February 02, 2007

Energy Equivalence

IEEE Spectrum compares different energy sources Thanks to Kirk Sorenson at Thorium Energy discussion for pointing this out.

The world uses 1 cubic mile of oil per year now.

February 01, 2007

Light powered rotaxane molecular sorter

Led by Professor David Leigh the team from Edinburgh have designed and built a molecule, known as a rotaxane, that can move and sort particles. It took three years of painstaking work to find a molecular form that could do this job.

Advancing toward Superlenses

The Berkeley team improved their silver-film superlens by adding 35-nanometre-wide corrugations to its surface. These diffract light waves from an object's near-field, turning them into normal light waves. The superlens was able to distinguish two wires positioned just 70 nm apart – a resolution nearly three times better than that of conventional optics.

Conventional lenses can only see details roughly down to the size of half the wavelength of light. This limit is due to interference and diffraction that occurs as light bounces off an object.

A superlens gets around this limit by collecting light waves that only occur very close to an illuminated object. These "evanescent waves" contain information about at finer resolution but are hard to use because these waves decay rapidly. The nanometre-scale region in which they exist is known as the "near-field".

Being able to project the super-resolution image beyond the near-field could make the superlens much easier to use, Zheludev says. "But the lens still has to be positioned close to the object to be in its near-field," he points out.

A superlens that could focus on objects from beyond the near-field would be truly revolutionary, he adds. "There are suggestions that it's possible, but we don't know for sure.

Large scale wind power has environmental impact

We still should make more wind power but we should perform environmental simulations. Local simulations and large scale simulations by blocking significant amounts of wind we can effect not just regional climate but larger weather patterns. This is the butterfly effect the size of Super-mothra.

Some ecologists are warning that unless we think carefully about where wind farms are sited, they could disrupt fragile ecosystems and even contribute to global warming. In 2005, the world's installed wind power generation capacity increased by 43 per cent to almost 60,000 megawatts - that's more than 12 times Ireland's total electricity demand. Almost 70 per cent of this is in Europe, and while less than 20 per cent is in North America that figure is rising rapidly. Last year alone, US companies spent $3 billion on 2300 megawatts of new wind energy capacity, bringing its total to 9149 megawatts - a little more than 1 per cent of total US generating capacity. Other countries are also catching up fast. India is already fourth in the wind-energy league table, having overtaken Denmark, and China has plans to build 5000 megawatts of wind power capacity by 2010.

Worldwide, wind energy still accounts for little more than 0.5 per cent of total electricity generation, but expectations are high. The US government believes wind could supply up to 20 per cent of the country's electricity. Other estimates are even more impressive. Last year, Christina Archer and Mark Jacobson from Stanford University in California produced a global wind-energy resource map that estimated the global potential for wind-generated energy at 72 terawatts - that's 40 times the worldwide demand in 2000.

But there is a problem. Where do you put hundreds, if not thousands, of wind turbines? The obvious answer is a windy place in the middle of nowhere. In crowded Europe, at least, that often means taking the same option as the Derrybrien developers and building wind farms on peat bogs.

"Yet peatlands represent the one land-based habitat in the world that is a major long-term carbon store. By building on peat, we release this carbon store as carbon emissions into the atmosphere."
"Peat bogs store three times as much carbon as is held in tropical rainforests"

This can happen in several ways. Peat dug out for foundations and service roads is stacked up and allowed to dry, and as it does so the carbon it contains - 55 kilograms per cubic metre - oxidises and is released into the atmosphere as CO2. Construction on peat can also lead to widespread damage of a bog's integrity.

In Europe, the main alternative to peat bog sites is to go offshore. Research into the ecological impact of offshore renewable energy developments is even sparser than for onshore projects.

Nanofibers thinner than critical diameters have more strength

Scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have shown that tiny polymer nanofibers become much stronger when their diameters shrink below a certain size. Their research, published in the January issue of Nature Nanotechnology, could make possible stronger fabrics that use less material.

Professor Eyal Zussman and Dr. Oleg Gendelman of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering are the first to propose an explanation for this surprising behavior in very thin fibers.

When the researchers measured the mechanical properties of nylon nanofibers, they found the critical diameter – the diameter at which the nylon nanofiber abruptly becomes stiffer—to be approximately 500 nanometers (about as thick as a spider web strand, or 100 times thinner than a human hair). They explained the abrupt increase in stiffness by considering the molecular structure inside the polymer fiber.

