June 28, 2016

Tesla motors rumored to have a $9 billion joint venture for a new factory in China

Tesla Motors has agreed to a non-binding agreement with the Chinese state-owned company Jinqiao Group to jointly build a $9 billion factory. It is believed that Tesla will give the rights to Jinqiao Group to construct a production plant in the Chinese city of Shanghai.

Six months ago Tesla chief Elon Musk publicized his intention to pick a production facility based in China in the middle of 2016.

Tesla and Jinqiao Group will each invest $4.5 billion on the project. If the rumors are true, the Tesla Motors-Jinqiao Group deal will be significantly bigger than the Walt Disney Shanghai Resort project with cost $5.5 billion.

Many industry experts believe that Tesla's decision to locate its production in China is to avoid the 25 percent import tax on electric cars shipped to China.

The latest deal was not announced to the public, so no estimated timeline regarding when the project will start was released. On the other hand, two other Chinese cities are also attempting to persuade Tesla Motors to locate its assembly plant in their respective cities. The two cities are Suzhou and Hefei.

Russia's 152 mm tank gun could penetrate 1 meter of armor

Russia sent three 152-mm self-propelled guns into Ukraine.

The next version of Russia's T14 Armata main battle tank will be armed with a previously rumored 152mm gun.

The 152 mm tank gun could penetrate 1 meter of armor.

For 11 years, China has been testing a 140mm gun on one its Type 98 tanks. The 140mm gun could fire an armor piercing round with twice the penetrating power of one fired from a 120mm gun (about 22 mega joules of energy, versus 11), the amount of ammunition carried was reduced by about a third (to 20-30 rounds, depending on the tank). The 140mm shell was about fifty percent larger than the 120mm one, and could probably knock out an M-1 tank with a frontal shot.

When the Armata (T-14) tank gets the 152mm gun, it will be the most powerful cannon to be mounted on a main battle tank of any country ever.

The unmanned remote-controlled turrets of T-14 tanks that rolled on the Red Square in Moscow on Victory Day, May 9, were armed with a brand new 125mm 2A82-1M smoothbore cannon with improved accuracy and angular dispersion.

Next generation German and French main battle tank will use new 130 mm tank gun to defeat Russian Armata tank

German defense company Rheinmetall has a prototype of a 130mm smoothbore gun for a future main battle tank (MBT). According to the company, the increase of 8 percent in caliber results in 50 percent more kinetic energy over the 120mm gun from Rheinmetall.

The 130mm gun, which was financed entirely by the German company, weighs more than 3.5 tons, compared to the approximately 3-ton 120mm gun, and uses a cartridge of more than 30 kilograms at about 1.3 meters long. Given these enhanced parameters, Rheinmetall engineers believe the weapon can only be used with an automatic loader and a new turret design.

Rheinmetall is waiting for a new NATO standard, which will identify what level of armor has to be penetrated by weaponry going forward. While the engineers hope to receive this standard by the end of this year, they will likely have to spend eight to 10 years finalizing the development of both the gun and ammunition.

After the show, the gun will take place in shooting trials. Should the trials be successful, the company may set a similar worldwide benchmark for the 130mm gun as happened with the 120mm smoothbore gun, which in its short barrel version was also produced under license in the US for the Abrams MBT.

Rheinmetall is developing a new armor-piercing fin-stabilized round for the gun, which will feature a semi-combustible cartridge case, new propellant and a tungsten penetrator. Another munition variant is a new 130mm high-explosive air-burst round, based on the 120mm round currently in production.

Germany is working with France developing the next-generation Main Ground Combat System (MGCS).

According to a November 2015 presentation by Armin Papperger, chief executive officer of Rheinmetall, which builds key components of the Leopard 2 and the American M1A2 Abrams, the journey toward MGCS will be an incremental evolution. The first step will be to upgrade the Leopard 2 with a new digital turret core system, new situational awareness system and an Active Defense System (ADS).

The tank will also need a new high-pressure 120mm cannon and new ammunition. Papperger expects that the new gun and ammunition will yield twenty percent better performance than the current L55 120mm cannon.

