May 22, 2015

DARPA can non-mechanically sweep a laser back and forth 100,000 times a second will make far cheaper and more powerful laser scanning

A non-mechanical approach could open the door to a new class of miniaturized, extremely low-cost, robust laser-scanning technologies for military and commercial use

Many essential military capabilities—including autonomous navigation, chemical-biological sensing, precision targeting and communications—increasingly rely upon laser-scanning technologies such as LIDAR (think radar that uses light instead of radio waves). These technologies provide amazing high-resolution information at long ranges but have a common Achilles heel: They require mechanical assemblies to sweep the laser back and forth. These large, slow opto-mechanical systems are both temperature- and impact-sensitive and often cost tens of thousands of dollars each—all factors that limit widespread adoption of current technologies for military and commercial use.

In an advance that could upend this status quo, DARPA’s Short-range Wide-field-of-view Extremely agile Electronically steered Photonic EmitteR (SWEEPER) program has successfully integrated breakthrough non-mechanical optical scanning technology onto a microchip. Freed from the traditional architecture of gimbaled mounts, lenses and servos, SWEEPER technology has demonstrated that it can sweep a laser back and forth more than 100,000 times per second, 10,000 times faster than current state-of-the-art mechanical systems. It can also steer a laser precisely across a 51-degree arc, the widest field of view ever achieved by a chip-scale optical scanning system. These accomplishments could open the door to a new class of miniaturized, extremely low-cost, robust laser-scanning technologies for LIDAR and other uses.

DARPA’s Short-range Wide-field-of-view Extremely agile Electronically steered Photonic EmitteR (SWEEPER) program has successfully integrated breakthrough non-mechanical optical scanning technology onto a microchip. Freed from the traditional mechanical architecture of gimbaled mounts, lenses and servos, SWEEPER technology has demonstrated that it can sweep a laser back and forth more than 100,000 times per second, 10,000 times faster than current state-of-the-art mechanical systems. It can also steer a laser precisely across a 51-degree arc, the widest field of view ever achieved by a chip-scale optical scanning system. This wide-angle demonstration of optical phased array technology could lead to greatly enhanced capabilities for numerous military and commercial technologies, including autonomous vehicles, robotics, sensors and high-data-rate communication

High powered solid state 150 kilowatt combat laser field testing this summer

DARPA’s High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) has demonstrated sufficient laser power and beam quality to advance to a series of field tests. The achievement of government acceptance for field trials marks the end of the program’s laboratory development phase and the beginning of a new and challenging set of tests against rockets, mortars, vehicles and surrogate surface-to-air missiles at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

“The technical hurdles were daunting, but it is extremely gratifying to have produced a new type of solid-state laser with unprecedented power and beam quality for its size,” said Rich Bagnell, DARPA program manager. “The HELLADS laser is now ready to be put to the test on the range against some of the toughest tactical threats our warfighters face.”

Ground-based field testing of the HELLADS laser is expected to begin this summer as an effort jointly funded by DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory. Following the field-testing phase, the goal is to make the system available to the military Services for further refinement, testing or transition to operational use.

The HELLADS program has been developing an electrically driven solid state laser at greatly reduced size and weight over lasers of similar power for tactical use. The laser was developed by DARPA performer General Atomics.

The goal of the HELLADS program is to develop a 150 kilowatt (kW) laser weapon system that is ten times smaller and lighter than current lasers of similar power, enabling integration onto tactical aircraft to defend against and defeat ground threats. With a weight goal of less than five kilograms per kilowatt, and volume of three cubic meters for the laser system, HELLADS seeks to enable high-energy lasers to be integrated onto tactical aircraft, significantly increasing engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems.

LightSail Sends First Data Back to Earth

The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft is sending home telemetry data following a Wednesday commute to orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Deployment from the Centaur upper stage occurred at 1:05 p.m. EDT (17:05 p.m. UTC), and LightSail crossed into range of its Cal Poly San Luis Obispo ground station at 2:20 p.m. EDT (18:20 UTC). With the LightSail team on console, The Planetary Society staff gathered in Cocoa Beach, Florida to listen in as the first signals were received from space.

