April 26, 2007

Better prostate cancer test

A far more accurate blood test for prostate cancer has been created The American Cancer Society projects that in 2007 there will be 219,000 new cases and 27,000 deaths. Yet detecting the disease early has always been problematic.

The new tests accuracy: about 3 percent of the time, when the test was positive, there was no prostate cancer there. In 6 percent of cases, there were false negatives [meaning the test came out negative but the patient did have cancer].

This compares to the PSA test where 80 percent of the positives turn out negative.
An estimated 1.3 million to 1.6 million men undergo biopsies every year to identify the 230,000 or so patients with cancer.

Widespread adoption of this test could help identify prostate cancer in the early stage when it is relatively easy to successfully treat. Perhaps over 94% of the cases could be identified early.

New nanoparticle and weighing and counting cells

From physorg, barium titanate (BaTiO3) nanoparticles in a polymer matrix could allow fabrication of improved capacitors able to store twice as much energy as existing devices. The improved capacitors could be used in consumer devices such as cellular telephones – and in defense applications requiring both high energy storage and rapid current discharge.

MIT researchers have found a way to measure the mass of single cells with high accuracy.

This illustration shows an artistic depiction of the concept that enables measuring the mass of a single bacterium and single nanoparticles in fluid with a very high resolution. A hollow resonator, represented by a hollow, fluid-filled guitar, vibrates while small particles, represented here by a bacterium, flow through it. As the particles flow through the resonator, they change the frequency (tone) of the vibration. Credit: Thomas Burg

So far, the researchers have weighed particles with a resolution down to slightly below a femtogram (10-15 grams), but Manalis believes that with refinements, the sensitivity could potentially be lowered by several orders of magnitude within a few years. "Every step along the way will open up new possibilities," he said.

The researchers can also measure the mass density of particles or cells "by varying the density of the surrounding solution," said Michel Godin, co-lead author and postdoctoral associate in biological engineering.

The research team is already looking into several applications for the new technique.

One area of great promise is creating a device that would mimic the cell-counting capabilities of flow cytometers, which are often used to monitor CD4 cell numbers in AIDS patients. By counting CD4 cells, a type of immune cell, doctors can tell how far a patient's AIDS has progressed. However, flow cytometry devices, which work by bouncing light off a flowing stream of cells, are too large and expensive to be useful in developing countries where many AIDS patients live.

Advancednano part of carnival of space

Check out the carnival of space at the whyhomeschool blog My giant space bubble article is at the end of the carnival of space.

April 25, 2007

Rapid-fire pulse brings Sandia Z method near goal of high-yield fusion reactor

This achievement has been described as "amazing" and "the biggest breakthrough in energy generation in decades". It seems to indicate that no scientific hurdle stands in the way of nuclear fusion. Just 5-7 years of engineering and configuring about 60 next generation linear transformer drivers. Then refining the system for commercial use starting in 20 years or less. All the pieces are now ready and proven, we just need to put them together for commercial nuclear fusion. The Z-pinch system is also the basis of the minimag Orion space propulsion concept which enables speeds 50 times or more faster than current chemical rockets

An electrical circuit that should carry enough power to produce the long-sought goal of controlled high-yield nuclear fusion and, equally important, do it every 10 seconds, has undergone extensive preliminary experiments and computer simulations at Sandia National Laboratories' Z machine facility. It has been reliably used 11,000 times.

From Siberia, not Area 51: Sandia researcher Bill Fowler tests circuits on an LTD device able to produce large electrical impulses rapidly and repeatedly. Photo by Randy Montoya

The new system, called a linear transformer driver (LTD), was created by researchers at the Institute of High Current Electronics in Tomsk, Russia, in collaboration with colleagues at Sandia.

The circuit — a switch tightly coupled to two capacitors — is about the size of a shoebox and is termed a "brick." When bricks are tightly packed in groups of 20 and electrically connected in parallel in a circular container resembling a large cherry lifesaver, the aggregate, or "cavity" as the physicists would have it, can transmit a current of 0.5 megamperes at 100 kilovolts.

Because the cavities are modular, they can be stacked like donuts on a metal prong called a stalk. Arranged in a suitable configuration, they could generate 60 megamperes and six megavolts of electrical power, enough (theoretically) to generate high-yield nuclear fusion within the parameters necessary to run an electrical power plant.