There are significant drawbacks to a longer cannon—which is one of the reasons the U.S. Army retains the shorter L44 120mm cannon for its Abrams. It’s possible that Rheinmetall is using new materials to increase the pressure within the cannon without increasing the cannon’s length.

In the medium term, Germany will have to refit the Leopard 2 with a new 130mm cannon.

Papperger said that work on the MGCS concept development has already started. The new main battle tank is in a concept development phase between the German and French governments and industry. The concept development phase should be completed by 2017.

The new MGCS’s focus on increased firepower is directly being driven by Russia’s Armata program.

The Armata series armored vehicles—particularly with their focus on active protection systems (APS)—are forcing Western designer to focus more direct fire weapons.

History and Future of Laser Pushed Sails which have a clear technology roadmap and $100 million in funding

James Benford has written a historical timeline for the development of laser pushed space sails.

Here is the part on the laser pushed sail Becoming Real

May 21, 2010: First deployment of a functional solar sail in space, “IKAROS” (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) is demonstrated by the Japanese Space Agency JAXA.
2011: “100 Year Starship”, a joint project between NASA (Pete Worden) and DARPA (David Neyland), convenes a colloquium in Orlando to discuss interstellar travel, stimulating interest in practical starflight.
2012: Greg Matloff proposes graphene for sail material that can sustain high accelerations.
2013: Starship Century Symposium held at UC San Diego May 20, date of the publication of the book Starship Century. A second Starship Century Symposium is held at the Royal Astronomical Society in London. In the book James Benford predicts “the first starship will be a sail – a sailship – driven by a beam of photons.”
2013: James Benford creates a cost-optimization equation for beam-driven propulsion systems.
April 2015: Philip Lubin introduces concept for small ultra-light ‘spacecraft on a wafer’ using multi-layer dielectric on metalized plastic film. In “A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight,” Lubin draws on Forward’s laser-sail work and extends it into much smaller sail designs.
August 2013: 1st Interstellar Congress held in Dallas, Texas by Icarus Interstellar. Eric Malroy introduces concepts for the use of nanomaterials in sails.
March 2016: Yuri Milner concludes the only credible way to achieve interstellar travel in the near-term is beam-driven sails, in consultation with Avi Loeb, Pete Worden and Pete Klupar.
April 12, 2016: Yuri Milner, Stephen Hawking and Pete Worden announce the beginning of Breakthrough Starshot, a [$100 million] project to launch beam-driven sails to Alpha Centauri within 20 years. Freeman Dyson is present.
2016: Kevin Parkin creates an engineering inference engine for optimizing beamed sail systems, including cost minimization.
April 15, 2016: Breakthrough: Discuss, a 2 day symposium, brings together the Breakthrough Starshot team, as well as that of Breakthrough: Listen, a SETI project begun it 2015.

Here is a 68 page roadmap by Philip Lubin of the University of Santa Barbara for developing laser pushed sails.

Lubin's designs would enable wafersats to reach 25% of lightspeed and a 100 ton spaceship to reach 1000 kilometers per second.

Nextbigfuture notes that for manned missions going beyond 1000 km per second, the wafer chips could be accelerated at a manned ship with a pusher plate (like the Project Orion ship) but the energy would be kinetic and not nuclear.

For large object construction, we need to develop the Tether Unlimited Spiderfab technology. This is construction in space with robots which means systems can be lighter and bigger like robots assembling an outdoor tent of sticks in space instead of building something on the ground and making it tough enough to withstand 3Gs or more of acceleration at launch.

They propose a roadmap to a program that will lead to sending relativistic probes to the nearest stars and will open up a vast array of possibilities of flight both within our solar system and far beyond. Spacecraft from gram level complete spacecraft on a wafer (“wafersats”) that reach more than ¼ c and reach the nearest star in 20 years to spacecraft with masses more than 100,000 kg (100 tons) that can reach speeds of greater than 1000 km/s. These systems can be propelled to speeds currently unimaginable with existing propulsion technologies. To do so requires a fundamental change in our thinking of both propulsion and in many cases what a spacecraft is. In addition to larger spacecraft, some capable of transporting humans, we consider functional spacecraft on a wafer, including integrated optical communications, imaging systems, photon thrusters, power and sensors combined with directed energy propulsion. The costs can be amortized over a very large number of missions beyond relativistic spacecraft as such planetary defense, beamed energy for distant spacecraft, sending power back to Earth, stand-off composition analysis of solar system targets, long range laser communications, SETI searches and even terraforming. The human factor of exploring the nearest stars and exo-planets would be a profound voyage for humanity, one whose non-scientific implications would be enormous. It is time to begin this inevitable journey far beyond our home.