The Planetary Society of the United States initiated a short test of an artificial satellite "LightSail-A" that launched on 20 May 2015. The purpose of the test is to allow a full checkout of the satellite's systems in advance of the main 2016 mission, LightSail-1. The mission is being funded on Kickstarter by over 10,300 supporters currently. Over $550,000 has been raised with the goal of $1 million.

LightSail-1 is a solar sail project scheduled for launch in April 2016 and developed by the Planetary Society, a global non-profit organization devoted to space exploration. The kite-shaped spacecraft, which was announced in 2009, will have a total cross-section of 32 square meters (340 sq ft), and will be fitted with guidance and diagnostic electronics. If the project is successful, two more solar sails, LightSail-2 and LightSail-3, will be built

Jason Davis / The Planetary Society. LightSail Liftoff The Planetary Society's LightSail test spacecraft lifts off on its maiden voyage. Liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket occured at 11:05 a.m. EDT (15:55 UTC).

May 21, 2015

Graphene continuously produced at 1 inch per minute for high quality and 20 inches per minute at lower quality in a lab scale roll to roll system

MIT mechanical engineering Associate Professor A. John Hart says the new roll-to-roll manufacturing process described by his team addresses the fact that for many proposed applications of graphene and other 2-D materials to be practical, “you’re going to need to make acres of it, repeatedly and in a cost-effective manner.”

Because a continuous process eliminates the need to stop and start to load and unload materials from a fixed vacuum chamber, as in today’s processing methods, it could lead to significant scale-up of production. That could finally unleash applications for graphene, which has unique electronic and optical properties and is one of the strongest materials known.

The new process is an adaptation of a chemical vapor deposition method already used at MIT and elsewhere to make graphene — using a small vacuum chamber into which a vapor containing carbon reacts on a horizontal substrate, such as a copper foil. The new system uses a similar vapor chemistry, but the chamber is in the form of two concentric tubes, one inside the other, and the substrate is a thin ribbon of copper that slides smoothly over the inner tube.

Gases flow into the tubes and are released through precisely placed holes, allowing for the substrate to be exposed to two mixtures of gases sequentially. The first region is called an annealing region, used to prepare the surface of the substrate; the second region is the growth zone, where the graphene is formed on the ribbon. The chamber is heated to approximately 1,000 degrees Celsius to perform the reaction.

The researchers have designed and built a lab-scale version of the system, and found that when the ribbon is moved through at a rate of 25 millimeters (1 inch) per minute [100 feet per day if the system ran non-stop], a very uniform, high-quality single layer of graphene is created. When rolled 20 times faster [2000 feet per day if run non-stop], it still produces a coating, but the graphene is of lower quality, with more defects.

Copper substrate is shown in the process of being coated with graphene. At left, the process begins by treating the copper surface, and, at right, the graphene layer is beginning to form. Upper images are taken using visible light microscopy, and lower images using a scanning electron microscope. Courtesy of the researchers

Plasma Focus Nuclear Fusion making technical progress and received another $200K in funding

LPP Fusion working to reduce impurities and scale the electrode based nuclear fusion from their dense plasma. LPP Fusion has received another $200,000 of funding from the Abell Foundation.

LPPFusion’s lab team has completed the mechanical repair and reinforcement of the tungsten cathode. The first and most difficult step was to apply the fiber-epoxy composite around the broken rim of the cathode. The purpose of applying the composite was to provide strong inward pressure on the cathode to close up micro-cracks that could impede the flow of current during FF-1 shots. The fiber, a thick nylon thread, was stretched to provide the inward force, while the epoxy adhesive fixed the fiber in place. The problem was the irregular broken surface that we were repairing produced forces that pushed the thread up or down as we were winding it around the rim. In a painstaking task, LPPFusion CIO Ivy Karamtisos guided the thread during many hours of winding to maximize the number of windings and to prevent the fiber form slipping off.

To maintain a constant tension but to avoid breaking the thread, LPPFusion Chief Scientist Eric Lerner monitored the tension with a torque meter (a mechanical device that measures the torque or twisting force on an axel or spool). We checked the torque meter by monitoring how much the fiber was stretching and by noting when the pull was enough to overcome the friction in the turntable that the cathode was resting on. Since we had to let the epoxy dry for a day between each layer of fiber, this critical step was quite time consuming.

