January 11, 2008

3d waveguide is promising for optical computers

Researchers have created a new process for making complex miniature waveguides that can steer optical signals in three dimensions through solid materials. All optical computers could approach the theoretical speed of a photonic switch which is estimated to be on the order of petahertz (10**15). They should definitely achieve multi-terahertz speeds. So 1000 to 1 million times faster than current computers at 4 Gigahertz (4 * 10**9).

MIT has another approach which they hope will yield all optical computers by 2012

A 3-D waveguide carved into photonic crystals, he says, "can be used to trap and control light, and has potential applications in everything from more-efficient lasers to optical signal processing for telecommunications or other applications," he says.

Photonic crystals can be made by packing together beads of silica. When they're packed together in a precise three-dimensional arrangement, it is possible to create what is known as a complete photonic bandgap material. This material, says Braun, will act as a perfect reflector for a particular narrow band of light--dictated by the size of the beads. "It's a perfect reflector for all angles of incidence."

If channels can be created within the material, any light entering the material via these channels will not be able to escape, except through the channels. So once in the material, it becomes possible to manipulate the light in unusual ways, such as by trapping it or bending it around very sharp corners without fear of it escaping.

Braun's group has gotten low refraction problems by using the polymer as a template for creating a complete photonic bandgap material out of silicon, which has a higher refractive index.

While Braun's structures are not yet useful for making working devices, they are an important first step toward creating more complex and functional optical devices.

Nanotechnology enhanced steel and concrete for safer skyscrapers

New materials are making the new generation of skyscrapers safer.

The problem for the World Trade Center was that regular steel:
Above 750 F, steel starts to lose its structural integrity, and at 1100 F, steel loses 50 percent of its strength.
A new formula infuses steel with nanoscale copper particles, this formula could maintain structural integrity at temperatures up to 1000 degrees F.

There is new concrete reinforced with whisker-thin steel fibers and carbon nanotubes to increase strength. Those nanotubes, tested by MIT professor John E. Fernandez, give the concrete flexibility to prevent cracking, and when cracks do occur the nanotubes can bridge the divide and stop them from spreading. If those tiny tubes could be filled with a bonding agent, the concrete could also heal itself.

New York’s Freedom Tower will be built around a 3 ft. reinforced concrete core wall that will help transfer loads throughout the building. “This tower was designed to be redundant,” lead designer Jeffrey Holmes says. “If something happens to a column or a beam, there’s plenty of strength and robustness so the building can heal itself by transferring loads to other areas.”

There are also better emergency evacuation systems

Burj Dubai, meanwhile, has expanded its evacuation procedures with a “lifeboat” elevator mode that includes 10 high-speed shuttles, among them two fire service cars in the concrete core.

An Israeli company called Escape Rescue Systems suggests that building managers have collapsible escape cabins stored on the roof. The cabins, which could carry 150 people, would swing onto the side of the building and descend to the ground quickly

Myostatin inhibitors discussed in UK Human enhancement technologies in Sports report

There is a 173 report that was published in 2007 on Human enhancement techonologies in Sports.

Myostatin inhibitors are four times more effective than high doses of steroids

Phase 2 clinical trials for humans are underway

From pages 136-137 of the report:

Memorandum from Dr Henning Wackerhage and Dr Aivaras Ratkevicius, School of Medical Sciences, College of Life Sciences & Medicine, University of Aberdeen

Anti-myostatin Drugs: The New Anabolic Steroids?
1. Myostatin function
Myostatin is a key regulator of muscle mass: it is a peptide that potently inhibits muscle growth. Experimental myostatin knockout in mice or some natural mutations of the myostatin gene increase muscle mass dramatically in mice, cattle and human beings. The case of a boy with twice the normal muscle mass due to a “natural” myostatin mutation was reported widely.

2. Anti-myostatin drugs
Muscle wasting is a problem in a wide variety of conditions that include normal ageing, HIV/AIDS and some forms of cancer. Anti-myostatin therapy seems suitable for many of these conditions. Myostatin is an “easy” drug target because it can be targeted extracellularly, acts tissue specific and because endogenous inhibitors can be mimicked. It is also a commercially attractive drug target because it is suitable for the prevention of muscle wasting in the whole elderly population. This could be a crucial intervention leading to greater independence in ageing Western societies.

3. Current drug development
Wyeth are currently testing the eVectiveness of a monoclonal anti-myostatin antibody (MYO-029) on patients with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) and limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD). Results are expected for late 2006. Thus it seems likely that antimyostatin drugs will become available well before the 2012 London Olympics. Bogus anti-myostatin treatments (Myozap) are commercially available showing the desire of bodybuilders and others to achieve muscle growth by inhibiting myostatin.


6. Executive summary
Myostatin inhibitors are likely to become available well before the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

There is little doubt that they will be abused by bodybuilders and other strength/power athletes. Myostatin inhibitors are likely to be safer than anabolic steroids, growth hormone and clenbuterol which are drugs currently used to attempt to increase muscle mass. If monoclonal anti-myostatin antibodies are used to inhibit myostatin then the detection in blood should be easy but it is unclear whether the detection in urine is feasible. Research is needed to develop urine-based detection methods.

China, Taiwan and US relations will improve in 2008

Wired has an analysis of what would happen in a war between the United States and China in space.

I think the analysis is meaningless because I do not believe that the United States and China would go to war. Both countries are prospering under the current world system and world order. The Wired analysis speculates about the trigger for a war being Taiwan. However, if the KMT and Ma Ying-jeou win the election January 12 and March 22, then relations with China will improve and the risk of war over Taiwan will become virtually non-existent. I predict that the KMT and Ma will both win their elections. I could only imagine their loss if there was massive vote rigging or if enough Taiwanese voters were tricked by another DPP stunt.

There is a legislative election going on right now in Taiwan (Jan 12, 2008)

Some expect the KMT to win 70 seats [out of 113 seats] in a landslide.

Taiwan's presidential election is set for March 22, 2008

The opposition Kuomintang, which favors closer mainland links, aims to retain control of parliament as a springboard to winning the presidency in March from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party. Ma Ying-jeou, the opposition's presidential candidate, has pledged to raise growth and cut unemployment by easing trade and investment restrictions with the mainland.