Photon propulsion is an old idea going back many years, with some poetic references several hundred years ago. A decade ago what they now propose would have been pure fantasy. It is no longer fantasy. Recent dramatic and poorly-appreciated technological advancements in directed energy have made what we propose possible, though difficult. There has been a game change in directed energy technology whose consequences are profound for many applications including photon driven propulsion. This allows for a completely modular and scalable technology with radical consequences

The photon driver is a laser phased array which eliminates the need to develop one extremely large laser and replaces it with a large number of modest (kW class) laser amplifiers that are inherently phase locked as they are fed by a common seed laser. This approach also eliminates the conventional optics and replaces it with a phased array of small optics that are thin film optical elements. Both of these are a follow on DARPA and DoD programs and hence there is enormous leverage in this system. The laser array has been described in a series of papers we have published and is called DE-STAR (Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and ExploRation). Powered by the solar PV array the same size as the 2D modular array of modest and currently existing kilowatt class Yb fiber-fed lasers and phased-array optics it would be capable of delivering sufficient power to propel a small scale probe combined with a modest (meter class) laser sail to reach speeds that are relativistic. DE-STAR units are denoted by numbers referring to the log of the array size in meters (assumed square). Thus DE-STAR-1 is 10 meters on a side, -2 is 100 meters, etc. Photon recycling (multiple bounces) to increase the thrust is conceivable and has been tested in our lab but it NOT assumed. The modular sub systems (baselined here at 1-4 meters in diameter) fit into current rocket launchers

Spacecoach concept is to use urine and gas as propellent for electric engine propulsion for long duration space missions to reduce mass by 20 times

On an 800 day space mission, astronauts would need 24 tons for six people for consumables (water, oxygen and food). McConnell and Alex Tolley have an idea is to deploy electric engines that use reclaimed water and waste gases to do the job.

Spacecoach enables us to begin building a space infrastructure that can extend past Mars to include the main asteroid belt. Using electric propulsion driven by a solar photovoltaic array, it achieves higher exhaust velocity than chemical rockets by a factor or ten, pulling much greater delta v from the same amount of propellant. Use water as propellant and you reduce the mass of the system by what McConnell estimates to be a factor of between 10 and 20.

The ships are propelled mostly by electric propulsion technology, and use water, carbon dioxide and gasified waste as propellant, essentially they convert the crew waste streams and reclaimed water into propellant after first pass use by the crew. Water and water rich material is used for other purposes, such as radiation shielding and heat management, while in passive storage.

Habitable areas are derived from inflatable structures, such as Bigelow Aerospace units, to allow large structures to be fit into existing launch systems and then be self-assembled in space with less manual intervention.

The ships are interplanetary vessels that never enter an atmosphere. They’re also completely reusable, allowing costs to be amortized, and their habitable areas are large inflatable structures that can be assembled in space. Thus we travel within a modular spacecraft using external landers and whatever other modules are required by the mission at hand.

They will also be able to fly many missions, with a useful life comparable to the ISS (20+ years) so their construction and initial launch cost can be amortized across 5 to 10 missions. Everything about the design is for reusability and multiple uses.

Rendering of the “kite” design pattern for a Spacecoach, with a person shown to the right for scale. This is but one possible configuration, but McConnell notes that the pattern minimizes the materials required even as it provides a sizeable habitable area. Credit: Rudiger Klaen.

