August 04, 2015

Progress to fast plasmonic chips with nanoscale optical components

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Army Advanced Hypersonic Weapon

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

Ballistic Missiles with tungsten flechette kinetic energy warheads

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

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

Navy Reentry Vehicle Research

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

Conventional Trident Modification

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

Kinetic Energy Warheads

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

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

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

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






Project Thor Orbital Rods from God

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Graphene with strontium titanium oxide able to convert 5% of waste heat of car engines into electricity

Graphene could lead to greener more fuel efficient cars in the future by converting heat into electricity.

Harvesting heat produced by a car’s engine which would otherwise be wasted and using it to recharge the car’s batteries or powering the air-conditioning system could be a significant feature in the next generation of hybrid cars.

The average car currently loses around 70% of energy generated through fuel consumption to heat. Utilising that lost energy requires a thermoelectric material which can generate an electrical current from the application of heat.

Currently, materials which exhibit these properties are often toxic and operate at very high temperatures – higher than that produced by car engines. By adding graphene, a new generation of composite materials could reduce carbon emissions globally from car use.

Scientists from The University of Manchester working with European Thermodynamics Ltd have increased the potential for low cost thermoelectric materials to be used more widely in the automotive industry.

The team, led by Prof Ian Kinloch, Prof Robert Freer and Yue Lin, added a small amount of graphene to strontium titanium oxide.

The resulting composite was able to convert heat which would otherwise be lost as waste into an electric current over a broad temperature range, going down to room temperature.

Prof Freer said: “Current oxide thermoelectric materials are limited by their operating temperatures which can be around 700 degrees Celsius. This has been a problem which has hampered efforts to improve efficiency by utilising heat energy waste for some time.

“Our findings show that by introducing a small amount of graphene to the base material can reduce the thermal operating window to room temperature which offers a huge range of potential for applications.

"The new material will convert 3-5% of the heat into electricity. That is not much but, given that the average vehicle loses roughly 70% of the energy supplied to it by its fuel to waste heat and friction, recovering even a small percentage of this with thermoelectric technology would be worthwhile.”



ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces - Thermoelectric Power Generation from Lanthanum Strontium Titanium Oxide at Room Temperature through the Addition of Graphene

The applications of strontium titanium oxide based thermoelectric materials are currently limited by their high operating temperatures of over 700 °C. Herein, we show that the thermal operating window of lanthanum strontium titanium oxide (LSTO) can be reduced to room temperature by the addition of a small amount of graphene. This increase in operating performance will enable future applications such as generators in vehicles and other sectors. The LSTO composites incorporated one percent or less of graphene and were sintered under an argon/hydrogen atmosphere. The resultant materials were reduced and possessed a multiphase structure with nanosized grains. The thermal conductivity of the nanocomposites decreased upon the addition of graphene, whereas the electrical conductivity and power factor both increased significantly. These factors, together with a moderate Seebeck coefficient, meant that a high power factor of ∼2500 μWm–1 K–2 was reached at room temperature at a loading of 0.6 wt % graphene. The highest thermoelectric figure of merit (ZT) was achieved when 0.6 wt % graphene was added (ZT = 0.42 at room temperature and 0.36 at 750 °C), with over 280% enhancement compared to that of pure LSTO. A preliminary 7-couple device was produced using bismuth strontium cobalt oxide/graphene-LSTO pucks. This device had a Seebeck coefficient of ∼1500 μV/K and an open voltage of 600 mV at a mean temperature of 219 °C.

US South has a rising textile industry again because of cheap cotton and automation

Surging labor and energy costs in China are eroding its competitiveness in manufacturing. According to the Boston Consulting Group, manufacturing wages adjusted for productivity have almost tripled in China over the last decade, to an estimated $12.47 an hour last year from $4.35 an hour in 2004.

Today, for every $1 required to manufacture in the United States, Boston Consulting estimates that it costs 96 cents to manufacture in China. Yarn production costs in China are now 30 percent higher than in the United States, according to the International Textile Manufacturers Federation.

The prospect of a sweeping Pacific trade agreement that is led by the United States, and excludes China, is also driving Chinese yarn companies to gain a foothold here, lest they be shut out of the lucrative American market.

The inner workings of Keer’s factory in Lancaster County help demonstrate why yarn can now be produced for such a low cost in the United States and point to the kind of capital-intensive manufacturing that could thrive again in America.

Inside the 230,000-square-foot spinning plant, giant machines help clean the seeds and dirt from the cotton and send the fluff into carding machines that assemble the cotton into thick, long ropes of fiber. Workers then feed the ropes into machines that spin the cotton into spools of yarn or thread.