`Most Taiwanese want better ties with China, and Saturday's vote, if the KMT takes more seats as expected, could indicate a rejection of confrontational policies,' said Yang Tai-shuenn, a political professor at the Chinese Culture University in Taipei.

By the end of 2008, China's economy (plus Macua and Hong Kong) will over ten times larger than the Taiwan economy. Similar to the ratio of China's economy to Hong Kong back in 1997 and the current ratio of Canada's economy relative to the United States.

I would predict that China's yuan to be between 6.4 and 6.7 at the end of 2008. China's economy would be about 26.2 trillion yuan at the end of 2008. China+Hong Kong + Macau combined GDP would be about 4.2 to 4.3 trillion US dollars vs 400 to 410 billion for Taiwan. With Chinese currency appreciation in the 9-12% per year range by 2014-2017 chinese per capita income could be in the range of half of Taiwan's. China's economy at that time would be very near the size of the US economy on an exchange rate basis.

There is no reason for China to go to war to fight for what they can soon buy.

Voters will also decide on two referenda: whether the KMT should give back assets gained in the more than five decades it governed Taiwan, and an opposition-proposed vote on wiping out official corruption.

The campaign has been marked by corruption charges and trials affecting both parties. Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, is on trial for embezzlement, forgery and misuse of funds, and prosecutors said they have enough evidence to charge the president on similar grounds if not for his presidential immunity. Both have denied the charges.

Chen's son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming, is on trial for insider trading after the Supreme Court last month revoked a conviction and asked the High Court to reconsider the case.

`President Chen has vowed to strive for Taiwan's economy, but in fact he has been striving only for his family's economy,' Ma told supporters at a rally in southern Taiwan on Jan. 6.

Ma himself also faces corruption charges, with prosecutors on Jan. 9 appealing his Dec. 28 acquittal on charges he misused government funds while mayor of Taipei.

China's currency is appreciating and as of Jan 11, 2008 it is 7.25 yuan to 1 US dollar.

The US subprime problems and possible recession in 2008 will not slow China's economic growth by much.

This is because China's economy is not as dependent upon exports as many believe it to be.

From the Economist magazine:
The value added share of exports is less than 10% of manufactured exports. China's economy is driven not by exports but by investment, which accounts for over 40% of GDP.

This raises an additional concern: that weaker exports could lead to a sharp drop in investment because exporters would need to add less capacity. But Arthur Kroeber at Dragonomics, a Beijing-based research firm, argues that investment is not as closely tied to exports as is often assumed: over half of all investment is in infrastructure and property. Mr Kroeber estimates that only 7% of total investment is directly linked to export production. Adding in the capital spending of local firms that produce inputs sold to exporters, he reckons that a still-modest 14% of investment is dependent on exports. Total investment is unlikely to collapse while investment in infrastructure and residential construction remains firm.

Dragonomics forecasts that in 2008 the contribution of net exports to China's growth will shrink by half. If the impact on investment is also included, GDP growth will slow to about 10% from 11.5% in 2007. This is hardly catastrophic. Indeed, given Beijing's worries about the economy overheating, it would be welcome.

Public trust in Chen fell to 29 percent in December, according to data by the Taipei-based Global Views Survey Research Center. Support for his DPP was 29.5 percent, compared with 48.6 percent for the KMT, Global Views said. The KMT wants to win over 60 seats while the DPP says it aims to get 50.

Apparently resigned to an election loss today, Democratic Progressive Party standard-bearer Frank Hsieh holds President Chen Shui-bian responsible and wants him to quit calling the shots in the 2008 campaign.

Hsieh did not openly call on President Chen to resign as chairman of the ruling party, but noted Wu Po-hsiung has vowed to step down as Kuomintang chairman, if the DPP wins 50 seats in the new Legislative Yuan.

"Wu wants to take responsibility for a Kuomintang loss," Hsieh said, suggesting that Chen should follow suit if he fails to achieve the 50-seat target he has set for the ruling party going into the elections.

Yeast life span extended to equivalent of 800 yeast years

Biologists have created baker’s yeast capable of living to 800 in yeast years without apparent side effects.

The basic but important discovery, achieved through a combination of dietary and genetic changes, brings science closer to controlling the survival and health of the unit of all living systems: the cell. The study is scheduled to appear in the Jan. 25 issue of the journal PLOS Genetics. A companion study, showing that the same genetic changes in yeast reverse the course of an accelerated aging syndrome, appears in the Jan. 14 issue of the Journal of Cell Biology. Longo’s group put baker’s yeast on a calorie-restricted diet and knocked out two genes, RAS2 and SCH9, that promote aging in yeast and cancer in humans.

This is double five times extension of yeast in 2005.

They also had a study recently published in Cell (Issue 130, pages 247-258, 2007) reported that a mouse with a gene mutation first identified by Longo’s group lived 30 percent longer than normal and also was protected against heart and bone diseases without apparent side effects.

January 10, 2008

Cheaper thermoelectric from silicon nanowires

Rough silicon nanowires synthesized by Berkeley National Lab researchers demonstrated high performance thermoelectric properties even at room temperature when connected between two suspended heating pads.

Nearly all of the world’s electrical power, approximately 10 trillion Watts, is generated by heat engines, giant gas or steam-powered turbines that convert heat to mechanical energy, which is then converted to electricity. Much of this heat, however, is not converted but is instead released into the environment, approximately 15 trillion Watts.

Bulk silicon is a poor thermoelectric material at room temperature, but by substantially reducing the thermal conductivity of our silicon nanowires without significantly reducing electrical conductivity, we have obtained ZT values of 0.60 at room temperatures in wires that were approximately 50 nanometers in diameter,” said Yang. “By reducing the diameter of the wires in combination with optimized doping and roughness control, we should be able to obtain ZT values of 1.0 or higher at room temperature.”

Here is chart that shows how the more expensive bismuth telluride and its alloys get a lot better when 1D wires are 3 nanometer or less in diameter and a lot lot better when less than 1 nanometer in diameter.

The ability to dip a wafer into solution and grow on its surface a forest of vertically aligned nanowires that are consistent in size opens the door to the creation of thermoelectric modules which could be used in a wide variety of situations. For example, such modules could convert the heat from automotive exhaust into supplemental power for a Freedom CAR-type vehicle, or provide the electricity a conventional vehicle needs to run its radio, air conditioner, power windows, etc.

When scaled up, thermoelectric modules could eventually be used in co-generating power with gas or steam turbines.