Water as radiation shielding and propellant

The use of water and waste gases as propellant, besides reducing the mass of the system by a factor of ten or more, has enormous safety implications. 90% oxygen by mass, water can be used to generate oxygen via electrolysis, a simple process. By weight, it is comparable to lead as a radiation shielding material, so simply by placing water reservoirs around crew rest areas, the ship can reduce the crew’s radiation exposure several fold over the course of a mission. It is an excellent heat sink and can be used to regulate the temperature of the ship environment. The abundance of water also allows the life support system to be based on a one-pass or open loop design. Open loop systems will be much more reliable and basically maintenance free compared to a closed loop system such as what is used on the ISS. The abundance of water will also make the ships much more comfortable on a long journey.

McConnell calls the Spacecoach the basis of a ‘real world Starfleet,’ and adds this:

These ships will not be destination specific. They will be able to travel to destinations throughout the inner solar system, including cislunar space, Venus, Mars and with a large enough solar photovoltaic sail, to the Asteroid Belt and the dwarf planets Ceres and Vesta. They’ll be more like the Clipper ships of the past than the throwaway rocket + capsule design pattern we’ve all grown up with, and their component technologies can be upgraded with each outbound flight.

2015 book at Amazon - A Design for a Reusable Water-Based Spacecraft Known as the Spacecoach (SpringerBriefs in Space Development)

China will make BeiDou Navigation Satellite System available to global users by 2020

China is making preparations to make its BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) available to global users, according to a white paper released by the Chinese government on Thursday, June 16, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The State Council Information Office discussed the country's action plan and a three-step strategy to develop the BDS with the aim to deploy 35 satellites around 2020 for commercial use globally.

Before 2020, the basic services of the BDS will be available to nations along the Belt and Road and its neighboring countries.

Users in the Asia-Pacific region currently enjoy the system's open services free of charge, which covers the area between 55 degrees north latitude and 55 degrees south latitude, and between 55 and 180 degrees east longitude. It has a positioning accuracy of less than 10 meters, with velocity measurement accuracy of less than 0.2 meters per second, and timing accuracy of less than 50 nanoseconds

The second generation of the system, officially called the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) and also known as COMPASS or BeiDou-2, will be a global satellite navigation system consisting of 35 satellites, and is under construction as of January 2015. It became operational in China in December 2011, with 10 satellites in use, and began offering services to customers in the Asia-Pacific region in December 2012. It is planned to begin serving global customers upon its completion in 2020

In-mid 2015, China started the build-up of the third generation BeiDou system (BDS-3) in the global coverage constellation. The first BDS-3 satellite was launched 30 September 2015. As of March 2016, 4 BDS-3 in-orbit validation satellites have been launched.

According to China Daily, fifteen years after the satellite system was launched, it is now generating $31.5 billion for major companies such as China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, AutoNavi Holdings Ltd, and China North Industries Group Corp.

There are two levels of service provided — a free service to civilians and licensed service to the Chinese government and military. The free civilian service has a 10-meter location-tracking accuracy, synchronizes clocks with an accuracy of 10 nanoseconds, and measures speeds to within 0.2 meters per second. The restricted military service has a location accuracy of 10 centimeters, can be used for communication, and will supply information about the system status to the user. To date, the military service has been granted only to the People's Liberation Army and to the Military of Pakistan.

Journal of Geodesy, 2015, Accuracy and reliability of multi-GNSS real-time precise positioning: GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, and Galileo

The statistical analysis of the 6-h predicted orbits show that the radial and cross root mean square (RMS) values are smaller than 10 cm for BeiDou and Galileo, and smaller than 5 cm for both GLONASS and GPS satellites, respectively. The RMS values of the clock differences between real-time and batch-processed solutions for GPS satellites are about 0.10 ns, while the RMS values for BeiDou, Galileo and GLONASS are 0.13, 0.13 and 0.14 ns, respectively. The addition of the BeiDou, Galileo and GLONASS systems to the standard GPS-only processing, reduces the convergence time almost by 70 %, while the positioning accuracy is improved by about 25 %. Some outliers in the GPS-only solutions vanish when multi-GNSS observations are processed simultaneous. The availability and reliability of GPS precise positioning decrease dramatically as the elevation cutoff increases

Sidewalk Labs will launch Flow a smart traffic and parking platform in Columbus, Ohio

Google's Sidewalk labs will introduce Columbus, Ohio to Flow, a smart traffic platform that processes information and fare cost from every available form of transportation. A user can type a destination into Google Maps and the app suggests the best trips based on pricing and timing. Low-income riders might be able to apply their discounted public transportation fares to the cost of ride-sharing services.

