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March 28, 2008

Transhuman comic book series


There is a new comic book series entitled Transhuman

Note: a comment on the pictured excerpt talking about average life expectancy. Some countries such as Japan already have life expectancy over 82 years.

People who do not smoke, exercise, eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and moderate alcohol consumption live 14 years longer

In the not so distant future, pharmaceutical companies fight over the next advancement in their field. Heinrich Dowidet is our narrator in this documentary of how Chimera Corp and Humonics, Incoporated took iPharm’s folly with a R&D project and fought to rule the world. What is this advancement? Quite simply, the means to create post humans. Transhuman is a scathing indictment of the pharmaceutical industry and the leeches of ailing people that it produces.


The author Jonathan Hickman has his own website.

There is a seven page pdf preview sample.

I believe that safer and more effective forms of genetic engineering and drugs for modifying humans will be made. We already have useful but not always safe modification means currently. Lasik for eyesight, drugs (provigil and others) for cognitive enhancement, steroids for strength etc... for current capabilities.

I think that follistatin boosting myostatin inhibition will be made safe for strength enhancement with health benefits. There will also be more widely available and affordable powered devices with highly efficient power usage for always on ability and power generation from walking break assistance.

I also believe that life extension projects such as SENS will be effective. Initial success could come from mimicking calorie restriction, stem cell treatments, organ replacement and significant progress against specific diseases. The labels below provide a list of my articles on each topic.

Just better equipment and training techniques will also help significantly. New swimsuits may be an unfair advantage.
Three world records had already been broken by LZR-clad swimmers back in February, 2008. Eight more records fell in the past month, the suit is causing some serious waves.


Other gear for enhancing capabilities:
The Poseidon Discovery, is a simple to use rebreather, lets divers stay underwater at least three times as long as scuba gear can, and since you don't exhale into the water, you don't create bubbles or noise that can scare off fish.

Bill Stone's recreational model automates the safety system with built-in computers that check all components pre-dive, plus two oxygen sensors that monitor the gas mix. If the system spots an air-recycling malfunction, the mouthpiece vibrates and blinks an alert. Just flip its lever to inhale from a small fresh-air tank and return safely to the surface.


High tech gear for soldiers appear to be finding a funded niche.

Soldiers that actually used the system in Iraq stripped the Land Warrior [high tech gear] down, made the gear more functional, and discovered the equipment could actually be pretty useful in combat.

By consolidating parts, a 16-pound ensemble was whittled down to a little more than 10 [pounds]. A the digital gun scope was abandoned -- too cumbersome and too slow for urban fights. And not every soldier was ordered to lug around Land Warrior. Only team leaders and above were equipped.

The leaders of the 2nd Infantry Division's 5th Brigade Combat Team officially asked the Army to give them 1,000 units of an upgraded Land Warrior system. And now, Inside Defense reports, that request has been approved


Using technology in a way that provides an actual practical advantage. Those who find it useful adopt it and those who do not find it useful use something else.

This is discussed by Phil Bowermaster in his article on plateaus of rejection. There is open market buffet of options, you only have to buy and use what works for you.

FURTHER READING
Proper framing of the transhumanist debate.

Recently there is lab work for human power generated from regenerative braking from walking. Generates 5 watts while someone is walking A square meter of flexible solar cells could generate 19-56 watts depending upon location and sunlight conditions. US army has solar tent material for generating up to 1000 watts.

There is plenty of other energy that could be captured to power devices.

Broken into usable terms, waiting to be harvested are 81 watts from a sleeping person, 128 from a soldier standing at ease, 163 from a walking person, 407 from a briskly walking person, 1,048 from a long-distance runner, and 1,630 from a sprinter, according to the center. But of course there’s not 100% capture. Body heat, for example, can only be converted with 3% efficiency with current thermoelectric materials.