ZT around 5 or 10 would kick ass and would let 20-35% of the waste heat from say a nuclear or coal power plant to be captured. 20-35% of 15TW of waste heat would be 3-5TW.

A ZT of 1-2 would be 10-18% of the waste heat.

The goal of the freedomcar project is a ZT of 10 in 2014.

Figure (a) is a cross-sectional scanning electron microscope image of an array of rough silicon nanowires with an inset showing a typical wafer chip of these wires. Figure (b) is a transmission electron microscope image of a segment of one of these wires in which the surface roughness can be clearly seen. The inset shows that the wire is single crystalline all along its length.

If the silicon nanowire pans out for inexpensive bulk production at ZT of 1 to allow for 10% of waste heat to be converted to electricity, then if applied to the 104 nuclear reactors in the USA then about 15GW could be captured. Retrofitting the old plants with thermoelectric around pipes and around the core would not effect operations and would be like building ten new large reactors. 100 GW is generated by the existing US reactors now but about 150GW of waste heat is generaly lost. This would be 120 billion kwh on existing reactors which would be more than double all of the non-hydro renewable power in the USA now.

A ZT of 10 would be able to capture 35% of the waste heat and would be like the electricity from 35 new reactors generating 53GW.

Nature article: Silicon nanowires as efficient thermoelectric materials

Here we report efficient thermoelectric performance from the single-component system of silicon nanowires for cross-sectional areas of 10 nm 20 nm and 20 nm 20 nm. By varying the nanowire size and impurity doping levels, ZT values representing an approximately 100-fold improvement over bulk Si are achieved over a broad temperature range, including ZT 1 at 200 K

IEEE spectrum has an article on this work.

An array of nanowires [green] convert heat from the temperature difference between two slivers of a microchip. Current in flowing through a heater [red] causes the temperature difference.

Both research teams [Caltech and the University of California, Berkeley] found that they could decrease silicon's thermal conductivity—and therefore increase the conversion efficiency—by fashioning the material into nanowires with diameters of 10 to 100 nanometers and introducing defects in the silicon that slowed the flow of phonons—the acoustic vibrations in the crystal lattice of a material that carry heat.

“Defects are important here,” says Peidong Yang, a materials scientist at Berkeley. “They can block the phonon transport from one end to the other end, so the thermal conductivity can be drastically reduced.”

Yang says his group engineered defects into the nanowires at three different length scales. First, by fashioning the bulk silicon into nanowires, they made the material very small compared with the phonons so that the size of the wires themselves affected how the phonons could move. They also made the surface of the wires rough, introducing a set of defects at a smaller scale. Finally, they doped the silicon with boron to introduce defects at an atomic level.

James Heath induced a greater drop in thermal conductivity by making his nanowires even smaller than Yang's—only 10 to 20 nm in diameter. Normally, a wire would carry two types of phonons, he explains: one that causes the wire's diameter to expand or contract, and one that causes it to lengthen or shorten. Like a rubber band that gets thinner when stretched, the two work in opposition. But when the nanowires get small enough, the two types merge into a single type of phonon, and that slows down the heat transport even more.

Unfortunately, when Heath made the wires 10 nm wide, which gave him the best results for thermal conductivity, the electrical conductivity crucial to thermoelectric conversion also dropped.

Thinking on a larger scale, Yang would like to see systems that convert the waste heat from car engines or power plants.

Both teams are pressing ahead to see what they can achieve next. The researchers believe a material with a ZT of 3 or 4 would be very appealing commercially. Heath hopes to apply his findings to other materials that might start out with better properties than silicon and be improved further. He's doing work with silicon germanium, for instance, which has much lower thermal conductivity than pure silicon.

Stealth submarines invisible to sonar with metamaterial design

Duke University engineers will reveal Friday (Jan. 11) details of an acoustic cloak fabricated from metamaterials that they claim can render objects invisible to sonar. If this works then we will have unprecedented control to hide from the effects or to enhance the effects of sound and other waves in all kinds of material. Submarines invisible to sonar would extend the security of nuclear weapons deployed on submarines against future sensing technology. Even if one side had nanotechnology it would take a lot to find invisible to sonar stealth submarines that were carrying nuclear weapons. Extending the deterrent of nuclear weapons makes for a more militarily stable future world.

Although the acoustic cloak has only been mathematically simulated, the engineers claim that devices based on their blueprint can make submarines invisible to sonar. "We have shown that acoustic cloaks theoretically do exist," said Duke University professor Steven Cummer. "Our recipe shows how to make an acoustic material that essentially opens up a hole in space--making whatever is inside that hole 'disappear'."

Further, the engineers claim that the technique proves that waves can be redirected around objects in different media, opening up the possibility of improving the acoustics in concert halls by cloaking structural beams from sound waves in air. It may even be possible to redirect seismic waves around buildings [making them earthquake resistant], or ocean waves around ships.

Besides fabricating an acoustic cloak based on the blueprint, the researchers also claim that the technique will make it possible to use metamaterials to bend and concentrate sound waves in new ways.

Self-assembled DNA nanostructures for gene detection in a single cell

The world’s first gene detection platform made up entirely from self-assembled DNA nanostructures has been made. The other interesting aspect is to generalize the techniques used to rapidly create 100 trillion reactive and functional DNA components with easily readable results. If the attached differentiated labels could be rapidly scanned on mass then one could get a clear reading of the molecular composition of a solution. This method will allow for the barcoding of individual molecules for easy identification and analysis.

Left is an AFM image of DNA nanoarrays bound to their RNA targets at 1500nm x 1500nm scale. On the right (10 times magnification) show the barcode (white dots) that identifies the nanoarray and the RNA hybridization signal on the DNA nanoarray (white bar). Credit: Yonggang Ke

Hao Yan, Assistant Professor at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, led an interdisciplinary ASU team to develop a way to use structural DNA nanotechnology to target the chemical messengers of genes, called RNA.

A recent breakthrough of making spatially addressable DNA nanoarrays came from Paul Rothemund’s work on scaffolded DNA origami, a method in which a long, single-stranded viral DNA scaffold can be folded and stapled by a large number of short synthetic “helper strands” into nanostructures that display complex patterns.

“But the potential of structural DNA nanotechnology in biological applications has been underestimated, and if we look at the process of DNA self-assembly, you will be amazed that trillions of DNA nanostructures can form simultaneously in a solution of few microliters, and very importantly, they are biocompatible and water soluble,” said Yan.