The city is also amenable to Google’s self-driving car project. Columbus already monitors traffic using sensors and cameras. It also invested $76 million on a smart traffic system that will help driverless cars make their debut.

Hate city parking? Sidewalk Labs is working on that, too. Cars servicing the lab’s ride-sharing plan will be supplied with cameras that count parking spots and read public parking signs. That data will be used in conjunction with Google Maps to guide drivers toward available parking spots. Parking garages can also add their spaces to the Flow database and charge more during peak demand. Sidewalk says Flow could bring the city $2,000 per participating parking space each year. The city could have dynamic parking prices in place by January 2017.

Flow would also vary the cost of parking spaces according to demand. On weekends, prices might drop in business areas while they climb near music venues. Sidewalk claims this would increase income from parking by 10%. However, Pozdnoukhov says that variable pricing is far from proven. “A pilot project in San Francisco was not very well received,” he says. “If Sidewalk can show value to drivers, it could be a different game, but that’s easier said than done.”

Sidewalk is also working on a platform that calculates where traffic cops can give out the most parking tickets. Sidewalk claims Columbus could make $4 million more in fines each year.

Sidewalk said in documents that Flow would use camera-equipped vehicles, like Google’s Street View cars, to count all the public parking spaces in a city and read roadside parking signs. It would then combine data from drivers using Google Maps with live information from city parking meters to estimate which spaces were still free. Arriving drivers would be directed to empty spots.

“Only Google or Apple are in a position to track parking occupancy this way, without expensive sensors on poles or embedded in the tarmac,” says Alexei Pozdnoukhov, director of the Smart Cities Research Center at the University of California at Berkeley.

One of the Sidewalk’s larger projects is replacing old phone booths in New York City with ad-covered pillars that provide free Wi-Fi to users within a 150-foot radius. If all goes well in the Big Apple, the project will spread to other metropolitan areas soon.

Sidewalk is initially offering its cloud software, called Flow, to Columbus, Ohio, the winner of a recent $50 million Smart City Challenge organized by the US Department of Transportation.

Sidewalk Labs was spun out from Google last June with a mission to “improve city life for everyone”. Since then, it was part of a consortium that deployed several hundred free Wi-Fi kiosks in New York and is rumored to be designing a city from the ground up for self-driving cars. Now, it’s offering Columbus a three-year demonstration project consisting of 100 Wi-Fi kiosks and free access to Flow.

June 27, 2016

Researchers propose EM drive propulsion from emission of paired photons

Recent reports about propulsion without reaction mass have been met on one hand with enthusiasm and on the other hand with some doubts. Namely, closed metal cavities, when fueled with microwaves, have delivered thrust that could eventually maintain satellites on orbits using solar power. However, the measured thrust appears to be without any apparent exhaust. Thus the Law of Action-Reaction seems to have been violated. We consider the possibility that the exhaust is in a form that has so far escaped both experimental detection and theoretical attention. In the thruster’s cavity microwaves interfere with each other and invariably some photons will also end up co-propagating with opposite phases. At the destructive interference electromagnetic fields cancel. However, the photons themselves do not vanish for nothing but continue in propagation. These photon pairs without net electromagnetic field do not reflect back from the metal walls but escape from the resonator. By this action momentum is lost from the cavity which, according to the conservation of momentum, gives rise to an equal and opposite reaction. We examine theoretical corollaries and practical concerns that follow from the paired-photon conclusion.

The researchers began by asking: Is there any other phenomenon, besides that demonstrated with the EM drive, where photons, as carriers of the electromagnetic force, are ‘fed in’ but nothing seems to be ‘coming out’? Yes, when coherent rays of light interfere, a diffraction pattern emerges with bright and dark bands – and at a dark band we see nothing (Fig. 1). We see no light when two photons combine with opposite phases. Their electromagnetic fields cancel perfectly, but that does not mean that the photons themselves would have vanished for nothing

Researcher propose the EM drive expels photons in pairs where the two co-propagate with 180 degree phase difference. These composite bosons have no net electromagnetic field, and hence they do not reflect back from the resonator’s metal walls, but escape to surroundings. The paired-photon efflux carries momentum, and hence the cavity experiences an equal but opposite reaction. Thus, they claim that the thrust of an EM drive is the action due to the paired-photon efflux.