Next generation bionic arms

Roadmap to enabling regeneration in humans

Artificial intelligence widespread but most people are unaware of it

Myostatin inhibitor update: Boosting follistatin may be better

Wyeth is not stopping developement of drug MYO-029 for blocking myostatin. They foudnd that MYO-029 was safe but that it was not very good at blocking myostatin or boosting muscle growth. They and other companies are working on more powerful and hopefully effective versions.

Two sets of experiments investigating the effects of interfering with myostatin, a protein that limits muscle growth, have shown that this approach may have to be individualized with respect to different types and stages of muscular dystrophy, and that some myostatin suppression strategies may be better than others. Boosting follistatin not only suppresses myostatin but also affects various cell signaling pathways and reduces inflammation. I had previously covered the follistatin gene therapy where it increased muscle size by four times for mice, but that did not describe the differences between the different methods. I have also had extensive coverage of myostatin inhibitors and the safer and more effective increase in muscle mass over high dosage steroids that they represent. Safely increasing muscle mass will not be good for making people stronger it can also help with fat reduction and control (muscle burns more calories) and can help with the health of more frail people (stronger people can stay more mobile and are able to tolerate falls better.

Investigators injected genes for the protein follistatin inside an adeno-associated viral shell into upper and lower leg muscles in 3-week old mice with DMD. Follistatin is known to inhibit myostatin activity. The mice, divided into high-dose and low-dose treatment groups and an untreated (control) group, were then observed for five months.

The mice treated with follistatin genes developed larger bodies and larger, heavier muscles, with the high-dose group showing the greatest effects. Follistatin was detected in the bloodstream of low- and high-dose-treated mice, and it affected muscles far from the injection sites.

The investigators observed an increase in the size of muscle fibers in mice receiving the gene therapy but not in fiber numbers.

Both groups of treated mice showed reduced levels of creatine kinase, indicating less leakiness of muscle-fiber membranes compared to control mice. The researchers speculate that the treated fibers became less susceptible to damage.

The investigators then injected 7-month-old DMD-affected mice with follistatin genes in viral shells. These older mice showed increases in strength about two months after the injections, which persisted for the more than 18 months during which the mice were evaluated.

At the end of the study, the treated mice had substantially fewer groups of dead muscle fibers, fewer inflammatory cells in their muscles, and less scar tissue than did untreated mice, and their muscle fibers were larger in diameter than those of the control group.

The improvements were sustained and well tolerated over more than two years.

Boosting follistatin not only suppresses myostatin but also affects various cell signaling pathways and reduces inflammation.


March 27, 2008

Carnival of Space Week 47

Carnival of Space week 47 is up at Martian Chronicles.

I had contributed my article on fermi paradox related science and a pictorial review of oceans in our solar system.

Centauri Dreams also talked about the possible ocean on Titan and the habitable zone of solar systems.

Colony Worlds talks about the Bigelow inflatable space stations and spinning them for simulated gravity.

Hobbyspace has a lot of coverage of the XCOR Lynx rocket plane.

Bad Astronomy's Phil Phait had an asteroid named after him.

Astroengine talks about building a laser with a black hole.

Direct conversion of radiation into electricity using carbon nanotubes and a separate new approach to thermoelectrics

Liviu Popa-Simil, former Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear engineer and founder of private research and development company LAVM and Claudiu Muntele, of Alabama A&M University, US, say transforming the energy of radioactive particles into electricity is twenty times more effective (up to power density of 1 kw/cm^3) than thermoelectric materials. It will be big impact when it is commercialized which they expect will be ten years or more.

After the jump, there is a new thermoelectric approach which could work at the temperatures for power plants and could double the efficiency of nuclear and coal plants. If these two technologies work (or similar technologies are developed) we could revolutionize the efficiency of transportation (cars, planes, space vehicles) and power plants and allow for a more rapid shift away from fossil fuels.

"I believe this work is innovative and could have a significant impact on the future of nuclear power," says David Poston, of the US Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory. However perfecting new nuclear technologies requires years of development, he adds.

Popa-Simil agrees, saying it will be at least a decade before final designs of the radiation-to-electricity concept are built.