“In this work, we developed a water soluble nanoarray that can take advantage of the DNA self-assembling process and also have benefits that the macroscopic DNA microchip arrays do not have,” said Yan. “The arrays themselves are reagents, instead of solid surface chips.”

Yan refers to the self-assembled DNA nanoarrays as nucleic acid probe tiles, which look like a nanosized postage stamp. In a single step, the M13 scaffold system can churn out as many as 100 trillion of the tiles with close to 100 percent yield.

Yan’s team designed three different DNA probe tiles to detect three different RNA genes along with a bar code index to tell the tiles apart from each other. “Each probe can be distinguished by its own bar code, so we mixed them together in one solution and we used this for multiplex detection,” said Yan. The group uses a powerful instrument, atomic force microscopy (AFM), which allows the researchers to image the tiles at the single molecule level.

On the surface of each DNA probe tile is a dangling single stranded piece of DNA that can bind to the RNA target of interest. “Each probe actually contains two half probes, so when the target RNA comes in, it will hybridize to the half probes and turn the single stranded dangling probes into a stiff structure,” said Yan. “When it is stiffened, it will be sensed by the atomic force microscope cantilever, and you can see a bright line, which is a height increase. The result is a mechanical, label-free detection.”

The technology is able to detect minute quantities of RNA. “Since the DNA-RNA hybridization has such a strong affinity, in principle, a single molecule would be able to hybridize to the probe tile,” said Yan.

Hao Yan's lab

Carnival of Space Week 36

Space Carnival week 36 is up at Steinn Sigurdsson blog Dynamics of Cats

My contribution was that new high energy density superconductors are getting us significantly closer to being able to enable all magnetic ground launch into space.

Slenian boondocks talks about an air launched single stage to orbit concept. Although I think if you air launch anything then it two stage to orbit because the aircraft would be the first stage.

Centauri dreams talks about Europa's oxidized oceans

Resveratol proven to combat some symptoms of aging in humans

From Wired,Scientists have proof in human subjects that resveratrol, a derivative of an ingredient in red wine, combats some symptoms of aging. Sirtris Pharmaceuticals announced the results here on Monday at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference.

Resveratol, naturally found in red wine, stimulates a gene known as SIRT1, which has been linked with extended lifespans in rodents. The new study is the first time similar effects have been replicated in humans.

Sirtris' proprietary formulation of the drug significantly reduced blood sugar in 67 diabetic patients as compared with a placebo group. The results are an important milestone in bringing resveratrol-related drugs to market.

The study, however, ran just 28 days and had conservative goals: to measure whether a resveratol formulation called SRT501, which is five times easier for the body to use than naturally occurring resveratol, was safe and had some activity in humans. Getting the drug through the regulatory process will take until at least 2012, the company said.

Patients in the trial were given 2,500 or 5,000 milligrams of the drug in liquid form. The unusually high doses were necessary because resveratrol is not a very potent molecule. That's why the company is also working with other molecules -- potential drugs -- that are unrelated to resveratrol but also stimulate the SIRT1 gene. Some of the molecules could be up to 1,000 times more potent than resveratrol, he added.

Still, SRT501 was effective enough that Sirtris is continuing to push the drug through clinical trials. They have started a Phase IIa study combining SRT501 with the most common diabetic drug, metformin. The IIa trial should be done by the second half of 2008.

Bussard's inertial electrostatic confinement fusion WB-7 prototype activated

EMC2 Fusion has built an upgraded model of Bussard's last experimental plasma containment device, which was known as WB-6. "We got first plasma yesterday," Nebel said - but he and his colleagues in Santa Fe, N.M., still have a long way to get the WB-7 experiment up to the power levels Bussard was working with.

Older prototype

This work is very important because we could have commercial fusion in as little as 5 years if the work is successful. Success would also transform space travel. (40 to 1000 times cheaper to get into space)

WB-6 (the previous prototype) had 2.5 billion fusions per second

The initial analysis showed that Bussard's data on energy yields were consistent with expectations, Nebel said.

He said he's hoping to find out by this spring whether or not Bussard's concept is worth pursuing with a larger demonstration project.

"We don't know for sure whether all that's right," he said, "but it'd be horrible for Mother Nature to give you what you expect to see, and have it all be bogus."

Introduction to IEC fusion

This is paraphrasing from the Tom Ligon description.

IEC fusion uses magnets to contain an electron cloud in the center. It is a variation on the electron gun and vacuum tube in television technology. Then they inject the fuel (deuterium or lithium, boron) as positive ions. The positive ions get attracted to the high negative charge at a speed sufficient for fusion. Speed and electron volt charge can be converted over to temperature. The electrons hitting the TV screen can be converted from electron volts to 200 million degrees.

The old problem was that if you had a physical grid in the center then you could not get higher than 98% efficiency because ions would collide with the grid.

UPDATE: The problem with grids is that the very best you can do is 2% electron losses (the 98% limit). With those kinds of losses net power is impossible. Losses have to get below 1 part in 100,000 or less to get net power. (99.999% efficiency) [thanks to M Simon for the clarification]

Bussard system uses magnets on the outside to contain the electrons and have the electrons go around and around 100,000 times before being lost outside the magnetic field.

The fuel either comes in as ions from an ion gun or it comes in without a charge and some of it is ionized by collisions with the madly spinning electrons. The fuel is affected by the same forces as the electrons but a little differently because it is going much slower. About 64 times slower in the case of Deuterium fuel (a hydrogen with one neutron). Now these positively charged Deuterium ions are attracted to the virtual electrode (the electron cloud) in the center of the machine. So they come rushing in. If they come rushing in fast enough and hit each other just about dead on they join together and make a He3 nucleus (two protons and a neutron) and give off a high energy neutron.

Ions that miss will go rushing through the center and then head for one of the grids. When the voltage field they traveled through equals the energy they had at the center of the machine the ions have given up their energy to the grids (which repel the ions), they then go heading back to the center of the machine where they have another chance at hitting another ion at high enough speed and close enough to
cause a fusion.

Details of the polywell fusion reactor. (Polywell fusion and Inertial Electrostatic Confinement fusion are the same thing).

Easy low cost and very low radiation fusion

Previous bussard fusion update

UPDATE: A prediction on how this might play out if it is successful.