The work is highly automated, with the factory’s 32 production lines churning out about 85 tons of yarn a day. Even when Keer opens a second factory next year, it will hire just 500 workers, a fraction of the thousands of workers who toiled at cotton mills across the South for much of the 19th and 20th centuries — a big reason Keer is able to keep costs down.

Notice the factory is highly automated and does not have many workers
Ni Meijuan, center, with trainees at Keer Group’s cotton mill in South Carolina. Keer, a Chinese manufacturer, set up a factory in the United States in part because textile production in China is becoming increasingly unprofitable. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times

U.S. fashion companies are NOT moving away from China, but are actively seeking supplementary sourcing destinations. Despite the concern about rising costs in China in recent years, when asked how their sourcing value or volume from China will change in the next two years, as many as 43 percent expect no change, or even a slight increase. Another 47 percent expect sourcing value or volume from China will decrease in the next two years, but only to a slight degree. Less than 7 percent of respondents say they expect to significantly decrease sourcing from China.

Airbus patents mach 4.5 passenger jet

Airbus has filed a patent for a mach 4 passenger jet.

The invention concerns an ultra-rapid air vehicle together with a method of aerial locomotion by means of an ultra-rapid air vehicle, where the air vehicle is propelled by a system of motors formed of turbojets (TB1, TB2), ramjets (ST1, ST2) and a rocket motor which can be made streamlined to reduce the drag of the base during the cruise phase, and where the vehicle has a gothic delta wing (A) fitted with moving fins (a1, a2) at both outer ends of the trailing edge of the delta wing.

The invention relates to an air vehicle including a fuselage, a gothic delta wing positioned either side of the fuselage, and a system of motors able to propel the air vehicle. The air vehicle is characterised in that:

* The fuselage contains a tank of hydrogen which is liquid or in the state of melted snow (slush), and one or more liquid oxygen tanks;

* The gothic delta wing has a flat upper surface and a flat lower surface, and the wing root starts roughly in the area where the forward part of the fuselage broadens;

* A fin is attached to each outer end of the trailing edge of the delta wing using a cylindrical part the axis of which is parallel to the axis of the fuselage, where each fin consists of two roughly identical trapezoid-shaped elements attached to the cylindrical part and located in the same plane, either side of the cylindrical part, where each cylindrical part is able to rotate around its axis such that both trapezoid-shaped elements which are attached to the cylindrical part are positioned either in a plane parallel to the plane of the gothic delta wing, or in a plane perpendicular to the gothic delta wing; and

* The system of motors includes at least one turbojet able to be retracted into the fuselage, and positioned in a forward portion of the fuselage, at least one fixed-geometry ramjet, and one rocket motor positioned in a rear part of the fuselage, where a door located in the rear part of the fuselage is able to be opened or closed, respectively to expose the rocket motor to the exterior, or to isolate the rocket motor from the exterior.


According to yet another additional characteristic of the invention, the cruising flight is characterised by:

* An altitude of the aircraft relative to the ground of roughly between 30000 m and 35000 m;
* A dissipation distance of the shockwave of the vehicle's nose of roughly between 110 km and 175 km;
* A speed of the aircraft of roughly between Mach 4 and Mach 4.5; and
* An aperture angle α of the Mach cone of roughly between 11° and 15°.

The ultra-rapid air vehicle proposed by the invention has a speed twice that of CONCORDE, i.e. Mach 4+, and a cruising altitude at least 20 km higher than that of a conventional commercial aircraft.

The height at which the new aircraft would fly and the “narrow” angle of the supersonic shock wave coming off its nose – estimated at between 11 and 15 degrees – would help reduce it because it has a longer distance to dissipate before it reaches the ground.



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August 03, 2015

Ebola vaccine trial proves 100% successful in Guinea

For more than a year and a half, three of the world’s poorest countries have struggled against the most devastating Ebola epidemic in human history.Containing this unprecedented outbreak would have been a huge challenge for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone under any conditions. But the scale of the task was far greater because of the absence of the most effective possible defence: a vaccine.

That may all be about to change. I normally like to avoid superlatives when describing the interim results of a medical trial, but it is difficult to talk about the report of the experimental Ebola vaccine in the Lancet as being anything less than spectacular. More than 7,600 people in Guinea have received the vaccine, known as rVSV-ZEBOV, in a study that targeted people from communities with cases of Ebola. None who received it immediately has so far contracted the virus. That’s an efficacy of 100%. And not only has it been shown to be so effective, it has also been well tolerated, with few side effects. This is rare for vaccines such as this one that contain a live virus, and it’s something to be thankful for.