Tests of layered tiles of carbon nanotubes packed with gold and surrounded by lithium hydride are under way. Radioactive particles that slam into the gold push out a shower of high-energy electrons. They pass through carbon nanotubes and pass into the lithium hydride from where they move into electrodes, allowing current to flow. "You load the material with nuclear energy and unload an electric current," says Popa-Simil.


This was presented at session JJ4.14, March 26, 2008 at the Materials Research Society Spring meeting in San Francisco.

Pseudo-Capacitor Structure for Direct Nuclear Energy Conversion. Liviu Popa-Simil1 and Claudiu Muntele; 1LAVM LLC, Los Alamos, New Mexico; CIM_AAMURI, Huntsville, Alabama.

A previous presentation on direct nuclear power conversion was made in 2007 by Dr Liviu Popa-Simil.

The development of the new MEMS devices and micro electronics in the 40 nm technologies provides an excellent background for the production of the electric power harvesting and conversion devices embedded in the fuel. The new nano-structured materials may be produced as radiation energy harvesting tiles that are free of actinides, using them for harvesting the energy of radioactive sources and controlled fusion devices, or may include actinides in the structure achieving critical or sub-critical accelerator driven nuclear reactor assemblies. Another predictable advantage of the nano-structure is the property of self-repairing and self-organizing structure to compensate the radiation damage and improve the lifetime. Due to the direct conversion the power density of the new materials may increase from the actual average of 0.2 kw/cm^3 to about 1 kw/cm^3 driving to miniaturization of nuclear power sources and reductions of the shield weight. At these dimensions and power densities of few thousands horse power per liter the nuclear power source becomes suitable for mobile applications as powering trains, strategic airplanes, etc. These new developments may drive to the production of high power solid-state compact nuclear battery for space applications, leading to a new development stage.


More details on the Johnson Thermoelectromechanical Energy Conversion System, or JTEC which is a new thermoelectric conversion system by the inventor of the Supersoaker.

A prototype of the heat engine, called the Johnson Thermoelectromechanical Energy Conversion System, or JTEC, will be ready in a few months. It will convert heat to electricity at rates reaching just under 40 percent of the maximum theoretical efficiency available in an engine operating between two temperatures—the Carnot efficiency. The former U.S. Air Force and NASA Jet Propulsion Lab engineer says his group’s aim is to produce a commercial version whose efficiency can approach 85 percent of the Carnot ideal. Such a device would be capable of converting 66 percent of the available thermal energy into electrical energy.

In contrast, photovoltaic devices have net conversion efficiencies in the teens and thermionic (or thermoelectric) chips reach only a little higher than 20 percent of Carnot when converting heat to electricity.

As in all other heat engines, JTEC’s conversion efficiency is dependent on the difference in temperature between its hot and cool zones. For example, if the hot side is raised to 1100 °Celsius—which Johnson says an eventual commercial version would be able to withstand—while the cool side remained at room temperature, 25 °Celsius, it could, ideally, be 78 percent Carnot efficient. But what sets JTEC apart is its all-solid-state design. The lack of moving parts such as turbines and pistons eliminates nearly all of the parasitic losses that, in machines like an automobile engine, greatly lower efficiency. The conversion efficiency achieved by the best combustion turnbines is about half of what a commercialized JTEC device would offer, according to Johnson.

The JTEC’s setup is similar to that of a fuel cell [see an animation of how the JTEC works here]. A proton-conducting membrane allows protons from a hydrogen molecule to pass from one zone to another while preventing electrons from crossing the barrier. The electrons are therefore forced to move through an external circuit, in the process delivering current to a load. But instead of consuming hydrogen as fuel and expelling water, the JTEC is a closed system. It uses hydrogen as a working fluid that is conserved within the device.

The device’s net energy output results from the fact that the voltage generated on the hot side is greater than the voltage applied to the cool side: the higher the temperature difference, the greater the net voltage.

