous cost associated with it: tens of millions of lives lost, and hundreds of millions suffering due to age-related conditions that might otherwise have been turned back. The SENS Research Foundation staff realize this well, and hence their focus on Project|21, launched earlier this year.



(2011) Nature - Cancer: Final act of senescence

Oisín is developing a genetically-targeted intervention to clear senescent cells. As a recent study has shown, clearing senescent cells both reduces negative effects of aging pathologies and also extends median lifespan and survival.

Donate to SENS research antiaging here

Lowest temperature ever in solids using laser cooling

When most people think about lasers, they usually imagine them generating heat and even setting something on fire. But, for a group of scientists in The University of New Mexico’s Department of Physics & Astronomy, lasers are actually being used to reach temperatures colder than the arctic circle.

Dr. Mansoor Sheik-Bahae, professor of physics and astronomy, along with his research group, are advancing a technique called optical refrigeration to reach cryogenic temperature. Essentially, the group is using laser light to chill a special type of crystal, which can then be attached to a device that requires constant and reliable cooling, like infrared detectors on satellites. What sets their technique apart is the temperatures it can cool to without having any moving parts.

“Right now, anything that cools other parts of a system has moving parts. Most of the time, there’s liquid running through it that adds vibrations which can impact the precision or resolution of the device,” explained Aram Gragossian, a research assistant in Sheik-Bahae’s lab. “But, when you have optical refrigeration, you can go to low temperatures without any vibrations and without any moving parts, making it convenient for a lot of applications.”

Earlier this year, Sheik-Bahae, along with collaborators at UNM, and Los Alamos National Labs, reached the lowest temperatures ever recorded using an all-solid-state cryocooler – 91 kelvin or -296o Fahrenheit – temperatures that were previously only able to be reached using liquid nitrogen or helium.

“Here at UNM, we are the only group in the world that’s been able to cool to cryogenic temperatures with an all-solid-state optical cryocooler,” said Alexander Albrecht, one of the paper’s co-authors and research assistant professor at UNM


Nature Scientific Reports - Solid-state optical refrigeration to sub-100 Kelvin regime

Fail safe molten salt nuclear reactors

Over the next two decades China hopes to build the world’s largest nuclear power industry. Plans include as many as 30 new conventional nuclear plants (in addition to the 34 reactors operating today) as well as a variety of next-generation reactors, including thorium molten-salt reactors, high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (which, like molten-salt reactors, are both highly efficient and inherently safe), and sodium-cooled fast reactors (which can consume spent fuel from conventional reactors to make electricity). Chinese planners want not only to dramatically expand the country’s domestic nuclear capacity but also to become the world’s leading supplier of nuclear reactors and components.

The Shanghai Institute’s effort to develop molten-salt reactors, a technology that has sat all but forgotten in the United States for decades, reflects just how daring China’s nuclear ambitions are. Already, the government has invested some two billion Chinese renminbi ($300 million) over the last five years in molten-salt R&D. Building actual plants will require tens of billions more. As with other innovative nuclear technologies in development around the world, there are few guarantees: though people have run small, experimental molten-salt reactors, no one’s ever actually built one at utility scale and hooked it up to the grid. Yet the Chinese government expects to have a commercial-size plant up and running within 15 years, helping to revive the beleaguered nuclear power industry.

The China Academy of Sciences in January 2011 launched an R&D program on LFTR, known there as the thorium-breeding molten-salt reactor (Th-MSR or TMSR), and claimed to have the world's largest national effort on it, hoping to obtain full intellectual property rights on the technology. The TMSR Research Centre has a 5 MWe MSR prototype under construction at Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP, under the Academy) originally with 2015 target for operation, now 2020. SINAP has two streams of TMSR development – solid fuel (TRISO in pebbles or prisms/blocks) with once-through fuel cycle, and liquid fuel (dissolved in FLiBe coolant) with reprocessing and recycle. A third stream of fast reactors to consume actinides from LWRs is planned.

The TMSR-SF stream has only partial utilization of thorium, relying on some breeding as with U-238, and needing fissile uranium input as well. SINAP aims at a 2 MW pilot plant (TMSR-SF1) initially, and a 100 MWt experimental pebble bed plant (TMSR-SF2) with open fuel cycle by about 2025, then a 1 GW demonstration plant (TMSR-SF3) by 2030. TRISO particles will be with both low-enriched uranium and thorium, separately.

The TMSR-LF stream claims full closed Th-U fuel cycle with breeding of U-233 and much better sustainability with thorium but greater technical difficulty. SINAP aims for a 2 MWt pilot plant (TMSR-LF1) by 2018, a 10 MWt experimental reactor (TMSR-LF2) by 2025 and a 100 MWt demonstration plant (TMSR-LF3) with full electrometallurgical reprocessing by 2035, followed by 1 a GW demonstration plant.

A TMSFR-LF fast reactor optimized for burning minor actinides is to follow.