Oil prices can fluctuate for a lot of reasons. There is currently a $20-30 premium because of fear of more middle east conflict. The peak oil fears might also be adding $5-10 to the price per barrel. So any immediate hit to prices would be from changing the psychology around oil prices not from actual shifts in the economics of supply and demand. The supply and demand would get impacted over one to two decades. Once the full scale system is proved out then there would be a rush to build them.

I think if the prototypes pan out this spring, most people will not believe it. So I do not think the working prototypes should effect price more than $1-2 per barrel if anything. The working full scale system (in 3-8 years) $5-15 from a psychological shift. Maybe $20 with the optimism.

Just as the thermoelectrics have actual released products (car seat warmers) but most people do not believe that the better thermoelectrics in the labs are on the way starting within 5 years. However, it will take time for the thermoelectrics to be deployed.

The promise of highly successful first two prototypes WB7 and then WB8 should definitely green light the full scale positive power system. That would still take 5 years (maybe 2-3 if people got excited and accelerated development and effort with promising results and might take 8 years or more if there are unforeseen problems.)

From the descriptions it is clear that the IEC fusion devices are far simpler than the ITER tokomak fusion devices. It is also simpler than nuclear fission reactors. So success would mean faster transformation, but it would still take five to ten years for big infrastructure impact to the point that oil would start to be significantly displaced. Plus it would first hit coal for electricity. Unlike current fission reactors which take 4-6 years to build, these IEC fusion reactors might be buildable in 1-3 years. There is still the issue of licensing and regulatory approvals. It is not clear what that licensing/regulatory process would be but it should be shorter than nuclear fission licensing as the IEC fusion is easier to shutoff and does not have nuclear fuel or waste.

The full scale IEC fusion reactors would be about 4 meters in radius and weigh about 14 tons and generate 1GW and 8 meters for about 128GW. Power will be 5-20 times cheaper.

The power generator is about 10 to 12 ft across for an output between 100 MW and 1,000 MW. Power output scales as the 7th power of size. Double the size and you get 128X as much power.

Other coverage at power and control

And at Dean Esmay's site

Bussard had made a case that bremsstrahlung losses would not be an insurmountable problem to generating net power The successful operation of the WB7 prototype should prove whether Bussard was right or not.

Controversies exist over whether the ions and electrons will thermalise and whether bremsstrahlung losses will emit more energy in an unrecoverable form than can be produced by the fusion reaction.

According to Todd Rider in A general critique of inertial-electrostatic confinement fusion systems, net energy production is not viable in IEC fusion for fuels other than D-T, D-D, and D-He3, and breakeven operation with any fuel except D-T is unlikely. The primary problem that he discusses is the thermalization of ions, allowing them to escape over the top of the electrostatic well more rapidly than they fuse. He considers his paper optimistic because he assumes that core degradation can be countered.

Nevins makes an argument similar to Rider's in [W.M. Nevins, Phys. Plasmas <2> (10), 3804 (October, 1995)], where he shows that the fusion gain (ratio of fusion power produced to the power required to maintain the non-equilibrium ion distribution function) is limited to 0.1 assuming that the device is fueled with a mixture of deuterium and tritium. A fusion gain of about 10 is required for net energy production.

From M. Simon's explanation in comments:
Rider's chief criticism is related to the recirculating power required in a colliding beam machine: "In virtually all cases, this minimum recirculating power is substantially larger than the fusion power, so barring the discovery of methods of recirculating the power at exceedingly high efficiencies, reactors employing plasmas not in thermodynamic equilibrium will not be able to produce net power". This is a very valid criticism and is acknowledged by Robert Bussard. However, Bussard claims that the discovery of what he terms the Wiffle Ball effect and by circulating electrons escaping from the Wiffle ball at high efficiencies he can get the total electron circulation efficiency into the 99.999% to 99.9999% range, making colling beam machines of his proposed design viable for power production. Experiments are currently under way (Jan. 2008) to test Dr. Bussard's ideas.

January 08, 2008

Silicon electronics providing early versions of nanomedicine expectations

Nanowerk has a review of nanomedicine. In particular the EU view from the 7th FWP which refers to the European Union's Seventh Framework Program

this shows the many different aspects and capabilities related to nanomedicine

The expected change in the understanding of disease that they discuss in this quote:
Future nanomedical diagnostics with an ultimate level of sensitivity will enable doctors to discover the slightest abnormality in our bodies – raising the question if and what clinical relevance such information will have.

"Diagnostic nanotechnologies eventually will provide the ability to detect and characterize individual cells, subtle molecular changes in DNA, or even minor changes in blood chemistry - scenarios that will likely cause pause and reconsideration of what it means to be a 'healthy person' versus a 'person who has a disease'" says Bawa. "In a 'nanoworld,' we might have to reconsider how to diagnose someone who has, say, cancer. Is the presence of a genetic mutation known to have a predisposition for causing cancer in a single cell a diagnosis? Or is it simply a risk factor? How many cells from the body must be of a cancerous nature for it to be defined as cancer? 1? 50? 1000?"

Once diagnostic technologies have reached this stage it will require reconceptualizing understanding of disease

Is already arriving with labs on a chip that can accurately count cancer cells and find 99.1% of metastatic cancer in the blood.

Silicon biosensors are being implanted into the body with a gel to prevent rejection.

There are bloodstream robots that are millimeter sized or smaller from Korea and Japan and and Israel.

Israel bloodstream robot

With the rejection suppression gel, rice grain size or larger computers could be placed into the body which would be an earlier cruder but possibly very functional version of what nanomedicine could accomplish. MEMS and NEMS will get very good over the next 5-10 years and the conservative expectations that we will need to wait for full blown nanotechnology for what are considered nanomedicine applications are wrong. Molecular nanotechnology will make what we can place into the body a millions times higher performance or more. However, even advanced silicon and polymer and pre-molecular nanotechnology will provide capabilities far beyond what those who ridicule "submarines in the body" expect.

Do not underestimate clever and creative use of existing and near term technology. It can deliver what some people think we need to wait for full blown molecular nanotechnology to get. It also means clever use of molecular nanotechnology will blow away all the unimaginitive scenarios.

Four behaviors add 14 extra years of life

If you do not smoking; exercise; moderate alcohol intake; and eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day then you will live on average an additional fourteen years compared with people who adopt none of these behaviours.