An important efficiency-boosting design element is the regenerative heat exchanger located between the hot and cool zones. This allows the hydrogen gas exiting the hot side to transfer its heat to the hydrogen that, having just been reconstituted on the heat engine’s cool side, needs to be reheated in order to prevent a drop in the temperature differential that drives the process. This allows the JTEC to get more out of the heat input. It also ensures that less energy is needed to pump the hydrogen gas up to full pressure at the cold end of the loop.


FURTHER READING
21 page presentation on the characteristics of fuel (and prices for different kinds of RTGs) for radioisotopic thermal generators (RTGs) that the direct from radiation to electricity would eventually replace. The direct conversion could also change out the steam plants used to convert heat to electricity at nuclear plants.

March 26, 2008

Billionaire plans mile high building


Above profiles of buildings up to 1200 meters. A 1600 meter or one mile building would be 33% taller than a 1200 meter Al Burj, tallest planned building with decent funding and it may end up shorter at 1000 meters.


UPDATE: The Burj al Meel mile high building project is still active and is proceeding to awarding the design contract.

How the bailout of Citigroup kept the Burj Al Meel skyscraper project on track

END UPDATE


Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud moves forward with plans to build the world's tallest building, the biggest challenge facing the Saudi billionaire appears to be keeping people from feeling seasick a mile up in the sky.

In terms of billionaire skyscraper ego or phallic symbol, Donald Trump is coming many times shorter. Trump Tower is 58 stories and 202 meters tall. The soon to be completed Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago will be 415 meters tall and 92 stories. Donald Trumps tallest building will be about four times shorter than Prince Alwaleed's mile high building (when Alwaleed completes his building and assuming that Donald cannot get a taller building put together in the mean time.

The Middle East Economic Digest reports that Alwaleed's Kingdom Holding Co. will soon invite bids by contractors to build a mile-tall mega-skyscraper in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, taller than four Empire State Buildings stacked upon each other. Kingdom Holding is budgeting $10 billion for the tower.

"Structural engineering-wise, it's not even difficult," said Ron Klemencic, president of Magnusson Klemencic Associates, an engineering company specializing in high-rise constructions. He explained that stronger concrete and steel and advancements in designing building frames allow for the safe development of mega-skyscrapers.


Called the Burj Al-Meel or the Mile-High Tower, it will be located on the northern side of the Obhur Creek and the Red Sea. It will be spread over an area of more than two million square meters.

I had previously covered many other skyscraper projects in the 700-1200 meter range. One mile high is 1600 meters. The Burj Al-meel would be the tallest building with anything like decent funding and budget.

Technological challenges
Elevators: The world's fastest ascend at a blazing 1,010 meters per minute. A ride to the top of a mile-high building in one of them could clock in at less than two minutes. The technology could improve even more in the next decade. Klemencic points to prototype elevators that use electromagnets instead of traditional cables. They offer the huge advantage of allowing multiple elevators in a single shaft.

Seasick on the top floors: The world's tallest completed tower, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, addressed the problem by hanging a 730-ton pendulum at the top of the building. The giant ball swings in the opposite direction of the upper floors to keep them steady. At three times the height of the Taipei 101, however, a mile-high tower must withstand even fiercer gusts.

FURTHER READING
Better steel, concrete and safety systems for the mega high rises of the future.

Alwaheed according to the latest Forbes list is worth $21 billion and is the world's 19th richest man.

SOMEWHAT RELATED
Dubai current and future megaprojects.

Fermi paradox related space oceans and life and pictorial tour of Ocean's in our solar system


Earth's Oceans
My own general view of the Fermi paradox (with the universe so big aliens should have visited by now) is that there is no reason to think that we are that interesting to need a visit instead of remote observation and if they visited more than 5000 years ago then we forgot or were not around.

Now science that relates to the Fermi paradox brings word that a deficiency of oxygen and the heavy metal molybdenum in the ancient deep ocean may have delayed the evolution of animal life on Earth for nearly 2 billion years.

So better understanding of chemical conditions in planets could show that it is more difficult and rare to get up to complex lifeforms.