FIG. 1. Two parallel waves, shown with crests (red) and troughs (blue), propagate coherently from left to right through two slits and interfere with each other. Along those directions where the crest of one wave is exactly at the trough of the other wave, the interference is completely destructive (blank). Our reasoning is that when light waves combined with opposite phases, the photons do not vanish for nothing but continue propagating and carrying momentum

AIP Advances - On the exhaust of electromagnetic drive

China 093B attack submarine could be a match for the US Improved Los Angeles Class sub

Some US naval analysts believe China’s new Type 093B nuclear-powered attack submarine are on par with the U.S. Navy’s Improved Los Angeles-class submarines.

The 93B is improved over the 93. The 93B is a transition platform between the 93 and the forthcoming 95. Jerry Hendrix, director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security— said, "The [93B] is quieter and it has a new assortment of weapons to include cruise missiles and a vertical launch capability. The 93B is analogous to our LA improved in quietness and their appearance demonstrates that China is learning quickly about how to build a modern fast attack boat.”

Other sources were not convinced that Beijing could have made such enormous technological strides so quickly—but they noted that the topic of Chinese undersea warfare capability is very classified. Open source analysis is often extremely difficult, if not impossible. “Regarding the question on the Type 093B, I really don’t know, anything is possible I suppose, but I doubt it,” said retired Rear Adm. Mike McDevitt, now an analyst at CNA’s Center for Naval Analyses. “I have no doubt that the PLAN has ambitions to at least achieve that level of capability and quietness.”

The Seawolf and Virginia-classes have surpassed the Improved Los Angeles-class as the premier US Navy attack submarines, such older vessels will remain the mainstay of the service’s undersea fleet for many years to come. If the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s newest boats are able to match the capabilities of the U.S. Navy’s shrinking undersea fleet, Washington could be in serious trouble.

The US Navy already anticipated that it could be facing-off against a Chinese submarine fleet that is nearly twice its size, but not as technically capable. The U.S. Navy has roughly 52 attack submarines now but might only have 41 attack boats by 2029 as older boats are retired faster than newer ones are commissioned.

If China is truly catching up technologically, Congress might consider accelerating the attack submarine build rate to the maximum capacity of America’s two nuclear-capable shipyards. At the same time, the U.S. Navy might have to accelerate the development of the next-generation successor to the Virginia-class, which has been tentatively designated the SSN(X) program and is scheduled to enter service in 2044.

Big Helium find in East Africa could be the first of many helium discoveries

A newly discovered helium field in the geothermally active East African Rift Valley may contain more helium than the U.S. Federal Helium Reserve near Amarillo, Texas, which holds about 30 percent of the world's helium supply.

Independent experts have calculated a probable resource of 54 billion cubic feet [1.5 billion cubic meters] in just one part of the rift valley.

The Federal Helium Reserve currently holds just 24.2 billion cubic feet, and the total known reserves in the U.S. contain about 153 billion cubic feet (4.3 billion cubic m), Ballentine said, while global consumption of helium is about 8 billion cubic feet (0.23 billion cubic m) per year.

The newly discovered gas field in Tanzania holds enough helium "to fill over 1.2 million medical MRI scanners," he said: "This is a game changer for the future security of society's helium needs, and similar finds in the future may not be far away."

One of the project leaders, geologist Jon Gluyas of Durham University, told Live Science that although the Tanzania gas field is large, it's only a small part of what the entire Rift Valley area may contain. "So it could be substantially larger," Gluyas said. "We will still have a lot of data to collect to be really confident, but yes — this is a globally significant discovery."

A new approach

Gluyas said the discovery hinged on a new understanding of the very complex and ancient nuclear, chemical and geological mechanisms that create helium in the Earth's crust and transport it into pockets that can be tapped by drilling.