The next-generation cavity model, now being tested in Tomsk, transmits 1.0 megamperes at the same voltage and with the same rapidity. Five such units have been built; four have been purchased by Sandia, and one by the University of Michigan. The units cost $160,000 each. They too, according to Sandia scientist and project leader Mike Mazarakis, who supervised the tests at the Siberian site, are performing without flaw.

The LTD technology is 50 percent more efficient than current Z machine firings, in terms of the ratio of useful energy out to energy in. Z is currently 15 percent efficient to its load (already a very high efficiency among possible fusion machines).

But fired repeatedly, the machine could well be the fusion machine that could form the basis of an electrical generating plant only two decades away. Progress in this arena might eventually require funding from DOE's energy arm.

To confirm the new Z concept would take $35 million over five to seven years to build a test bed with 100 cavities. If successful, future generations of Z-like facilities would be constructed with LTDs.

Funding thus far has come from two US congressional initiatives through DOE-NNSA Defense Programs, Sandia's internal Laboratory Directed Research and Development monies, and Sandia's Inertial Confinement Fusion program.

"It's like building a tinker toy," says Matzen. "We think we need 60 megamperes to make large fusion yields. But though our simulations show it can be done, we won't know for certain until we actually build it."

Further reading:
Z-pinch has also achieve 2 billion degrees which enables smaller and cleaner fusion plants that can burn helium 3

Metamaterials could boost the power and efficiency of the z-pinch I think the system could approach the performance of a fusion power system and could even transition into being a full fledged fusion power system with a post-ignition z-pinch.

The Z-pinch system is also the basis of the minimag Orion space propulsion concept which could enable travel to Mars in 90 days or less using sub-critical explosions. A full fusion propulsion system would be even more powerful.

Graphene 'spintronic' devices

The Brookhaven group uses magnetism to manipulate spin in graphene, a material consisting of flat sheets of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern. They've proposed ways to make materials consisting of layers of graphene mated to magnetic and nonmagnetic layers.

These "graphene-magnet multilayers" (GMMs) are expected to retain their properties at room temperature, an important practical requirement for spintronic devices. By properly arranging the magnetization of the magnetic layer(s), they can be used to create a full spectrum of spintronic devices, including (re-)writable microchips, transistors, logic gates, and more. Using magnetism for spin manipulation also opens exciting possibilities for creating active, re-writable and re-configurable devices whose function changes depending on the magnetization pattern written on the magnetic medium.

"Graphene is quite unique," Zaliznyak says, "in that an ideally balanced sheet is neither a conductor nor an insulator. Related to this is the fact that electrons in graphene behave in such a way that their mass effectively vanishes!" In other words, he explains, they move without inertia, like rays of light or particles accelerated to relativistic speeds — that is, close to the speed of light.

"This development can open the way for the use of spintronics in practical room temperature devices, an exciting prospect," said DOE Under Secretary for Science Raymond L. Orbach.

The graphene spintronic devices are competing with organic nanowires and some other materials for spintronics.

U of Cincinnati Researchers Shatter World Records with 18mm Long Carbon Nanotube Arrays

UC researchers (in conjunction with First Nano, a division of CVD Equipment Corporation of Ronkonkoma, New York) have produced extremely long CNT arrays (18 mm) on their EasyTube System using a Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) process.

“First, we were able to grow the arrays up to 18 mm,” he says, ticking off the achievements. “Second, we produced a uniform carpet of 12-mm carbon nanotube arrays on a 4-inch wafer, which moves the invention into the field of scaled-up manufacturing for industrial application. Third, we filed a patent application on the inventions at the US Patent and Trademark Office and, fourth, we were invited to participate in a very prestigious workshop (invitation-only) organized by NASA and Rice University, where we presented our latest results. The workshop focused on “Single Wall Carbon Nanotube Nucleation and Growth Mechanisms.” This event was attended by the best scientists in the world working on synthesis carbon nanotubes, from Japan, China, Europe and the United States. Our presentation was accepted very well and confirmed that with the current record of 18-mm-long carbon nanotube arrays, and also with the big area growth on 4-inch wafers, we are leading in manufacturing extremely long CNT arrays

Total fish production going up because of aquaculture

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has also recently published a report which provides more detail on global trends that reinforce the importance of developing aquaculture. In 2004, capture fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 106 million tonnes of food fish, providing the highest apparent per capita supply on record. Of this total, aquaculture accounted for 43 percent.