Mathematical model for droplets in an electric field

Mathematical model created for formation of droplets in an electric field. Further progress in extending the model for variations under more conditions will be key in formalizing the process of improving inkjet printers Inkjet printing technology is the basis of printable electronics and many rapid prototyping fabrication systems.

An accurate computational model will allow for rapid optimization of inkjet based systems.

Carbon nanotubes on plastic 312 megahertz instead of kilohertz for current plastic circuits

Scientists from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Brewer Science, Inc. have used carbon nanotubes as the basis for a high-speed (312 megahertz) thin-film transistors printed onto sheets of flexible plastic. Their method may allow large-area electronic circuits to be printed onto almost any flexible substrate at low cost and in mass quantities. (Most Intel and AMD processors are in the 2 to 3 Gigahertz range)

The Pentium II (mid-97 to 1999) had processor speeds of 233-450 Mhz The new carbon nanotubes of plastic have processor speeds in that range and can be printed in large sheets in process taht is similar to inkjet printing.

Applications for these flexible electronics include electronic paper, RFID (radio frequency identification) tags to track goods and people, and “smart skins,” which are materials and coatings containing electronic circuitry that can indicate changes in temperature or pressure, such as on aircraft or other objects.

Our electronic-grade solutions contain ultrapure carbon nanotubes without using any surfactant. Our printed transistor's carrier mobility is much higher than similar devices developed by other groups, it exhibits a speed of 312 megahertz, and can carry a large current.

As part of the printed-electronics effort, carbon nanotubes have been investigated as a medium for high-speed transistors, with very promising results. But one method of depositing the nanotubes onto the plastic, “growing” them with heat, requires very high temperatures, typically around 900°C, which is a major obstacle for fabricating electronic devices.

Brewer Science, Inc. developed an electronic-grade carbon-nanotube solution. The researchers deposited a tiny droplet of the solution onto a plastic transparency film at room temperature using a syringe, a method similar to ink-jet printing.

Other printable electronics.

Kovio's inkjet printable electronics has electron mobility of ~80 cm2/(V·s).

Many companies and R&D labs have been aiming at getting the electron mobility—expressed in units of cm2/(V·s)—of organics semiconductors up to the 0.5-1.0 range of amorphous-silicon TFTs.

Previous reports have shown that C60 can yield mobility values as high as six square centimeters per volt-second (6 cm2/V/s). However, that record was achieved using a hot-wall epitaxy process requiring processing temperatures of 250 degrees Celsius – too hot for most flexible plastic substrates.

Though the transistors produced by Kippelen’s research team display slightly lower electron mobility – 2.7 to 5 cm2/V/s – they can be produced at room temperature.

Graphene has high potential. Electron mobility in graphene is 200,000 cm2/Vs and more than 100 times higher than for silicon - researchers believe graphene has the potential to improve upon the capabilities of current semiconductors and open up exciting new possibilities. These include ultra-high frequency detectors required for full-body security scanners, which would make people transparent by operating at terahertz (THz) frequencies. However, most estimate it will be 20 years before that full potential will be realized.

Fuhrer's group measured 100,000-cm2/volt-second mobility at room temperature for the nanotube structures. That's about 70 times the 1,500-cm2/V-s mobility of standard silicon chips and 10 times the 10,000 cm2/V-s achievable by silicon's mobility leaders, discrete high-electron-mobility transistors (HEMTs). The mobility record set by InSb in 1955 was 77,000.

Reviewing the specifics of the MIT 50% power uprate plans

MIT/Westinghouse are developing annular fuel and looking at nanoparticles to improve the thermal properties of water for nuclear plants. The peak hotspot operating temperature can go down while efficiency is increased. I usually mention this technology as something which would make a huge difference in nuclear power generation. I am reviewing the work and updating with some recent journal references.

Solar power is 1/30th of 1%. Boosting nuclear power by 50% would be like doubling hydroelectric and all renewable power. It would be 300 times all of the solar power in the USA in 2006.

The fuel is especially well suited for pressurized water reactors, which make up 60% of the world's 443 reactors. Hejzlar says that utilities in the U.S., Japan, and South Korea have expressed interest in his design.
The annular fuel would boost power by 50%.
The nanoparticles in fluid would boost power by 20% for existing reactors and 40% for new reactors.
The cross shaped spiral design would boost boiler water reactors by 30%.

The MIT fuel is thin walled donuts with pellets inside and using nanoparticles in the fluid.

The tubes with uranium particles

The new design also helps diminish the chance of meltdown by slashing the temperature at which reactors must be operated, and it renders the spent fuel more proliferation-resistant.

Reactors that use the new fuel can operate at 700 °C—less than half of the 1800 °C required for conventional fuel. This takes the reactor temperature much farther away from the 2840 ° C at which meltdowns can occur. The temperature is so much lower because the doughnut shape enables heat to flow in two directions and the surface-area-to-volume ratio is about 60% higher, Hejzlar explains.

"A traditional fuel rod looks like a pencil, with the fuel pellets inside the tube and water flow on the outside of the tube. Annular fuel is like a thick-walled stra... or a very thin-walled doughnut," explains Edward Lahoda, a nuclear engineer at Westinghouse Corp., a major manufacturer of pressurized water reactors.

The new fuel is much more complex to manufacture than conventional cylindrical pellets. But when Westinghouse made a test run of producing the annular pellets, they achieved a "very good yield" of greater than 95%, Lahoda says. "Manufacturing is not a trivial issue," he stresses. "If you can't make them in millions of pellets and load them into hundreds of thousands of rods, the concept is useless."

In a three-year project completed recently [2006] for the U.S. Department of Energy, Hejzlar and Kazimi teamed up with Westinghouse and other companies to look at how to make a fuel for one kind of reactor, the pressurized water reactor (PWR), 30 percent more efficient while maintaining or improving safety margins. [the pilot study]

They changed the shape of the fuel from solid cylinders to hollow tubes. This added surface area that allows water to flow inside and outside the pellets, increasing heat transfer.

The new fuel turned out even better than Hejzlar dared hope. It proved to be easy to manufacture and capable of boosting the power output of PWR plants by 50 percent.

The next step is to commercialize the fuel concept, which will include testing a limited number of rods filled with the new pellets in an operating reactor and examining the results to ensure the safety and performance of the new fuel.