SINAP sees molten salt fuel being superior to the TRISO fuel in effectively unlimited burn-up, less waste, and lower fabricating cost, but achieving lower temperatures (600°C+) than the TRISO fuel reactors (1200°C+). Near-term goals include preparing nuclear-grade ThF4 and ThO2 and testing them in a MSR. The US Department of Energy is collaborating with the China Academy of Sciences on the program, which had a start-up budget of $350 million. The target date for TMSR commercial deployment is 2032.

Microrocket will launch 100 ties per year by 2021

Vector is the first launch vehicle built exclusively for the Micro Satellite market. This vehicle is "right-sized" for the new generation of Micro Satellites and enables reliable and frequent access to orbit. Initial Operations Capability will be 12 launches per year in 2019 with 100 launches at Full Operational Capability.

By 2021 Vector plans to launch as many as 100 of its 13-meter-tall Wolverine vehicles annually, with a capability to put a 50kg satellite into low-Earth orbit. The company aims to fill a niche below the current generation of launchers being developed by companies such as RocketLab and Virgin Galactic, with rockets capable of delivering 200 to 250kg satellites to low-Earth orbit.

Vector's larger goal is a platform for Space App Developers allowing you to concentrate on developing your solutions and not worrying about procuring launches and satellites. We believe that you, the satellite developer and operator, would rather focus on your core innovations than solving launch problems. Next time you launch, leave the transportation to us and Vector will be ready when you are.




Mass To Orbit
45 kg to 28 degree orbit
35 kg to 98 degree orbit


NHK will have first Super Hi -vision 8K broadcast of Rio Olympics

NHK Tokyo will have its first Super Hi-vision 8K resolution television broadcast of the RIO 2016 Olympics.

1 - 5 Aug. 2016 Tokyo 8K Theater of Super Hi - Vision Test Broadcasting (admission free)

6 - 14 Aug. 2016 Osaka 8K Theater of RIO 2016 OLYMPIC GAMES (pre-registration or admission free)

6 - 22 Aug. 2016 Tokyo 8K Theater of RIO 2016 OLYMPIC GAMES (pre-registration or admission free)

No Super Hi-vision TVs are on sale yet but there will be viewing areas setup.

Japan's national broadcaster NHK has started daily broadcasts in 8K, a resolution which is four times higher than Ultra HD and contains 16 times as many pixels as Full HD. Called "Super Hi-Vision", the broadcasts have a resolution of 7680 x 4320, compared to regular HD which is just 1920 x 1080.


Marines Test a towed, catault launch UAV

The RQ-7B Shadows of Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) is a 450-pound Group 3 unmanned aerial vehicle that, unlike its cousin, the RQ-21 Blackjack, cannot take off from or land on an amphibious ship at sea – rather, the Shadow system is transported via Humvees and requires a 710-foot runway on the ground.

Still, the system has proven itself in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and could play a significant role in disaster relief missions, so the newly operational VMU-3 was invited to join the RIMPAC 2016 amphibious exercise.




UK begins funding and developing new Successor nuclear submarine for planned 2028 delivery

The UK Ministry of Defense is set to give manufacturers of the Royal Navy’s next nuclear submarine class $1.32 billion for early development funds for the program

The funds for Rolls Royce and BAE Systems is the first tranche of funding of a planned $40 billion following the House of Commons validation of the U.K.’s Trident nuclear deterrent in mid-July.

“So far [$5.2 billion] has been spent. Industry sources said the new round of funding would be used for continued design work and to order components that take a while to manufacture,” wrote the paper.

The Successor boomer – the first set to deliver to the Royal Navy in 2028 – will field Trident II D-5 ballistic missiles with domestic warheads and replace the four Vanguard boats currently in service.

The Successor boats are being built in conjunction with the U.S. Ohio Replacement Program – set to be called the Columbia-class USNI News reported last week.

he Successor-class is a proposed replacement for the Vanguard-class of ballistic missile submarines which entered service in the United Kingdom in the 1990s with an intended service life of 25 years. They will carry Trident D-5 missiles – the vehicle for delivering the UK's nuclear weapons

Since the Strategic Defence Review, the UK has maintained a stockpile of around 200 warheads. In a policy known as "Continuous at Sea Deterrence", at least one Vanguard class SSBN (nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine) is kept on patrol with up to 16 Trident missiles sharing up to 48 warheads from the stockpile at any given time. The SDR considered this was the minimum number of warheads adequate for deterrence. It is collectively known as the Trident system.

Sept 17 attempt to jump Snake River in a rocket bike

Eddie Braun is going to jump that Snake River canyon in a rocket bike – an almost perfect replica of the one Evel rode 42 years ago.

The new bike, the Evel Spirit, has been built according to Bob Truax's original blueprints; an emotional journey for Scott, who spent many hours working with his father's original sketches, notes and calculations, as well as visiting the Evel Knievel museum in Canada where he measured "every nut, bolt and rivet" on the original test rocket. Building the Evel Spirit has been very much an exercise in walking in his father's footprints, and Truax hopes to prove his father's original design would have done the job if the 'chute didn't let go.