Preliminary estimates for 2005 suggest that total world fishery production reached almost 142 million tonnes. This would represent an increase of over 1 million tonnes compared with 2004, as well as a new record level of production.

Aquaculture continues to grow more rapidly than all other animal food-producing sectors, with a global average annual growth rate of 8.8 percent per year since 1970, compared with only 1.2 percent for capture fisheries and 2.8 percent for terrestrial farmed meat production systems.

Aquaculture production in 2004 was reported to be 45.5 million tonnes with a value of US$63.3 billion or, if aquatic plants are included, 59.4 million tonnes with a value of US$70.3 billion.

The FAO also see biotech (GM food) as being a key part of solving food scarcity

April 24, 2007

A Potentially Habitable Earth-like World

From Centauri Dreams, a historic discovery has been made of a potentially habitable earth-like planet around the star Gliese 581 (20.5 light years from us). The planet is about five times Earth mass, one whose radius is only 1.5 times that of our own world.

Follow up on the impact of superconducting motors

Al fin added good information on superconducting motors Note: Al fin has an excellent website with excellent coverage and analysis of future technology.

Motors over 1,000 hp utilize approximately 25 percent of all electric power generated in the United States.

I had reported yesterday that Korea should have commercial superconducting motors by 2010-2011

Here is a pdf from 2005 that presents the benefits of 1000 horsepower and larger superconducting motors

A clear comparison of the advantages of superconducting motors

Here is a government report on the industrial electrical motor market. 5 MB, 28 page pdf prepared in 1998 and published in 2000. However, still very useful as this is a slow changing market It details which industries use the motors. It also indicates that there are more energy savings to be had by following best practices for system efficiency than just getting more efficient motors. However, more efficient superconducting motors would save over 14 billion kWh beyond the best standard motors. Plus the existing motors are not the most efficient as many are quite old. So overall savings would be about 34 billion kWh out of the total of about 700 billion kWh used each year.

About 3500 manufacturing locations represent the bulk of the big industrial motor usage. The operational money savings would be an inducement to relatively fast adoption of the new superconducting motors when they are available. Perhaps 10 years instead of 15-20 years. Especially if the government in the United States and other countries were to allow for accelerated writeoff of older equipment.

Progress in the Science of Regenerative medicine

Stanford researchers have shown that a human evolutionary ancestor, the sea squirt, can correct abnormalities over a series of generations, suggesting that a similar regenerative process might be possible in people. Missing limbs, scarred hearts, broken spines, and wounded muscles always try to repair themselves, but often the result is invalidism or disease. Even some tumors try to revert to normal, but are unsuccessful. If the genetic sequence described in the sea squirt applies to humans, this study represents a major step for regenerative medicine.

The sea squirt is more closely related to humans than many would expect. It may appear similar to a sea sponge, worm, or plant, but it is actually not closely related to any of these organisms. Sea squirt larvae have primitive spinal cords, distinguishing them in the greater chain of life and on the evolutionary ladder. Specifically, sea squirts, like humans, belong to a group of animals called chordates (organisms with some level of spinal cord development), and many scientists believe that sea squirts approximate what the very first human chordate ancestor may have been like 550 million years ago. By studying this modern day representative of our evolutionary ancestor, researchers are able to identify fundamental principles of complex processes, such as healing and organ regeneration, on which new treatments are based.

Hydrogen and biomass could provide US energy using 6-15% of the land

UPDATE: Engineer-Poet analyzes the H2CAR proposal and shows why it is a misleading diversion from real solutions

Proposed process

One of the possible configurations of the proposed H2CAR process. Some images courtesy of Department of Energy/National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Clearly it would be best if coal was not used but biomass only.

Scientists have demonstrated that a hybrid system of hydrogen and carbon can produce a sufficient amount of liquid hydrocarbon fuels to power the entire U.S. transportation sector. Using biomass to produce the carbon, and solar energy or nuclear energyor wind energy to produce hydrogen, the process requires only a fraction of the land area (6-15%) needed by other proposed methods (25-58%).