PWR Transition to a Higher Power Core Using Annular Fuel

The internally and externally cooled annular fuel is a new type of fuel for PWRs that enables an increase in core power density by 50% within the same or better safety margins as traditional solid fuel. Each annular fuel assembly of the same size dimensions as solid fuel has 160 annular fuel rods arranged in a 13x13 array. Even at the much higher power density, the fuel exhibits substantially lower temperatures and a Minimum Departure From Nucleate Boiling (MDNBR) margin comparable to that of traditional solid fuel at nominal (100%) power. The major motivation for such an uprate is reduction of electricity generation cost. Indeed, the capital cost per kWh(e) of a new reactor would be smaller than the standard construction of a new
reactor with solid fuel.

This option implies running a core with a mixture of both annular and solid fuel assemblies. In order to prove the technical feasibility of such an option, the thermal-hydraulics of this mixed core is investigated and the MDNBR is found to be either unaffected or improved. Consequently, a neutronic model is developed to verify and validate the neutronic feasibility of the transition from solid to annular fuel. This involvements assessment of the peaking factors and capability to provide control poisons within allowable concentrations The overall conclusion of this work is that annular fuel is a very promising option for existing reactors to increase their power by 50%, as it enables a significant uprate with an attractive return on investment. We show that, by a smart management of the transition, an internal return investment of about 22–27% can be achieved.

Nanoparticle Spiked water

Nanofluid can boost PWR power by 20% for existing reactors and 40% for new reactors

Jacopo Buongiorno, assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering, has come up with a way to change water's thermal properties. This change may contribute to plants' safety while boosting their power density, or the amount of energy they can pump out.

The efficiency of PWRs and BWRs is limited to around 33 percent, because water can be heated to only a certain temperature and only a certain amount of heat can be taken out of water. If that limit were pushed higher, more heat could be extracted, and the plant would generate more energy at a lower cost.

His laboratory works on nanofluids -- base fluids such as water interspersed with tiny particles of oxides and metals only billionths of a meter in diameter. Buongiorno's nano-spiked water, transparent but somewhat murky, can remove up to two times more heat than ordinary water, making it an ideal substance for nuclear plants.

Nanoparticles in the water that cools the outer surface of the vessel raise the amount of heat that can be drawn away from the core, making the plant less susceptible to the negative repercussions of a possible meltdown.

The key issue to be resolved before nanofluids can be used in nuclear plants, Buongiorno said, is the stability of the nanoparticles, which could agglomerate and settle quickly if appropriate chemical and thermal conditions are not carefully maintained.

Silicon cladding would be tougher and safer than zirconium alloy on fuel rods

MIT work to improve boiler water reactor performance and safety

Aggressive and new technology nuclear power uprates, new thermoelectronics and a climate change bill could boost nuclear power by 675% by 2030

Thermoelectrics being developed by the DOE freedomcar project can capture 50+% of waste heat for electricity

The EIA analysis of the effect of a climate change bill passing Two to three times more nuclear power from increased nuclear plant build. It does not consider the MIT work or the thermoelectrics.

On the changes of a climate change bill passing:
A bill is already in front of the Senate and >passed the senate committee.
Clinton and Obama would support a stronger climate change bill.
McCain co-authored the one analyzed by the EIA
The other republicans support nuclear power.
Michael Bloomberg has asked for a carbon tax which would have an even stronger effect than the climate change bill.
A lot of other work on improving nuclear reactor efficiency and performance.

Annular fuel special issue of American Nuclear Society 2007

Page 5 of Westinghouse 28 page 2004 worldview mentions the MIT 50% power uprate work

MIT fission research homepage

Another new take on solar power and thermoelectric conversion

Another potentially more efficient way to convert heat into electricity, from x-NASA super soaker inventor.

Here’s how it works: One MEA stack is coupled to a high- temperature heat source (such as solar heat concentrated by mirrors), and the other to a low-temperature heat sink (ambient air). The low-temperature stack acts as the compressor stage while the high-temperature stack functions as the power stage. Once the cycle is started by the electrical jolt, the resulting pressure differential produces voltage across each of the MEA stacks. The higher voltage at the high-temperature stack forces the low-temperature stack to pump hydrogen from low pressure to high pressure, maintaining the pressure differential. Meanwhile hydrogen passing through the high-temperature stack generates power.

“It’s like a conventional heat engine,” explains Paul Werbos, program director at the National Science Foundation, which has provided funding for JTEC. “It still uses temperature differences to create pressure gradients. Only instead of using those pressure gradients to move an axle or wheel, he’s using them to force ions through a membrane. It’s a totally new way of generating electricity from heat.”

January 07, 2008

Added analysis of the 60mpg hummer

I added some more analysis about the claimed 60mpg biodiesel Hummer. It would take a lot of increased efficiency for the modified engines to be that efficient as there is no streamlining or weight reduction.

It would be interesting and useful to see more independent testing of the fuel economy of the turbine/hybrid hummer. A 60 mpg hummer would need to have power sources that are about three times more efficient than a Toyota Prius which also gets about 60mpg. However, the Toyota Prius is about half of the weight at 2700lbs versus the Hummer at 4700lbs. Plus the Prius has 0.26 drag co-efficient while the Hummer has a drag coefficient of 0.5 to 0.57. About 60% of the power required to cruise at highway speeds is taken up overcoming air drag, and this increases very quickly at high speed. Perhaps the higher mpg figure is because the hydrogen that is added is not included in the calculation. It takes power to produce hydrogen.

However, the claims of getting one of the less fuel efficient models from 9mpg to 18mpg is more plausible. The Hummer H3 is rated at 16 mpg in the city cycle with both transmissions and 19 mpg (US) (14.7 L/100km) with the automatic or 20 mpg (US) (11.7 L/100km) with the manual on the highway. Increasing efficiency to the 32mpg range seems possible with an efficient diesel conversion.

Perhaps more fuel efficiency is coming from efficiently charging a smaller number and lighter batteries and capacitors for the electrical drive with a while driving basis with the turbine.

GM is trying to make robot driven cars by 2018

Physorg reports that General Motors plans to have robotically driven cars for commercial sale by 2018

The most significant obstacles facing the vehicles could be human rather than technical: government regulation, liability laws, privacy concerns and people's passion for the automobile and the control it gives them.