According to Zussman, each polymer nanofiber is made up of countless large, complex molecules called macromolecules. Macromolecules try to align themselves when the fiber is forming, but since they are so long and tangled, it is impossible for them to sort themselves out and align uniformly throughout the entire nanofiber. As a result, the nanofiber is a patchwork of differently oriented macromolecule regions. The researchers calculated the size of these regions to be roughly the same as the critical diameter of the nanofiber

January 31, 2007

Move to ban ordinary light bulbs in California

A measure will be submitted to ban ordinary light bulbs in California starting in 2012 The measure will be submitted and voted upon this year.

Rosenfeld, winner of the Enrico Fermi Presidential Award in 2006, said the switch from incandescent bulbs became feasible about five years ago when CFL (compact Florescent lights) performance improved.

I think that this is a reasonable move. Energy efficient bulbs are better for the environment and will help save people money. Saving energy will reduce the number of people killed by coal. This measure and copying this measure in other places is not enough. Conservation by itself will not be enough. We also need to get cleaner power sources to replace the coal that we are using. More nuclear power, solar, wind are needed as well as conservation.

Particulates from coal and oil pollution increases heart disease in women

This study confirms what I and many others have been saying. Coal pollution is the top energy problem. It is killing a lot of people now and we need to use every other cleaner energy source including nuclear power to reduce the use of coal for power generation.

Various scientific sources and regular news sources likes Forbes are reporting on a study which clearly shows that particulates (from coal and fuel pollution)greatly increase the risk of heart disease in older women.

Here is a longer list of news coverage

Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle have found postmenopausal women living in U.S. cities and exposed to average levels of fine particulate matter pollution, or PM 2.5, were drastically more at risk for getting cardiovascular disease and dying from its complications.

The study, which will appear Feb. 1 in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the largest study of its kind and the first to evaluate the effects of air pollution on new cases of cardiovascular disease in healthy subjects. It's also the first to examine local air-pollution levels within a city -- by taking data from several air-quality monitors in different neighborhoods of one city -- rather than comparing rates between cities, which is considered a less accurate measure.

The metropolitan areas tested in Kaufman and colleagues' study generally had average levels of PM pollution, from about 4 to 20 micrograms per cubic meter.

But with each increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter there was a 24-percent increase in the risk of a cardiovascular event among the study subjects and a 76-percent rise in the risk of death, the researchers found.

The researchers corrected for age, race, smoking status, educational level, household income and other markers that could skew the results.

PM can travel into the deepest areas of the lungs when inhaled, and exposure has been linked in past studies to several health conditions, from aggravated asthma to premature death in people with heart and lung disease, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The California Children's Health Study showed PM 2.5 exposure was linked to a slowing of lung growth in children, which compromised the lungs' long-term function. The research found both long-term and short-term exposure to fine particles is associated with sickness and death.

A follow-up to one major study, Harvard's Six Cities, suggested a reduction in PM 2.5 levels subsequently lowers a person's long-term risk of death.

Unlike earlier studies, it looked not just at deaths, but also at heart attacks, coronary disease, strokes and clogged arteries. These problems were 24 percent more likely with every 10-unit rise in particles. Almost 3 percent of the women suffered some kind of cardiovascular problem.

Discovery Channels view of 2057

Discovery channel has a series on the future of 2057

They are way to conservative on what they are projecting. The chat transcript with series host futurist Michio Kaku shows that he is not up to date on the latest technologies. He thinks that the most powerful quantum computer calculation is 3*5=15. This was the most powerful but now there is Dwave performing seating plan algorithms.

He thinks the longest carbon nanotubes are 7mm.
Arrays of carbon nanotubes can be grown over 7 mm long

4 cm long carbon nanotubes were made in 2004

Michio also does not believe in the singularity and thinks that Moore's law could end in 2020.

The show has a view of automated robots helping to perform invasive heart replacement surgery. I think regenerative medicine and less invasive techniques will be more dominant.

January 30, 2007

'Origami lens' makes high resolution cameras 8 times thinner

From, engineers at UC San Diego have built a powerful yet ultrathin digital camera by folding up the telephoto lens. This technology may yield lightweight, ultrathin, high resolution miniature cameras for unmanned surveillance aircraft, cell phones and infrared night vision applications.