UPDATE:
NASA's Cassini spacecraft tasted and sampled a surprising organic brew erupting in geyser-like fashion from Saturn's moon Enceladus during a close flyby on March 12. Scientists are amazed that this tiny moon is so active, "hot" and brimming with water vapor and organic chemicals.

There is the recent discovery of another hidden ocean in the solar system, this one underneath Titan's crust.


If confirmed, Titan would be the fourth moon in the solar system thought to contain such an internal water ocean, joining Jupiter's satellites Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.


Europa's ocean pic by Nasa




Callisto's core and ocean by Nasa

Jupiter's second largest moon, Callisto, may have a liquid ocean tucked under its icy, cratered crust, according to scientists studying data gathered by NASA's Galileo spacecraft.


Nasa vision of the inside of Ganymede, another moon of Jupiter

Enceladus, sixth largest moon of Saturn has water ice on its surface and water geysers. There also could be a lot of ice on Mars and the moon and possibly some underground liquid water on Mars.

Zyvex Atomically Precise Manufacturing effort has $15 million in funding

Zyvex's Atomically Precise Manufacturing effort has $15 million in funding.

The project is part of the Atomically Precise Manufacturing Consortium led by Zyvex Labs LLC, a molecular nanotechnology company based in Richardson, Texas. The project includes a mixture of funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and cost sharing from the team members.

“Increasing the precision of manufacturing has driven both technology and science for the past couple of centuries and what we are doing is just an extension of that drive,” said John Randall, vice president of Zyvex Labs, the prime contractor for the research project. “What is revolutionary is having digital control over where we add atoms to a robust solid material. The unique expertise of Professors, Wallace, Chabal and Cho will be key to our success in this program.”

In addition to UT Dallas and Zyvex, the research team includes the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of North Texas, the University of Central Florida, the University of Texas at Austin, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, General Dynamics, Molecular Imprints Inc. and Integrated Circuit Scanning Probe Instruments.



Funded for $1.8 million over the next four-and-a-half years, the UT Dallas team also includes Yves Chabal, head of the Jonsson School’s new Materials Science and Engineering Department and holder of the Texas Instruments Distinguished University Chair in Nanoelectronics, and K.J. Cho, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and physics.

The Atomically Precised Manufacturing Project currently consists of three coordinated efforts: Micro Automation, Molecularly Precise Tools, and Patterned Atomic Layer Epitaxy.

Zyvex presented their APM plan at the Productive Nanosystems: Launching the Technology Roadmap a conference held by the Society of Mechanical Engineering

Atomic layer deposition builds amorphous materials; atomic layer epitaxy (ALE) builds crystalline materials. Start with a protected (passivated) surface: every available bond has a hydrogen atom. If you deprotect the surface, removing the hydrogen, then you can deposit a layer of atoms. If you choose the right precursor gas, you add only one monolayer which is protected as it's added. Then you can deprotect and add exactly one more layer of atoms. There are a number of precursor gases available. There are literally hundreds of systems to grow things with atomic precision in one dimension.

Now, if you combine this with the ability to deprotect the surface in selected locations... With a scanning tunneling microscope, you can remove single hydrogen atoms with atomic precision. If you do this layer by layer, you can build 3D structures. Prof. Joe Lyding at University of Illinois has done repeated desorption/deposition.



Known as atomically precise manufacturing, the technique is expected to enable a wide variety of devices and products, including:

-Ultra-low-power semiconductors for cellphones and other wireless communications.
Sensors with ultra-high sensitivity.
-Data encryption orders of magnitude more secure than existing technology.
-Optical elements that enable unprecedented performance in computing and communications.
-Customized surfaces that would have an array of applications in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries.
-Nanoscale genomics arrays that would enable a person’s complete genetic sequence to be read in less than two hours.