The reason for significant decrease in land area requirement for the H2CAR process as compared to conventional processes is that hydrogen production from solar energy is an order of magnitude more efficient than biomass growth, which typically grows with an average energy efficiency of less than 1%.

CO2 is not waste in the H2CAR process.

If H2CAR was enabled and cars and trucks were converted to plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles then excess biomass could be used for residential and commercial power. The U.S. could even become an exporter of oil.

H2CAR and the conversion to plug-in hybrids and electrics would take a minimum of 20 to 30 years but it is a better plan than many others that have been suggested.

April 23, 2007

Current and future news about China

China's Economy continues to grow at about 10.6% for 2007. In the first quarter China grew at 11.1%.

The yuan is at 7.72 to the US dollar.

Xinhua Finance and the Milken Institute have launched eight indicators which provide more insight into the Chinese economy.

There is the RMB pressure indicator which indicates there is 1.96 times more pressure on the RMB (yuan) Jan 2007 than in Jan 2000. This pressure seems to indicate that the Yuan will rise faster against the dollar.

A 400 page report produced by chinese officials indicates that global warming could devastate China's development Unless steps are taken, water scarcity and increasingly extreme weather could reduce nationwide crop production by up to 10 percent by 2030. Wheat, rice and corn growing capacity could fall by up to 37 percent in the second half of the century. "For a considerable time to come, developing the economy and improving people's lives remains the country's primary task," the report says.

Asia's cancer rate could rise almost 60 percent to 7.1 million new cases a year by 2020. Aging populations, tobacco use and increasing rates of obesity are fueling the incidence of deadly tumors.

The chinese population has 1.1 billion debit cards and 50 million credit cards.
China's Internet users will hit more than 140 million by the middle of 2007.

Chinese consumers remain frugal with a high savings and low debt rate From Businessweek, the wage growth for chinese workers has lagged the overall growth of the chinese economy and the chinese government is trying to stimulate growth

Nanotechnology offers hope for treating spinal cord injuries, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease

This reviews the Nanofrontiers : visions for the Future of Nanotechnology published by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. There is 51 page pdf. It is mostly refinement of current nanotechnology with some discussion of more advanced nanotechnolology. The most interesting area is the discussion of medical impacts of near term nanotechnology. This is a fairly conservative report with a view that enhancement to transhumanism would be a troubling thing.

Dr. Samuel I. Stupp, director of the Institute of BioNanotechnology in Medicine at Northwestern University, is using self-assembling nanostructures to accelerate healing and regeneration in mice In a dramatic demonstration of what nanotechnology might achieve in regenerative medicine, paralyzed lab mice with spinal cord injuries have regained the ability to walk using their hind limbs six weeks after a simple injection of a purpose-designed nanomaterial. Stupp and his coworkers designed molecules with the capacity to self-assemble into nanofibers once injected into the body with a syringe. When the nanofibers form they can be immobilized in an area of tissue where it is necessary to activate some biological process, for example saving damaged cells or regenerating needed differentiated cells from stem cells.
This same work also has implications for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, both diseases in which key brain cells stop working properly.

There is a webcast and a podcast

There is a 51 page pdf with a review of this and other nanotechnology work This 51 page pdf is interesting and has some good contributors like Fraser Stoddard, Phaedon Avouris(IBM), Jamse Heath, James Tour and almost fifty others.

Some of the contributors to the nanotechnology impact on medicine section were: John Ryan, Director, Bionanotechnology Interdisciplinary Research Centre, Oxford University, Leroy Hood, biologist, Institute for Systems Biology, Samuel Stupp, chemist, Northwestern University, Elias Zerhouni, Director, National Institutes of Health, Davis Baird, philosopher, University of South Carolina Nanocenter.

The pdf, Nanofrontiers : visions for the Future of Nanotechnology, has on pages 29- 36, a discussion of impacts on medicine.
Predictive medicine: more detailed and frequent analysis of biomarkers (200+ disease biomarkers). This would identify disease at early stages.
Preemptive medicine: This is a focus on early intervention, but also requires early diagnosis. Help doctors detect treatable diseases early and stop them at the earliest stage.
Personalized medicine: Develop real-time, sensitive monitoring of drug treatment.
Participatory (Regenerative) medicine: the above regeneration of nerve tissue using nanoscaffolds is an example. The pdf discusses the issue of transhuman potential and inequality as a potentially negative thing.