It's a steam-powered rocket, slated to produce 6,000 pounds of thrust and some 10,000 horsepower as it blasts Braun upwards to 400 mph (644 km/h) in about 5 seconds


The jump is scheduled for September 17 at the original launch spot near Twin Falls, Idaho, there's a Kickstarter in effect to help defray the costs

Israel Eitan Armor Personal Carrier uses commercial auto parts for lower cost but has upgraded protection

Israel unveiled the first prototype of the Eitan, a new 8×8 armored personnel carrier developed by the Ministry’s Tank Development Program Directorate (Mantak), as a possible successor for thousands of American-made M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) Israel has been operating since the 1970s. The new APC is said to be more protected, efficient and affordable than foreign off-the-shelf alternatives, and would be available at half the cost of the Israeli Namer Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV).

Eitan uses commercially available automotive components. This enabled the designers to develop an APC that will cost half as the tracked Namer, and less than similar wheeled APCs available in the world market. The hull was developed in the country, along with the weapon systems, survivability and protection systems used. According to Mazliah, the need for a wheeled armored vehicle such as Eitan evolved from lessons learned in recent combat operations in Gaza. The Eitan complements the Merkava and Namer, as it can transport infantry squads on roads, without relying on tank transporters. Eitan has a maximum road speed of +90 km/h (56 mp/h).

Israel’s new Eitan 8×8 wheeled armored personnelo carrier has entered developmental testing. Two more prototypes are in production and will begin testing soon. Photo: Israel MOD

Similar to Merkava and Namer, Eitan does not rely only on ballistic armor for protection but uses a combination of survivability systems for to enhance the survival of the crew, passengers, and the entire vehicle. Designed for a gross vehicle weight of up to 35 tons (77,000 pounds), Eitan provides sufficient base protection for common battlefield threats. Using the Trophy Active Protection Systems (APS), the vehicle can effectively avoid high-level threats without proportionally increasing the weight of its armor. To protect the occupants from blast effects, of mines and IEDs, Eitan has been designed with protected, relatively high floor. The tyres are fitted with runflat inserts meaning they can continue to function even after suffering multiple hits. The passive protection provided by modular armor is applied to the vehicle’s front and sides, while equipment modules add to its security. The vehicle will be initially produced at the Israel MOD AFV plant, at an annual production rate of several dozens of vehicles, as is the case with the Namer ICV.

The vehicle is designed as a common, modular platform that can be configured into different variants by replacing hull modules. Variants typically include APC and command vehicles equipped with remotely operated .50 Cal machine gun, and weapon carriers, to be fitted with remotely operated turrets mounting 30/40mm automatic cannon. The turret will also have accommodation for several missile launchers.



While most 8×8 APCs evolved from lighter platforms, the Israeli APC was designed from scratch for 30-35 tons, which is the upper limit of similar designs. All 8x8s are designed for similar roles – they are designed as modular, role configurable platforms, in a weight range of 18-30 tons, each carrying 8-11 troops.

August 01, 2016

Alternative Future Defense Strategies for the USA

The Alternative Defense Strategies in a Cost-Capped Environment study identified five alternative strategies and used CSIS’s Force Cost Calculator to build the cost-capped force structure, modernization, and readiness profile optimized for each strategy. In addition to assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each defense strategy, this study stress-tested each strategy against four sets of simultaneous scenarios in an unclassified tabletop exercise. The study explored potential ways that the fiscal pressure forcing strategic tradeoffs might be mitigated. The study concluded by making recommendations for the FY2017 defense budget and the next Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).

The first task was to identify the current (or baseline) strategy, which the CSIS study team called Global Engagement. This was defined as the 2014 QDR strategy, as implicitly modified by DoD to adapt to events unforeseen when the strategy was established in early 2014. These events were primarily Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and the collapse of Yemen as the sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias worsened significantly. After several iterations, including two sessions with its working group of governmental, CSIS, and external experts, the study team settled on the roster of alternative defense strategies presented below, along with their underlying rationales.

Global Engagement
• This is a cost-capped version of the current strategy. Like the strategies of previous administrations, particularly President Clinton’s, this strategy seeks to shape the security environment and to provide order and stability by relying on U.S. global presence and engagement.

Asia-Pacific Engagement
• The rise of China is the most significant geopolitical challenge today, which U.S. strategy seeks to manage and counter through regional partnerships, robust forward presence (particularly maritime), and targeted capabilities development. At the same time, the threat from North Korea must be contained.

Europe Engagement
• Russia poses the greatest near- to medium-term threat, and its anti-American belligerence must be countered by U.S. presence, engagement, and deterrence in Europe.

Combating Islamic Extremists
• The regional threat posed by the newly established Islamic caliphate and the continuing threat of mass casualty attacks on the U.S. homeland necessitate a strategy focused on rolling back ISIL, eliminating terrorist sanctuaries in the region, and attacking terrorist leadership structures globally.

Great Power Competition
• Intensified rivalries with China and Russia are the centers of gravity for the United States. This requires the United States to pull back from its global engagement posture and rely on limited forward presence to prevent “easy wins” on these adversaries’ peripheries, on rapid surge capability to counter regional adventurism, on the pursuit of high-tech capabilities to sustain the U.S. qualitative edge against peer competitors, and on nuclear deterrence forces.


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