FURTHER READING
Zyvex's research activities

March 25, 2008

Whole genome sequencing costs continue to fall: $300 million in 2003, $1 million 2007, $60,000 now, $5000 by year end

Several companies are sequencing the human genome for about $60,000 to $100,000 and taking about 4 weeks. Whole genome sequencing could be $5000 or less and take 24 hours or less by the end of 2008. Inexpensive costs that will accelerate the transformation of medicine into personal genomics and personal medicine. Prices are going to keep falling with better nanopore and highly parallel approaches. Easy and widespread differential genetic analysis will provide more and better targets for gene therapy and modification. Inexpensive sequencing also helps speed up and reduce costs with DNA synthesis. They are closely related.
Genome sequencing is part of the overall mastery of the genome. Read it cheap and fast and change it, write it precisely, cheaply and safely and build stuff with DNA using DNA nanotechnology and synthetic biology.

In 2003 - just five years ago - the government-backed Human Genome Project, after 13 years of work, produced the first real data of a human genetic code for $300 million. Applied Biosystems said it had been able to analyse the human genome sequence for a cost of less than $60,000, which is the commercial price for all required reagents needed to complete the project. Using the company's SOLiD System, researchers used the system's capabilities to obtain deep sequence coverage of the genome of an anonymous African male of the Yoruba people of Ibadan, Nigeria, who participated in the International HapMap Project. The system generated 36 gigabases of sequence data in 7 runs of the system, achieving throughput up to 9 gigabases per run, which is the highest throughput reported by any of the providers of DNA sequencing technology.


In February of 2008 Illumina claimed it had sequenced a human genome in less than four weeks for approximately $100,000, which included the cost of paying off the purchase price of the company's $500,000 Genome Analyzer.

The company claimed its method produced a more reliable map of the genome. Both companies sequence the same genome multiple times, but Illumina made twice as many passes as Applied Biosystems, he said.

Illumina, Roche and Applied Biosystems are battling to become the technology of choice in a global gene sequencing market that is expected to reach approximately $850m in the next three years. Danaher Corp., based in Washington, said it shipped its first $150,000 Polonator sequencer this week.

Researchers are evaluating technologies for use in the government-led 1,000 Genome Project unveiled January, 2008. The project seeks to sequence genomes at a cost of about $30,000 each.

Intelligent Bio-Systems, a privately held company in Waltham, Mass., says it will introduce a machine by the end of 2008 that might reduce the cost of a genome to $5,000 and perform that work in 24 hours.

George Church Joined the IBS Scientific Advisory Board January 15, 2007.

IBS has a proprietary, patented DNA sequencing by synthesis (SBS) technology capable of reading out the sequence of DNA with very a high precision, rapid pace and low cost. They sequence millions of sequences in parallel on a chip.

In this process the DNA is first broken into fragments, amplified, attached to a DNA sequence primer, then affixed as a high-density array of spots onto a glass chip. To read out the sequence of each of the spots, the array of fragments is first subjected to reagents containing uniquely engineered DNA bases that include a removable fluorescent dye and an end cap. These bases attach themselves (Extend) to the end of the growing strand of DNA in accordance with the base on the complementary strand. The array is scanned by a high-resolution electronic camera (Measure) and the fluorescent output of each of four dye colors at each array position is measured and recorded. The color indicates which base (A, C, G or T) was just incorporated in the DNA fragment in the previous step. Finally, the array is exposed to cleavage chemistry (Cleave) to break off the fluorescent dye and end cap that will now allow additional bases to be added. The Extend, Measure and Cleave cycle is then repeated


UPDATE:
the federal government has awarded about 35 grants totaling $56 million to companies and universities for development of technology that could put the $1,000 genome sequence within reach.

Pacific Biosciences has received $6.6 million from that program.

The nonprofit X Prize Foundation, meanwhile, is offering $10 million to the first group that can sequence 100 human genomes in 10 days, for $10,000 or less per genome. Six companies or academic groups — although not PacBio — have signed up for the competition so far. Some contestants say that they might try for the X Prize as early as next year (2009) and that the $1,000 genome is as little as three years away.