On page 21, 22: they discuss bottom up building. (molecular nanotechnology)
they say it will take decades of work if it proves possible.

On pages 24-28: they discuss using nanotechnology to solve energy problems. They briefly discuss using nanotechnology for more efficient solar cells, batteries, energy transmission, and more efficient systems, processses and devices.

On pages 37-41 they discuss using nanotechnology for water treatment.

Significant impacts for energy and water applications are possible with refinement of our current form of nanotechnology and will compete with non-nano technologies.

Samsung Develops New, Highly Efficient Stacking Process for DRAM

Samsung Electronics today announced that it has developed the first all-DRAM stacked memory package using ‘through silicon via’ (TSV) technology, which will soon result in memory packages that are faster, smaller and consume less power. The new wafer-level-processed stacked package (WSP) consists of four 512 megabit (Mb) DDR2 (second generation, double data rate) DRAM (dynamic random access memory) chips that offer a combined 2 gigabits (Gb) of high density memory. Using the TSV-processed 2Gb DRAMs, Samsung can create a 4 GB (gigabyte) DIMM (dual in-line memory module) based on advanced WSP technology for the first time. Samsung’s proprietary WSP technology not only reduces the overall package size, but also permits the chips to operate faster and use less power.

In today’s MCPs, memory chips are connected by wire bonding, requiring vertical spacing between dies that is tens of microns deep. That wire bonding process also requires horizontal spacing on the package board hundreds of microns wide for the die-connecting wires. By contrast, Samsung’s WSP technology forms laser-cut micron-sized holes that penetrate the silicon vertically to connect the memory circuits directly with a copper (Cu) filling, eliminating the need for gaps of extra space and wires protruding beyond the sides of the dies. These advantages permit Samsung’s WSP to offer a significantly smaller footprint and thinner package.

Inside the new WSP, the TSV is housed within an aluminum (Al) pad to escape the performance-slow-down effect caused by the redistribution layer. Due to the complexity of DRAM stacking, this represented a much more difficult engineering feat than that accomplished with the first WSP, announced last year involving NAND flash dies.

There has been considerable concern that MCPs with high-speed memory chips with speed of 1.6Gb/ps next generation DRAM, would suffer from performance limitations when connected using current technologies. Samsung’s WSP technology resolves these concerns.

Samsung’s proprietary wafer-thinning technology, announced last year, has been applied to improve the thin-die-cutting process (previous thin cutting caused curving of the resultant piece).

On the path to molecular imaging MRI

Ibm researchers are making strides to their ultimate goal of viewing a protein's structure in 3-D. The researchers would need to precisely detect the locations of single hydrogen atoms in the protein. For this, the researchers would have to detect the magnetism, or spin, of a single nucleus, a resolution of about 0.1 nanometers. This is a challenge, says Chris Hammel, a physicist who does magnetic resonance research at Ohio State University.

Balancing act: In a new magnetic resonance imaging technique, researchers at IBM use a silicon cantilever to image a tiny sample of calcium fluoride with a resolution of 90 nanometers. The calcium fluoride is deposited on the tip of the cantilever’s thick free end. Credit: IBM Research

Images can be made of calcium-fluoride samples on the cantilever pillars and the distance between the pillars with a resolution of 90 nanometers. The volume of the calcium fluoride is 60,000 times smaller than the volume that conventional MRI microscopy can detect.

100 mbps internet speed over existing copper lines

A european research project, Eureka 3051 virtual fiber , has successfully trialed 10 Mbps symmetrical internet speed for 28000 people over existing copper cable lines. Local businesses in the trial were able to obtain 50 MB/s symmetrical data connectivity. The technology has subsequently been developed to provide 100 MB/s connectivity and has already been sold to South Korea, demonstrating the global market for such an approach.