Above: cross section of an eightfold imager. Below: cut-out view of the same imager. The blue lines illlustrate the path the light follows as it moves from aperture to light sensor. Credit: UC San Diego

In the laboratory, the engineers compared a 5 millimeter thick, 8-fold imager optimized to focus on objects 2.5 meters away with a conventional high-resolution, compact camera lens with a 38 millimeter focal length.

Military defense may get a step up on offense

There are two developing technologies.

The millimeter radiation system for Active denial. The pain beam. It works out to 500+ meters. They are talking deployment in 2010. They are already in various field trials.

I wrote about theHPM (High Power Microwave) pulses--powerful enough to destroy enemy electronics--can be produced without the need for explosives or huge electrical generators. They are talking systems in the terawatt range to fry navy ships and 100 gigawatts to take out cruise missiles.

They could also make better sensor system on a fighter-size aircraft that could generate enough power, with a 1-ft. resolution, to see stealthy objects at 100 miles.

If Russia and China and other military powers can see through US stealth then a big US advantage will go away.

The next link talks about petawatt power, blowing apart protein molecules in a coluomb explosion.

So some observations and questions:
1. If the active denial system power was boosted. by say US, Russia and China (or any other major country) then it would easily be a longer range death to the unshielded beam. This would be a hinderance and would bog down attacking forces. If military personal in planes, on the ground have to be constantly shielded they will be slower. Can planes fly with the necessary shielding? Can high power versions of the active denial systems get enough range.

2. Combining the anti-electronics and anti-personal beams from large shielded ground installations combined with stealth defeating sensors would shift the balance of power significantly back towards defense. It is easier to make heavy beam shielding than it is to make it mobile for flight or vehicles.
I believe Russia and China are about as advanced as the US in terms of microwaves and millimeter wave technology. The Russians in the cold war were ahead in the high powered version.
I think the Chinese ability to hit the GPS satellites, possibly soon be able to see through stealth and these new beam technologies would mean that the aspects of recent significant US domination would be taken away. Fights against Russia and China would now be even more less likely to happen because they would be even longer slower slogs in the initial phases.

Human directed fighters and unmanned UAVS would both be vulnerable to one of the two beams How much can the effective range of the beams be increased ?

3. What happens in the molecular nanotechnology (MNT) world ? If you make bigger and more efficient beam projection arrays.
Could the right frequencies be manipulated to spot any MNT built UAVs. Could the MNT UAVs get hardened against the radiations?
Could the beams be used to detect and slow any MNT UAV attack to protect nuclear or some other deterrence. How would the nuclear electronics get protected to get payload to target?

Nanoengineered concrete could cut CO2 emissions

One group of engineers at MIT decided to focus its work on the nanostructure of concrete, the world's most widely used material. The production of cement, the primary component of concrete, accounts for 5 to 10 percent of the world's total carbon dioxide emissions; the process is an important contributor to global warming.

Cement is manufactured at the rate of 2.35 billion tons per year, enough to produce 1 cubic meter of concrete for every person in the world. If engineers can reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the world's cement manufacturing by even 10 percent, that would accomplish one-fifth of the Kyoto Protocol goal of a 5.2 percent reduction in total carbon dioxide emissions.

If the researchers can find-or nanoengineer-a different mineral to use in cement paste, one that has the same packing density but does not require the high temperatures during production, they could conceivably cut world carbon dioxide emissions by up to 10 percent.

This aspect of the work is just beginning. Ulm estimates that it will take about five years, and says he's presently looking at magnesium as a possible replacement for the calcium in cement powder. "Magnesium is an earth metal, like calcium, but it is a waste material that people must pay to dispose of," he said.

Inflatable habitats for Polar and Space Colonists

Inflatable dome for cold, high-latitude regions on Earth. The main figure (a) shows a cross-section of the suggested biosphere, and the small figure (b) shows a top-down view. The important components are labeled: a thin, transparent double film on the sunlit side (1), a reflective cover on the shaded side (2), control louvers (3), the entrance (5), and an air pump/ventilator (6). The direction of the Sun is indicated by beams of light (4).
Humanity has long since established a foothold in the Artic and Antarctic, but extensive colonization of these regions may soon become economically viable. If we can learn to build self-sufficient habitats in these extreme environments, similar technology could be used to live on the Moon or Mars.