"Almost more significant than the volume of helium found is that it was found on purpose," he said. "Every other discovery of helium to date has been found by accident."

Helium accumulates inside rock in the Earth's crust over billions of years, from the radioactive decay of the elements uranium and thorium. But the gas remains trapped in the rock until it is freed by very intense volcanic heat, such as that found in geothermally active regions such as the East African Rift Valley, Gluyas said.

By studying that process and the geological mechanisms that cause freed helium gas to accumulate in pockets, the researchers were able to identify potential drilling sites, he added.

Gluyas said the team took the same protocols and "applied the same sort of thinking you would for finding oil" to finding helium.

The fusion of hydrogen atoms produces large amounts of helium in the nuclear processes that power the sun. But here on Earth, helium is hard to find and hard to keep hold of, Gluyas said. Helium atoms are so small that the gas leaks out of almost every sort of container, and once helium escapes into the atmosphere, it's gone for good, he explained.

"In a bizarre sort of way, it is the ultimate nonrenewable element, and at the moment, it is not replaceable for many applications, certainly for medical systems such as MRI scanners," Gluyas said

Researchers knew that volcanoes (including Yellowstone) often had helium sources nearby. Future research will likely look at narrowing down the areas where governments and companies can successfully prospect for helium.

"We show that volcanoes in the Rift play an important role in the formation of viable helium reserves. Volcanic activity likely provides the heat necessary to release the helium accumulated in ancient crustal rocks. However, if gas traps are located too close to a given volcano, they run the risk of helium being heavily diluted by volcanic gases such as carbon dioxide, just as we see in thermal springs from the region. We are now working to identify the 'goldilocks-zone' between the ancient crust and the modern volcanoes where the balance between helium release and volcanic dilution is 'just right'," said Diveena Danabalan, lead author of the research.

IBM promises a 200 Petaflop Supercomputer by 2018 but site and installation funding has not been awarded - Loss of US supercomputing leadership would have staggering consequences

IBM is promising that a 200 petaflop supercomputer for 2018 that would top China's 93 petaflop Sunway TaihuLight, which recently took the top spot in the Top 500 rankings of the world's most powerful supercomputers.

The machine, called IBM Summit, will be delivered to the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in early 2018.

The money for Summit’s and Aurora’s site preparation is not allocated yet, nor is the money for their actual installations, which presumably will be part of the FY18 budget request. So all of this might turn out to be wishful thinking, and given Congress’s recent performance, it surely could. But that’s the plan as it stands today.

The updated spec for Summit (above) provides a higher node count of ~4600, compared to ~3400 for the original 150-petaflop configuration. The total peak power draw increased accordingly, from 10MW to 13.3MW. TaihuLight, the current top system, uses more than 15MW. Also note that the Aurora system, which is planning to use the next-generation Knights Hill Xeon Phi processors and reach 180 petaflops in 2018-2019, will draw nearly the same amount of power as the Power9/Volta GPU-powered Summit, but will do so with about 10 times as many nodes.

Of course, by the time Summit and Aurora are installed, there may be other Chinese systems of similar or even greater performance. Regardless, the DOE’s supercomputing timeline is more methodical than that of its Chinese counterparts, and there does not appear to be any specific effort by US policymakers to catch up to their rivals in the FLOPS department.

That contrasts markedly with what happened in 2002 when Japan’s Earth Simulator opened up a performance gap with the US systems similar to the one we see today with TaihuLight. At that time, the response by the DOE was immediate and spurred the agency to accelerate their supercomputing program significantly.

The US response is likely to be very different if the Chinese systems manage to close the application gap on their way to exascale. That’s a more difficult task than just developing fast processors and adding more of them to a machine, but given China’s trajectory in supercomputing over the last several years, it is certainly conceivable.

Third Generation Laser Uranium Enrichment Technology is likely over 5 times more energy efficient and more compact than the best centrifuges

New laser-based uranium enrichment technology may provide a hard-to-detect pathway to nuclear weapons production according to a forthcoming paper (25 pages) Ryan Snyder, a physicist with Princeton University's Program on Science and Global Security.