B80, Buckball Boron should exist

Rice University researchers predict that Boron 80, B80, buckyball boron should exist

Korea making 1300 HP Superconducting motor for 2010

Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co., Ltd. (Doosan) and the Korean Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI) - have utilized AMSC's proprietary high temperature superconductor (HTS) wire to successfully develop and demonstrate a very compact, high-efficiency superconductor 1300HP motor for civilian and military applications. This news follows the announcement three weeks ago that AMSC had successfully completed factory acceptance testing of its own 36.5 MW (49,000 horsepower) HTS ship propulsion motor for the U.S. Navy.

UPDATE: Doosan website now indicates March 2011 for completion of the superconducting motor development

Development of Low Speed and High Capacity
Superconducting Motor
Period: 2007. 4 ~ 2011. 3

Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction R&D Center and KERI (cooperation)
The motor produced by Doosan and KERI utilizes approximately 5,000 meters of AMSC's HTS wire and is capable of generating 1,300 horsepower at 3,600 revolutions per minute. The system is significantly smaller, lighter, quieter and more efficient than the traditional motors sold today of the same power rating, which are made with copper coils.

Doosan plans to begin production of motors for the military and commercial markets in the 2010-2011 timeframe. AMSC estimates that the annual worldwide market for industrial motors with ratings of 1,000 horsepower or higher is over $1 billion.

A 1000HP motor in the Bugatti weighs about 400 kg

April 22, 2007

Aubrey de Grey at the Global Investors Forum

Aubrey de Grey, Methuselah Foundation chair, recently presented at the Global Investors Forum. The event was attended by somewhat more than 100 quite senior people from pension fund management, life assurance and wholesalers of long duration investments to institutional clients.

Hopefully this will lead to more funds for SENS life extension.

Robert Freitas interview at

The transcript of an email interview Robert Freitas is up at

What I found to be the highlights of the interview:
1. Culminating 5 years of intermittent effort Robert Freitas has finished his latest theoretical scaling study of a new diamondoid medical nanorobot called the "chromallocyte". This is the first full technical description of a cell repair nanorobot ever published.

One conceptually simple form of basic cell repair is chromosome replacement therapy (CRT), in which the entire chromatin content of the nucleus in a living cell is extracted and promptly replaced with a new set of prefabricated chromosomes which have been artificially manufactured as defect-free copies of the originals. The chromallocyte is a hypothetical mobile cell-repair nanorobot capable of limited vascular surface travel into the capillary bed of the targeted tissue or organ, followed by extravasation, histonatation, cytopenetration, and complete chromatin replacement in the nucleus of one target cell, and ending with a return to the bloodstream and subsequent extraction of the device from the body, completing the CRT mission....

2. In February, 2007, Robert Freitas and Ralph Merkle completed the core of a major three-year project to computationally analyze a comprehensive set of DMS reactions and tooltips that could be used to build diamond, graphene (e.g., carbon nanotubes), and all of the tools themselves including all necessary tool recharging reactions.

So far they have defined a total of 53 reaction sequences incorporating 252 reaction steps with 1,192 individual DFT-based reaction energies reported. (These reaction sequences range in length from 1-13 reaction steps (typically 4) with 0-10 possible pathological side reactions or rearrangements (typically 3) reported per reaction.) The reactions have been laid out in tables and systematized.

These reactions will form the core of our roadmap to develop diamond mechanosynthesis along a direct path that leads, ultimately, to the design and construction of the first diamondoid nanofactory.

3. Based on the computational chemistry work, their latest estimates suggest that an ideal research effort paced to make optimum use of available computational, experimental, and human resources would probably run at a $1-5M/yr level for the first 5 years of the program, ramp up to $20-50M/yr for the next 6 years, then finish off at a ~$100M/yr rate culminating in a simple working desktop nanofactory appliance in year 16 of a ~$900M effort.

4. Robert Freitas believes that early nanofactories necessarily will be extremely primitive. They will be very limited in the composition and complexity of products they can build and in the types of chemical elements and feedstocks they can handle. They will be fairly unreliable and will require significant supervision and maintenance. They will be relatively expensive to own and operate. Over a period of perhaps 10-20 years, nanofactory costs and capabilities will slowly improve and product costs will gradually drift downward toward the likely $1/kg regulatory floor, giving society some time to adjust to new threats as nanofactories become increasingly ubiquitous in our environment and economy.

5. The interview also discusses details about feedstock choices for nanofactories, ecophages and nanoshields.