In a recent article submitted to, Bolonkin and Cathcart have designed an inflatable, translucent dome that can heat its interior to comfortable temperatures using only the weak sunlight of high latitudes. While many details remain to be worked out, the essential concept is sound. To improve the energy efficiency of the structure, they propose adding multiple insulating layers, aluminum-coated shutters, and a fine electrical network to sense damage to the structure. The dome would be supported entirely by the pressure of the air inside, which can be adjusted to compensate for the added buoyancy caused by high winds.

The principle advantages of this design are the low weight and flexibility of the material. If only a few people at a time need shelter, an enclosure the size of a small house would weigh only about 65 kg, or as much as a person. This is light enough even for a space mission, and setting up would be as easy as turning on an air pump. For large colonies, enough membrane to enclose 200 hectares would weigh only 145 tons. The interior would be warm and sheltered, a safe environment for the construction of more traditional buildings and gardens.

January 29, 2007

Engineer Poets Biofuel and Sustainable energy analysis

Engineer-poet had an interesting analysis of a comprehensive program of biofuels.

He suggests this program for the nation:

* Finance the fastest practical development and pilot test programs for solid-oxide fuel cells, molten-carbonate fuel cells and especially direct-carbon fuel cells. Processing systems for biomass carbonizer off-gas to feed SOFC's should be a priority.
* Block the issuance of permits for any coal-burning powerplants without plans for full carbon sequestration.
* Require most new vehicles to be PHEV's.
* Promote or require plug-in facilities for new or renovated construction.
* Some sort of net metering or other feed-in law is required for the grid.
* Get rid of all preferences and mandates for alternative fuels; incentives should be created by taxes on oil, coal and natural gas.

I would note that my previous article shows that even an highly optimistic view of PHEV would take until about 2040 to replace current cars. As I have noted, coal kills one million people per year, so it is still necessary to get more nuclear power, solar and wind as well so that coal and oil can be replaced sooner. Also, since it is unlikely that the above recommendations will be fully implemented and we cannot depend on any single technology or solution panning out, we should try to move forward with all of the alternative energy options that have a chance for significant impact.

Gains in efficiency need to take into account the growth in demand. Almost everyone in the USA has a car now. In 30 years, most people in China, India and other countries will also have cars (even if there is a lot of highly successful mass transit systems and policies). 600 million cars now will be about 2 billion or more in 30 years.

Engineer Poet has a blog ergosphere

Optimistic conversion to hybrids and plugin hybrid cars

Total global car and truck sales in 2010 are expected to be 73 million which is up from 65 million in 2005. China had 4.1 million cars sold in 2006 and expects 8 million in 2007. The USA is making buying about 16.5 million cars and trucks.

Toyota is targeting sales of 1 million hybrids per year in 2010.
They are trying to achieve that goal sooner

If consumers keep snapping up hybrids and automakers begin to integrate the technology throughout their product lines - including pickup trucks - then hybrids might quickly reach 20 percent of new vehicle sales by 2010 and 80 percent by 2015 [of the US new car market], according to another Booz Allen Hamilton report. That's the most optimistic of three scenarios the management consulting firm laid out. In the "high adoption" scenario, hybrids would save 2 million barrels of gasoline a day by 2015; in the "medium adoption" scenario, 800,000 barrels of gasoline.

There are roughly 235 million cars and light trucks on the road in the US today. In 2002, there were 590 million passenger vehicles in the world. This could double by 2020. It will take another 10 years past the time almost all new cars are hyperefficient plugin hybrids before the installed base gets mostly replaced.

January 28, 2007

Moore's Law Extended to at least 22 nanometers

Using an undisclosed thick hafnium-based material for its high-k films in gate-stack applications, Intel claims that it is able to boost the overall performance, while also reducing transistor leakage by more than 10 times over current silicon dioxide technology. NEC Corp. is moving high-k into production, while IBM Corp. has disclosed the technology as well.

Transistors can be made smaller, potentially doubling the total number in a given area, their speed can be increased by more than 20 percent, or power leakage can be cut by 80 percent or more.

Intel has a good description of the work

This image shows the insulating layer (yellow) and the electrode (blue) have been changed.