Research on the relevant laser systems for laser enrichment is also currently ongoing in the United States, Russia, India, China and Iran. Third Generation Laser Uranium Enrichment Technology is likely over 5 times more energy efficient and more compact than the best centrifuges.

Nextbigfuture - It is unclear how an enforceable agreement could be reached as laser systems will become more efficient and more compact once initial commercial or weapon scale enrichment is achieved.

Long-standing efforts to develop a commercially viable laser based process for uranium enrichment, initially with atomic and later molecular isotope separation, have had limited success. This article discusses a model for a third generation of laser enrichment technology where CO2 laser light is Raman scattered to generate 16 micron photons that excite a vibrational mode in uranium-235 hexafluoride molecules within an adiabatically expanding free carrier gas jet, allowing for the partial separation of uranium isotopes by condensation repression. The SILEX (Separation of Isotopes by Laser Excitation) process being developed as part of the Global Laser Enrichment project may be one example of this separation technique. An ideal, asymmetric cascade for enriching uranium to weapon-grade levels is presented, and an analysis of the minimum laser performance requirements is included. Optimal running parameters, physical space constraints, and energy efficiency estimates are discussed. An assessment of the technical skills required is also provided. Finally, material available in an online supplement discusses possible lasers that may be utilized in such a process, and offers an introduction to dimer formation, a laser-based enrichment cascade, and a model for estimating the enrichment factor.

One third generation laser enrichment process under consideration for commercialization is known as separation of isotopes by laser excitation (SILEX). It was developed at laboratory scale by Silex Systems Ltd., an Australian company, and has been licensed to Global Laser Enrichment (GLE), a consortium comprised of General Electric (51 percent), Hitachi (25 percent), and Cameco (24 percent), for commercial development.

GLE was issued a construction and operating license for a laser enrichment plant at General Electric-Hitachi’s nuclear fuel fabrication facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 2012. GLE has stated that a decision about whether to proceed with this project will be based upon market considerations, but Silex Systems Ltd. claims key technology improvements that may lower the operating and capital costs of a commercial production facility. Other countries pursuing research related to this technology could also build plants if they believe it is cheaper to enrich uranium with lasers than with centrifuges.

Schematic of a third generation laser isotope separation unit for uranium enrichment. A high repetition rate laser tuned to excite a vibrational mode of UF cross-axially irradiates a UF/G free jet flowing from a supersonic nozzle into a low pressure chamber. The enriched product is collected with a downstream skimmer.

125 atoms controlled by Lasers and microwaves will enable qubits for general purpose quantum computers

Researchers have demonstrated a new way to pack a lot more quantum computing power into a much smaller space and with much greater control than ever before. The research advance, using a 3-dimensional array of atoms in quantum states called quantum bits -- or qubits -- was made by David S. Weiss, professor of physics at Penn State University, and three students on his lab team. "Our result is one of the many important developments that still are needed on the way to achieving quantum computers that will be useful for doing computations that are impossible to do today, with applications in cryptography for electronic data security and other computing-intensive fields."

The new technique uses both laser light and microwaves to precisely control the switching of selected individual qubits from one quantum state to another without altering the states of the other atoms in the cubic array. The new technique demonstrates the potential use of atoms as the building blocks of circuits in future quantum computers.

The scientists invented an innovative way to arrange and precisely control the qubits, which are necessary for doing calculations in a quantum computer. "Our paper demonstrates that this novel approach is a precise, accurate, and efficient way to control large ensembles of qubits for quantum computing," Weiss said.

The research team led by David Weiss at Penn State University performed a specific single quantum operation on individual atoms in a P-S-U pattern on three separate planes stacked within a cube-shaped arrangement. The team then used light beams to selectively sweep away all the atoms that were not targeted for that operation. The scientists then made pictures of the results by successively focusing on each of the planes in the cube. The photos, which are the sum of 20 implementations of this process, show bright spots where the atoms are in focus, and fuzzy spots if they are out of focus in an adjacent plane -- as is the case for all the light in the two empty planes. The photos also show both the success of the technique and the comparatively small number of targeting errors. Credit: David Weiss lab, Penn State University

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