As a result of this effort, we were able to stretch the fiber by an average of 18% in length so that with 34 windings round the cathode, in seven layers of fiber, we generated 350 psi of inward pressure. The micro cracks visibly closed up and 80% of the length of cracks ceased to be a significant obstacle to the current—something that we checked with a micro-ohmmeter, an instrument that can measure extremely small resistance to electric current.

Plasma Focus Progress graph prepared for The Abell Foundation shows that by greatly reducing impurities in the plasma it will boost fusion yield back onto the scaling line that leads to the condition needed for net energy production

Photo of brace attached to the tungsten cathode(right) . Drawing(left) shows how the brace attaches the cathode to the rest of the device, replacing the function of the tungsten rim.

Thousands Ivy leaguers and other college grads going to coding camps

A 22-year-old graduated last year with a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth in psychology and studio art that cost more than a quarter-million dollars. She sent out dozens of résumés looking for a full-time job in graphic design but wound up working a contract gig for a Boston clothing store. “I thought, they’ll see Dartmouth, and they’ll hire me,” Feng says. “That’s not really how it works, I found.” She figures programming is the best way to get the job she wants. Hence the basement, where she’s paying $11,500 for a three-month crash course in coding.

Thousands of students, about 70 percent of whom already have college degrees, are flocking to coding boot camps.

The schools took in a combined $59 million in revenue, or about $9,833 per student, estimates Course Report co-founder Liz Eggleston.

General Assembly started as a co-working space in New York’s Flatiron district in 2011 and evolved into boot camps in 13 cities across the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Hong Kong. The startup has raised $49.5 million from the likes of Jeff Bezos and Russian e-mail billionaire Yuri Milner. City No. 14, it says, will be Singapore.

The biggest concentration of schools remains in California, and some, including Dev and Hack Reactor, have established another source of revenue. They’ve cut deals with employers such as tech-industry PR firm Cision, promising an early crack at top graduates in exchange for fees worth 10 percent of each new employee’s first-year salary.

LG has 55 inch OLED TV - weighs 4.2 pounds, less than one millimeter thick and with magnetic attachment to wall

55-inch wallpaper OLED panel, presented as one of the company's future displays at a media event, is only 0.97 mm thick, weighs 1.9 kg [4.2 pounds] and can easily be stuck to a wall with a magnetic mat, or removed from it.

The new product is far slimmer compared with LG Display's existing flagship 55-inch OLED panel that is 4.3 mm thick

LG Display retained this year's sales target for OLED panels at 600,000 units and 1.5 million units for 2016. Yeo cited the improvement in yields for OLED panels as a key factor that will help achieve such a sales target.

"It has taken a year and half for us to raise the yield to this level (for OLEDs), while it'd taken nearly 10 years to achieve the yield for LCDs," he said.

LG Display will keep its focus on large screens, with a plan to introduce an OLED panel as big as 99 inches within this year, the executive said. The company has released its 55-inch, 66-inch and 77-inch OLED models earlier in the year.

It will also continue to upgrade its plastic OLED technology in the small- to mid-sized segments, such as transparent displays and rollable and flexible displays to be used for wearable devices or vehicle dashboards

May 20, 2015

After over $100 billion the first ten F35 jets could be declared combat ready July 15, 2015

Lt. General Jon Davis, Head of Marine Corps aviation, told Reuters that they might declare a squadron of 10 Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) F-35 military aircraft ready for combat by July 15 this year. Earlier this week, Lockheed Martin also delivered six F-35B aircraft to the USS Wasp amphibious warship for operational testing.

Through FY2013, the F-35 program has received a total of roughly $83.3 billion of funding in then-year dollars, including roughly $49.0 billion in research and development, about 33.1 billion in procurement, and roughly $1.2 billion in military construction.

The Pentagon plans to spend about $10.6 billion on the F-35 in the fiscal year ending Oct. 1, 2015 a 23 percent increase over the previous year. The money will buy 57 aircraft versus 38 from the prior spending plan. The procurement figure is also higher than the 55 the Pentagon had previously said it was planning to buy this year.

Lockheed has so far made 120 F-35s and has another 100 in various stages of production. According to the company, each plane costs about $108 million, a 57 percent decline from eight years ago. Lockheed expects the price to fall to $85 million by 2019 as production gets more efficient.