Much of the technology already exists for vehicles to take the wheel: radar-based cruise control, motion sensors, lane-change warning devices, electronic stability control and satellite-based digital mapping. And automated vehicles could dramatically improve life on the road, reducing crashes and congestion.

GM plans to use an inexpensive computer chip and an antenna to link vehicles equipped with driverless technologies. The first use likely would be on highways; people would have the option to choose a driverless mode while they still would control the vehicle on local streets, Burns said.

Larry Burns, GM's vice president for research and development, said the company plans to test driverless car technology by 2015 and have cars on the road around 2018.

Sebastian Thrun, co-leader of the Stanford University team that finished second among six teams completing a 60-mile Pentagon-sponsored race of driverless cars in November 2007, said a key benefit of the technology eventually will be safer roads and reducing the roughly 42,000 U.S. traffic deaths that occur annually - 95 percent of which he said are caused by human mistakes.

Later versions of driverless technology could reduce jams by directing vehicles to space themselves close together [vehicle platooning and drafting], almost as if they were cars in a train, and maximize the use of space on a freeway, he said.

"We might be able to cut those numbers down by a factor of 50 percent," Thrun said. "Just imagine all the funerals that won't take place."

I have discussed electrical guideways, vehicle platooning and dual mode transportation before

UCLA reports on progress and promise to reversing paralysis

Spinal cord damage blocks the routes that the brain uses to send messages to the nerve cells that control walking. Until now, doctors believed that the only way for injured patients to walk again was to re-grow the long nerve highways that link the brain and base of the spinal cord. For the first time, a UCLA study shows that the central nervous system can reorganize and follow new pathways to restore the cellular communication required for movement.

The UCLA team’s next step will be to learn how to entice nerve cells in the spinal cord to grow and form new pathways that connect across or around the injury site, enabling the brain to direct these cells. If the researchers succeed, the findings could lead to the development of new strategies for restoring mobility following spinal cord injury.

“Our study has identified cells that we can target to try to restore communication between the brain and spinal cord,” explained Sofroniew. “If we can use existing nerve connections instead of attempting to rebuild the nervous system the way it existed before injury, our job of repairing spinal cord damage will become much easier.”

The discovery could lead to new therapies for the estimated 250,000 Americans who suffer from traumatic spinal cord injuries. An additional 10,000 cases occur each year, according to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which helped fund the UCLA study

What if Michael Bloomberg ran for President in 2008 ?

Let us assume that Obama is the Democratic nominee and someone other than Rudy Giuliani is the Republican nominee.

Michael Bloomberg could run a solid centrist campaign and be the only candidate from New York. He would be more sane and stable and just as well financed as Ross Perot. Ross Perot won 19% of the vote but nothing in the electoral college.

One interesting scenario is if Bloomberg captures New York (31 electoral college votes) and say another big state or two (with a solid vice presidential selection and generally solid campaigning). He ends up with 60-150 electoral college votes and neither Obama or the Republican nominee gets a majority. I think for Michael Bloomberg to win the Republican party would need to continue to collapse in public opinion and the Democratic candidate would need to be out campaigned by Bloomberg.

The electoral college apportionment rules for a minority vote kick in.
A candidate must receive a majority of votes from the electoral college (currently 270) to win the Presidency. If in either election for President or Vice-President no one receives a majority, the election is determined by Congress (the House votes for presidential candidates, and the Senate votes for vice presidential candidates).

The Democrats would probably retain their control of the House and Senate, which would seem to give a democratic president in the event of any minority electoral college result in 2008.

If Bloomberg and the Republican and Democrat candidates all had minority electoral college numbers but Bloomberg had the most electoral college numbes and the Democrat second and the Republican third, then would Democrat controlled House and Senates vote for a more popular Bloomberg if that were the majority minority will of the people ? Something like 40% Bloomberg, 35% Democrat and 25% Republican in terms of electoral college numbers.

The Republicans running for president are very weak in terms of popularity.

Presidential prediction markets are fairly accurate predictors of election results

Candidate Party Price Change
Barack Obama D 39.90 +3.400
Hillary Clinton D 23.00 -4.000
John McCain R 14.50 +1.200
Rudy Giuliani R 11.40 +0.200
Mike Huckabee R 4.60 +0.000
Mitt Romney R 4.50 +0.300
Ron Paul R 2.30 +0.500
Michael Bloomberg R 1.70 -0.300

So it is 2 to 1 in favor of a Democrat winning and Obama and McCain are currently the favored candidates in the betting.

Both Ron Paul and Michael Bloomberg could go outside the normal nomination process and split up the normal two party action.

The Wall Street Journal believes that the threat of a Bloomberg campaign could force the Democrats and Republicans toward more centrist positions

Newsday considers the wildcard of a Michael Bloomberg candidacy

Bloomberg's chances likely would hinge on a difficult strategy in which he wins the more liberal Northeastern and West Coast states rich with electoral votes, plus some moderate Midwestern states such as Ohio. But even then he would fall short of 270 electoral votes, said Jason Gimpel, a government professor at the University of Maryland.

January 06, 2008

People in the US moving beyond middle class

The middle class earning between $30,000 and 100,000 is shrinking because more people are earning more than $100,000 There is a split into the regular middle class and a mass affluent class.

Economist Stephen Rose, defining the middle class as households with annual incomes between $30,000 and $100,000, says a smaller percentage of Americans are in that category than in 1979 -- because the percentage of Americans earning more than $100,000 has doubled from 12 to 24, while the percentage earning less than $30,000 is unchanged.

Census data on income shows this effect.

limit of
Upper limit of each fifth (dollars) top 5
Number __________________________________________ percent
Year (thous.) Lowest Second Third Fourth (dollars)
Current Dollars

2006 116,011 $20,035 $37,774 $60,000 $97,032 $174,012
In 2006, almost 20% of the people earned over $100,000. The 79 percentile level was $97,032.

1992 22/ 96,426 12,600 24,140 37,900 58,007 99,020
In 1992, only the top 5% earned over $100,000.

1979 18/ 80,776 7,000 13,000 20,001 29,000 46,860
In 1979, About 0.6% earned over $100,000.

Household income in the USA at wikipedia

The 2006 distribution of income up to $250,000
10% of those earning over $100,000 per year earned over $250,000. (Out of about 22 million earning over $100,000, 2.24 million earned over $250,000)