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May 11, 2006

Answering some common misconceptions about Molecular nanotechnology

Q: We have trouble predicting the details of whether a technical project will succeed this year...how can we predict 20 to 30 years ?

A: When you change the level of detail to look at trends and combine it with theory and experiments and known knowledge then you can make reasonable forecasts. Improving trends are not destiny and require a lot of effort to sustain. The famous Moore's law is an example. Everytime people looked a few cycles out (5-10 years) they would see big technical, process and business hurdles. Some thought that they would be impossible to overcome. A lot of hard work (tens of thousands of scientists and engineers and managers) and clever research and strategies kept the progress going.

Q: The predictions of technical capability and social impact seem beyond my world view of what is reasonable. How can it be ?

A: Most people do not track technological, business process or scientific progress in detail. It takes a lot of time, because there is a lot happening. Therefore, most people have a flawed world view in terms of predicting the technological future. Many people underestimate how cleverly visionary engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs can combine things now or reasonably could in the future to overcome difficulties in development and implementation. Most people do not appreciate the 2-7 or more years it takes to take something from the lab out as a product and what actually happens to make that happen. Some people assume that when someone projects a successful commercialization of a lab development that the predictor is ignoring the hard work, funding and cleverness that will be needed to make that happen.

Molecular nanotechnology is particularly difficut for people to accept because it involves multiple interactions. More to follow.

Other tech: roof top solar panels looking better getting added to new homes

Solar tiles are integrated into the roof, making them far less obtrusive than conventional solar panels, which are perched in a frame that sits atop a roof. Sunpower is one of the suppliers of the tiles. Various builders and developers are adding them to new homes.

The current economics: Installing one of the roofing systems probably adds about $20,000 to $25,000 to the builder's direct costs, Kelly said. The state of California then gives builders a $4,000 to $6,000 rebate after installation, knocking the net additional cost down to $15,000 to $20,000.

Homeowners then get a $2,000 federal tax credit (which goes directly to the homeowner and not to the builder or developer), bringing the price down to $13,000 to $18,000.

Utility savings can range from $500 to $1,300. Payoff, thus, can be as short as 10 years or as long as 36 years. But math class hasn't ended yet. Utility prices continue to climb, so the payoff time will likely be shorter for many buyers because of the energy bill savings, Kelly said. The solar system also adds to the resale value of the house, he said.

Cooling technology and ultimate limits of computing

In Dec, 2005, Fujitsu announced that they were able to connect carbon nanotube bumps to the miniature electrode of a high power transistor. Carbon nanotubes have thermal conductivity of 1400W/(m-K) - a level much higher than that of metal(4), and because it is possible to connect carbon nanotube-based bumps very near to the heat-generating miniature electrodes, Fujitsu successfully achieved the high amplification of flip-chips with heat dissipation levels equivalent to face-up structures.

Existing cooling technology

Reversible computing paper talking about limiting heat generation This can be done as well as spacing out the system to be less dense.

Article exploring limits of computing

Another PHd dissertation that analyses the future limits to computing and cooling

Typical passive emission 3.5 * 10 ** 22 flux bits/s cm**2 (about 100W per square centimeter)

Drexler's fractal plumbing 3.8 * 10 ** 24 flux bits/s cm**2 (about 10-100KW of heat removed per square centimeter)

Slow atomic ballistic (theoretical 1 m/s coolant) flux 10 ** 26 bits/s cm**2

Fast atomic ballistic (theoretical relativistic speed coolant) flux 3 * 10 ** 33 bits/s cm**2

Quantum maximum 5 * 10 ** 40 flux bits/s cm**2

Existing cooling is at about 1KW per square centimeter using microchannels with force d liquid convection (David Tuckerman)

biological motor sorts molecules on a chip

This seems like a significant development for transitional systems.

Researchers from Delft University of Technology's Kavli Institute of Nanoscience have discovered how to use the motors of biological cells in extremely small channels on a chip. Based on this, they built a transport system that uses electrical charges to direct the molecules individually. To demonstrate this, the Delft researchers sorted the individual molecules according to their color. Professor Hess of the University of Florida has called the Delft discovery "the first traffic control system in biomolecular motor nanotechnology". The research findings will be published in Science on May 12.