In 2014, Lockheed delivered 36 F-35 fighter jets, producing them at an average rate of 3 per month. During the fourth quarter, Lockheed also finalized the lot 8 production (LRIP – low rate initial production) contract with the government for 43 F-35s. Deliveries for this contract will be made in 2015. So, Lockheed’s F-35 production and delivery volume is set to rise in the current year. Thereafter, in 2016 and 2017, F-35 production will significantly ramp up, crossing a run rate of 100 annual deliveries in 2018.

Lockheed's revenue rose by 9% per year to $12.5 billion, and its profit improved to $904 million in the fourth quarter. This strong fourth quarter enabled Lockheed to grow its 2014 top line, against expectations and the company’s own guidance. Lockheed posted $45.6 billion in total revenue in 2014, up marginally from $45.4 billion in 2013.

Air Force and DARPA getting all aspects of hypersonic weapons combat and procurement ready by 2020

The Air Force has teamed with the Pentagon's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, to shrink the technology into a hypersonic weapon that could fit on most of the bomber fleet, according to Kenneth Davidson, manager of the hypersonic materials development at the Air Force Research Laboratory.

"If you look at the X-51, the size is slightly too big to put it on our current bombers," he said. "It was made as a demonstrator. There's no weapon in it. There are no sensors on board for controlling the guidance. So we're looking at making it more durable, getting the guidance control developed so that it can become a weapon system, developing the ordnance."

The High Speed Strike Weapon is affiliated with other demonstration projects being developed by DARPA, including the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept and the Tactical Boost Glide, both of which have test flights scheduled for 2018 or 2019.

"Our goal is to make sure the Air Force has the knowledge in 2020 or over the next five years to be able to make acquisition decisions using this technology," Davidson said. "Our goal is to provide a capability to stand off, launch these vehicles off the aircraft to hit time-critical dependent targets ... And ultimately from a manufacturing standpoint, it's got to be affordable."

The ordnance and a guidance system for a hypersonic weapon are under development via two demonstration programs:
the high-speed air-breathing weapon concept (HAWC) and
the tactical boost glide (TBG).

Leugers said the warhead under development for a hypersonic missile is in the 250 lb class, about the size of a small diameter bomb (SDB).

The goal of the tactical boost and glide is to accelerate a weapon to Mach 5 or greater and allow it to glide to its target. Such weapons would have to be highly heat-resistant and maneuverable. TBG could ultimately fly at altitudes of nearly 200,000 ft (about 38 miles or 60 kilometers. The Kármán Line [boundary of the atmosphere and space] is at 100 kilometers.)

The X51 hypersonic demonstrator was too big for most US fighters and bombers and did not have the actual explosives and sensors. The Air Force will shrink some components and integrate systems for a combat ready hypersonic weapon system before 2020

Detailed diagrams of the new Russian T14 tank and T15 heavy infrantry vehicle

The T-14 is Russia's first truly new tank design since the T-72, designed in the early 1970s. Based on the Armata Universal Tracked Platform, the T-14's most attention-grabbing feature is its unmanned turret, with all of the MBT's three crew (commander, driver, gunner) seated in a well-protected crew compartment at the front of the hull.

Janes's has a detailed analysis of the new Russian tank and other Armata universal tracked platform based vehicles.

The MBT's turret is literally covered in a variety of launcher and sensor systems understood to be linked to a new APS system, which some reports call 'Afghanit'. At the base of each side of the turret are five large and fixed horizontally arrayed launch tubes covering the 120° frontal arc of the turret. These bear a strong resemblance to the launchers for the earlier Drozd and Drozd-2 APS, which fired a hard-kill 107 mm unguided projectile armed with a high-explosive-(HE) fragment warhead to defeat incoming anti-tank guided weapons (ATGWs).

The T-14 is also fitted with four sets of smaller-calibre launchers, with each unit armed with 12 launch tubes. Two horizontally trainable launcher units are fitted on either side of the top of the turret, while two apparently fixed and vertically facing launcher units are recessed into the top of the tank's turret.