Ebola vaccine trial proves 100% successful in Guinea

It is in fact incredibly unusual for any vaccine to show such efficacy, and so swiftly, too. For comparison, not long ago the results of trials for new malaria and dengue fever vaccines showed just how challenging development is. While they were promising, their effectiveness was much more limited



Carnival of Nuclear Energy 272

China plans to build a hybrid fusion fission reactor by 2030 but no real technical details

The South China Morning Post and Chinese media are reporting that China will build a new hybrid reactor that can burn nuclear waste via a combined fusion-fission method by 2030.

The proposed hybrid reactor will use nuclear fusion to burn u-238 and could in theory recycle the waste from traditional reactors into new fuel.

The project is being developed at the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics in Sichuan, a top secret military research facility where China's nuclear weapons are developed.

The scheme was first reported by the Science and Technology Daily, a newspaper run by the official Ministry of Science and Technology.

At the core of the proposed hybrid plant is a fusion reactor which is powered by electric currents as strong as 60 trillion amps. The reactor will be blanketed by a fission shell stuffed with uranium-238.

Such a design has numerous advantages. The high-speed neutrons generated by fusion could split apart the u-238 atoms to generate fission, and the fission could generate lots of energy to help maintain the fusion, thus significantly reducing the amount of external energy input, and achieve the complete burning of nuclear fuel to avoid radioactive waste.

Professor Wang Hongwen, deputy director of the hybrid reactor project, said that the key components will be built and tested around 2020, with an experimental reactor due to be finished by 2030.

The papers seem to assume that the fusion system would some version of a Tokamak fusion reactor.

There have been dozens if not hundreds of proposed fusion fission hybrid systems.

The Fusion system would generate neutrons which would help the fissioning of all of the uranium 238.

The concept dates to the 1950s, and was strongly advocated by Hans Bethe during the 1970s. At that time the first powerful fusion reactors were being built, but it would still be many years before they could be economically competitive. Hybrids were proposed as a way of greatly accelerating their market introduction, producing energy even before the fusion systems reached break-even. However, detailed studies of the economics of the systems suggested they could not compete with existing fission reactors. The idea was abandoned and lay dormant until the 2000s, when the continued delays in reaching break-even led to a brief revival around 2009, notably as the basis of the LIFE program.

LIFE, short for Laser Inertial Fusion Energy, was a fusion energy effort run at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) between 2008 and 2013. LIFE aimed to develop the technologies necessary to convert the laser-driven inertial confinement fusion (ICF) concept being developed in the National Ignition Facility (NIF) into a practical commercial power plant, a concept known generally as inertial fusion energy (IFE). LIFE used the same basic concepts as NIF, but aimed to lower costs using mass-produced fuel elements, simplified maintenance, and diode lasers with higher electrical efficiency. The failure of NIF to achieve ignition in 2012 led to the LIFE project being cancelled in 2013.

There was a molten salt variant of the LIFE hybrid system

Molten salt with dissolved uranium is being considered for the Laser Inertial Confinement Fusion Fission Energy (LIFE) fission blanket as a backup in case a solid-fuel version cannot meet the performance objectives, for example because of radiation damage of the solid materials. Molten salt is not damaged by radiation and therefore could likely achieve the desired high burnup (over 99%) of heavy atoms of 238U. A perceived disadvantage is the possibility that the circulating molten salt could lend itself to misuse (proliferation) by making separation of fissile material easier than for the solid-fuel case.

There was a 244 page review from a 2009 hybrid fusion fission conference.


Any fusion (laser, magnetic, dense plasma focus etc...) can be made into a hybrid

Without a lot of technical details we have no idea what China is planning to do


U.S. Marines Corps declares ten F-35Bs operational after the US spent $100 billion and counting

The U.S. Marine Corps' F-35B Lightning II aircraft reached initial operational capability July 31, 2015 with a squadron of 10 F-35Bs ready for world-wide deployment.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), based in Yuma, Arizona, is the first squadron in military history to become operational with an F-35 variant, following a five-day Operational Readiness Inspection, which concluded July 17.

“I am pleased to announce that VMFA-121 has achieved Initial Operational Capability in the F-35B, as defined by requirements outlined in the June 2014 Joint Report to Congressional Defense Committees,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford, Commandant of the Marine Corps. “VMFA-121 has ten aircraft in the Block 2B configuration with the requisite performance envelope and weapons clearances, to include the training, sustainment capabilities, and infrastructure to deploy to an austere site or a ship. It is capable of conducting Close Air Support, Offensive and Defensive Counter Air, Air Interdiction, Assault Support Escort and Armed Reconnaissance as part of a Marine Air Ground Task Force, or in support of the Joint Force.”

Dunford stated that he has his full confidence in the F-35B’s ability to support Marines in combat, predicated on years of concurrent developmental testing and operational flying.



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