The biological cell is a complex of many different small protein factories. The necessary transportation of materials within the cell occurs across a network of microtubules: long, tubular-shaped proteins that extend in a star-shaped formation from the nucleus of the cell to the walls of the cell. Molecular bio-motors, such as the enzyme kinesin, can walk in small steps (of 8 nanometers) with a load of material along these microtubule-networks and thus provide transport within the cell.

Fascinated by these biological motors, the researchers at Delft University of Technology's Kavli Institute of Nanoscience are currently exploring the possibility of inserting these kinesin-motors and microtubules in an electrically directed transport system that is made by the researchers using nano-fabrication techniques.

The researchers turned the system around: the kinesin-motors are fastened in large quantities on a surface with their 'feet' up; the microtubules (measuring approximately 1 to 15 micrometers in length) were then transported over the 'carpet' of motors. The microtubules are, as it were, 'crowd surfing' over the sea of small kinesin motors. A particular challenge of the research was to ensure beforehand that the microtubule tubes could be transported in a determined direction and were not dislodged by collisions of the motor carpet.

PhD student Martin van den Heuvel, master student Martijn de Graaff and groupleader Professor Cees Dekker have for the first time achieved to control and address individual microtubules. An important step in this was to allow microtubule-transport to occur in small closed liquid channels. This made it possible to apply a strong electrical field locally at the Y-junction in the channels. Because of this, the electrical force could be exerted on the individual microtubules. The researchers discovered that by using this electrical force they could push the front of the microtubule into the determined direction.

To demonstrate this, the researchers allowed a mixture of green and red fluorescent microtubules to arrive at a Y-junction. By changing the direction of the electrical force, depending on the color of the microtubule, the Delft researchers were able to collect the green and red microtubules in different reservoirs.

With their approach to the nano-channels, the researchers killed two birds with one stone. In addition to the possibility of steering individual microtubules, they were able to prevent the microtubules from derailing from their tracks. Incidentally, the Delft researchers discovered that their work contained a third interesting aspect. The closed channels offered the possibility to observe the electrical transport of freely suspended microtubules, thus proving that the speed of the microtubules under an external electrical field is largely dependent on the orientation of the cylinder-shaped molecules. This was the first time that this orientation-dependency of the electrophoretic mobility was observed.

In an accompanying Perspective article in Science, Professor Hess of the University of Florida wrote that the Delft researchers had developed the first traffic control system in biomolecular motor nanotechnology.

May 09, 2006

Other tech: Revving up the immune system in mice can kill cancer cells

White blood cells from a unique breed of cancer-resistant mice have cured advanced cancers in normal mice, researchers report. When injected the immune cells sought out and killed existing tumours and also protected the mice against lethal doses of new, highly aggressive cancers.

The "resistant-cell therapy" appears to work without toxic side effects, and the researchers hope that a greater understanding of the mechanism may enable the technique to be used in humans in the future.

other: three Gorges Dam built May, 2006, fully operational 2009

Construction of China's Three Gorges Dam is likely to be finished by 20 May, nine months ahead of schedule, according to state media reports. More details on the Three Gorges Dam project

Other tech: making wind power even more affordable

Floating wind farms placed far offshore could lead to affordable electricity -- without cluttering the view. GE has announced a $27 million partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop 5-7 megawatt turbines by 2009, each of which could power well over 1,000 homes. Supplanting the company's current 3.6 megawatt turbines, these giant energy factories should make wind power more economical, since the major cost of building and installing offshore wind farms does not depend primarily on a turbine's size, but on the number of them that need to be erected. By 2015, GE could have even bigger, 10-megawatt turbines, according to Jim Lyons, leader of advanced technology for GE's wind energy business. Based on wind-speed measurements, researchers at MIT, led by Stephen Connors, director of the Analysis Group for Regional Electricity Alternatives, calculated that large turbines located far offshore could ultimately cost less per power generated than either land-based turbines or near-offshore ones, even factoring in extra costs, such as much longer underground electricity transmission cables. The upside: much more fast and steady wind, which would allow the turbines to generate power at 50 percent capacity on average throughout the year, compared with 30 percent or less with on-land turbines.