May 19, 2015

Malaysia invests $27-million in Canada's General Fusion startup who will begin building full scale prototype in 2017

A Malaysian state-owned company invested $27 million in General Fusion.
Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund, the Khazanah Nasional Berhad, made an investment with current investors Growthworks and Jeff Bezos's personal venture capital fund. The funds will go to commercializing the company's key technology—a metal sphere pumped full of molten lead-lithium that spews out quantities of energy. The Burnaby-based company has raised over $100 million to date. General Fusion needs to finish refining some technology for the next two years. General Fusion plans to being building the full scale prototype in 2017. General Fusion would have Canadian and Malaysia government backing for the full scale prototype funding.

General Fusion is nearing significant milestones. General Fusion’s Approach is Magnetized target fusion (MTF). Magnetized target fusion is a hybrid between magnetic fusion and inertial confinement fusion. In MTF, a compact toroid, or donut-shaped magnetized plasma, is compressed mechanically by an imploding conductive shell, heating the plasma to fusion conditions.

General Fusion has a full-scale prototype [of the injectors and other subsystems], twin plasma injectors resembling five-metre-long cones, each attached to opposite ends of a three-metre-diameter sphere, would pulse a few milligrams of hydrogen gas, heat it until it becomes a plasma, and inject it into a vortex of swirling liquid metal. Electricity circulating in the plasma would create magnetic fields that bind the plasma together and confine the heat.

From there, an array of as many as 300 huge pistons attached to the sphere’s shell would act like synchronized jackhammers, ramming it at 200 km/hr. This would send shockwaves into the very centre of the chamber, compressing the hydrogen isotopes to 100 million degrees celsius — hot enough for fusion to occur, and good enough to generate clean electricity from steam turbines.

General Fusion reached its milestones on the piston timing about two years ago. Technicians are now perfecting functionality of the plasma injectors.

Nuclear Fusion Company Helion Energy and others have received ARPA-E funding

ARPA-E has provided a combined $30 million in funding for nuclear projects

Helion Energy - Staged Magnetic Compression of FRC Targets to Fusion Conditions received $3,971,264 in funding

Helion Energy will investigate staged magnetic compression of field-reversed configuration (FRC) plasmas, building on past successes to develop a prototype that can attain higher temperatures and fuel density than previously possible. The team will use these results to assess the viability of scaling to a power reactor, which if successful would offer the benefits of simple linear geometry, attractive scaling, and compatibility with modern pulsed power electronics.

Key Benefits of Helion’s Approach

* Magneto-Inertial Fusion: By combining the stability of steady magnetic fusion and the heating of pulsed inertial fusion, a commercially practical system has been realized that is smaller and lower cost than existing programs.
* Modular, Distributed Power: A container sized, 50 MW module for base load power generation.
* Self-Supplied Helium 3 Fusion: Pulsed, D-He3 fusion simplifies the engineering of a fusion power plant, lowers costs, and is even cleaner than traditional fusion.
* Magnetic Compression: Fuel is compressed and heated purely by magnetic fields operated with modern solid state electronics. This eliminates inefficient, expensive laser, piston, or beam techniques used by other fusion approaches.
* Direct Energy Conversion: Enabled by pulsed operation, efficient direct conversion decreases plant costs and fusion’s engineering challenges.
* Safe: With no possibility of melt-down, or hazardous nuclear waste, fusion does not suffer the drawbacks that make fission an unattractive alternative.

Stabilized Liner Compressor (SLC) for Low-Cost Fusion received $4 million in funding

NumerEx, LLC, teamed with the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Los Alamos, NM, will develop the Stabilized Liner Compressor (SLC) concept in which a rotating, liquid metal liner is imploded by high pressure gas. Free-piston drive and liner rotation avoid instabilities as the liner compresses and heats a plasma target. If successful, this concept could scale to an attractive fusion reactor with efficient energy recovery, and therefore a low required minimum fusion gain for net energy output. The SLC will address several challenges faced by practical fusion reactors. By surrounding the plasma target with a thick liquid liner, the SLC helps avoid materials degradation associated with a solid plasma-facing first wall. In addition, with an appropriately chosen liner material, the SLC can simultaneously provide a breeding blanket to create more tritium fuel, allow efficient heat transport out of the reactor, and shield solid components of the reactor from high-energy neutrons.

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