Offshore wind farms could also have the advantage of being close to big cities, unlike wind farms in remote areas, which require significant power grid upgrades to transport the power to places where it's needed. Making the technology cheap enough to be feasible will not be easy. "You've got to push all the buttons to get the costs down," Lyons says. Using a combination of far-offshore and land-based farms, however, one day it may be possible to provide 20 percent of U.S. energy from wind, he says.

added:
the article was describing plans for 95m tall towers and 140m rotors. So 300+ ft tall for the 3.6MW version. the diagram of wind towers.

The 5MW plan has tower height of 120m. Or almost 400 feet. The tip of the rotor would reach 180m. A 10 MW version planned for 2015 will probably be 200m tall for the tower which is an over 650 feet tall tower.

May 08, 2006

Other tech: Real time info integrated with maps

This is technology on the path to David Brin's transparent society

Researchers are working on a system that allows sensors to track information and create up-to-date, searchable online maps The project, which is called SenseWeb, will someday enable people to browse online maps for up-to-the-minute information about local gas prices, traffic flows, restaurant wait times, and more. By tracking real-life conditions, which are supplied directly by people or automated sensor equipment, and correlating that data with a searchable map, people could have a better idea of the activities going on in their local areas. Other research groups at the University of California at Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford, and MIT are working on similar projects for tracking environmental information. For instance, UCLA has a project in which sensors -- devices that measure physical quantities such as temperature, pressure, and sound -- are integrated with Google Earth, the company's downloadable mapping software. In addition, companies such as Agent Logic and Corda process real-time data and can correlate it with a location, mostly for businesses and governmental organizations.

Nanotubes used for first time to send signals to nerve cells

Thin films of carbon nanotubes deposited on transparent plastic can also serve as a surface on which cells can grow. And as researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) and Rice University suggest in a paper published in the May issue of the Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, these nanotube films could potentially serve as an electrical interface between living tissue and prosthetic devices or biomedical instruments. The group employed two different types of cells in their experiments, neuroblastoma cells commonly used in test-tube experiments and neurons cultured from experimental rats. Both cell types were placed on ten-layer-thick mats of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) deposited on transparent plastic. This enabled the researchers to use a microscope to position a tiny electrode next to individual cells and record their responses to electrical pulses transmitted through the SWNTs.

Nanomaterials advance - nanofermentation

Barriers to commercializing high-quality nanomaterials useful for an array of applications could tumble because of a process invented at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. NanoFermentation represents a fundamentally new approach for producing extremely fine, uniform and highly crystalline powders useful for magnetic media, ferrofluids, xerographic toner, catalysts, pigments, water treatment and coatings. The process works at or near room temperature using conventional industrial equipment and straightforward fermentation processes. Furthermore, NanoFermentation uses bacterial strains that are completely natural instead of those that have been genetically engineered. Patent holders Tommy Phelps and Bob Lauf believe that by making tailored nanomaterials available in economic quantities, their process will help stimulate interest in the development of new applications and eliminate a roadblock that has prevented the field of nanotechnology from reaching its potential.

My essay Considering Military and Ethical Implications of Nanofactory-Level Nanotechnology at wise-nano

My essay looks at some existing trends in military capability and technology development, and considers the impact of nanofactory-level nanotechnology (NN). The essay is also at kurzweilai.net A nanofactory is a proposed manufacturing system that could be built if molecularly precise manufacturing technology is developed. Current projections indicate that a nanofactory should be able to fabricate its own mass of advanced products—including duplicate nanofactories—in just a few hours. This is part of a larger series of 24 essays at the center for responsible nanotechnology. Note: there are 5 columns in the table of essays. The last two columns are links to the individual essays.

Nanofactories enable exponential manufacturing. The first tiny lab-built device can be made to build a system with two integrated devices, which can work in parallel to build four, and in just a few months can build a full-sized nanofactory. Less than a month after that, millions of nanofactories could produce thousands of tons of products (including more nanofactories) per hour. These products will be higher performance.

Note: even if nanofactories are not produced in 20 years but only more advanced nanomaterials and improved robotic manufacturing and other extrapolations of current technology then the development trends are still heading in the direction of the capabilities of nanofactories.

The effects of more advanced technology are a lot more surveillance, stronger offence versus defence particularly with space based weapon systems. An effective deterrence is vital.