The industry has long been dominated by Applied Biosystems, which sold hundreds of its $300,000 sequencers to the publicly financed Human Genome Project and to Celera Genomics for their sequencing of the first two human genomes, which were announced in 2000.

Idaho National Labs Strategic plan for light water nuclear reactors

Idaho National Lab Strategic plan for improving light water nuclear reactors This plan has not been adopted and funded yet, but recently released with INL's Utility Advisory Board and EPRI's Nuclear Power Council as the authors. I think the plan can and should be adopted, while parallel work is ongoing with uranium hydride reactors, molten salt reactors, high temperature gas reactors, IEC fusion and other alternative fusion and fission efforts.

Stretch Goals:
1. Life extension of the current fleet beyond 60 years (e.g., what would it
take to extend all lives to ~80 years?); and
2. Strong, sustained expansion of ALWRs throughout this century (e.g., what
would it take to proceed uninterrupted from first new plant deployments in
~2015 to sustained build-rates approaching 10+/year?).

Achieving a build rate of 10 plants per year, which on a sustained basis equates to about 50 plants under construction at any point in time, will require substantial investment in workforce training and new or refurbished manufacturing capability.



As of September 2007, 48 units have been granted 20-year license renewals by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), 14 more are in process, and over 30 units have stated their intent to file for license renewal. Given this success, it is assumed that all of the current plants will be licensed to 60 years. To extend the first plant retirements past mid-century will require another round of license extensions to 80 years. The first of these renewals are expected to be filed in the 2015–2020
timeframe, due to the lead times required for this important business decision.

Advanced Light Water Reactor Goals [new 2015-2020 reactors]
Goal 3: Successfully license, construct and operate the first mover ALWRs
through their first decade.
Goal 4: Remove the barriers to deployment of many new ALWRs.
Goal 5: Address lessons learned from the first ALWRs by developing new
technologies to improve performance.
Goal 6: Enable new missions and markets for ALWRs beyond electricity
production.

R & D goals
1. Sustain high performance of reactor plant materials
2. Transition to state-of-the-art digital I&C
3. Advances in nuclear fuel
a. Enhance fuel reliability and performance
b. Develop high-burnup (HBU) fuel [85 Gwd/t target]
The HBU fuel program is expected to take about 10 years, and involves test and qualification of innovative fuels with uranium enrichment above 5%
4. Implement broad-spectrum workforce development
5. Implement broad-spectrum infrastructure improvements and design for sustainability
6. Address electricity infrastructure-wide problems that are NOT unique to nuclear energy but nevertheless pose unacceptable risks to current plant operations and new plant siting
a. Develop alternative cooling technologies
- Conventional ‘dry cooling’ greatly reduces the water required but incurs large (over 15%) parasitic power losses.
b. Expand high-voltage transmission infrastructure
7. Advanced fabrication, construction and inspection methods
8. Extend the application of risk management technologies and understanding of safety
margins
9. Improve operational performance
10. Expand LWR technology into new missions and markets
a. Develop LWRs for application in regional markets
-
As an illustration, the heaviest equipment transportable on rail is 800 tons (about double the weight of a modern ALWR vessel), but is limited to a height of 16 feeti above the rail surface—well below the 20 foot diameter of a modern vessel. This research area would assess the economic and technical feasibility of developing optimum-size plants to meet this need, balancing economies of scale with the above constraints. This area may also consider markets that need or could use ALWRs of sizes even larger than those being licensed today, as dictated by regional demand.

b. Develop desalination and process heat technologies


Russia and France nuclear plans

Russia released a plan to build 42 nuclear power plants by 2020.

Previously the target was about 35 nuclear reactors. Seven reactors are under construction and 31 are operating.


FURTHER READING
The basic requirements [target goals] for fuel have been set as: fuel operational lifetime extended to 6 years, improved burn-up of 70 GWd/tU, and improved fuel reliability. In addition, many nuclear plants will need to be used in load-following mode, and fuel which performs well under variable load conditions will be required.

A major current emphasis is the improvement in operation of present reactors with better fuels and greater efficiency in their use, closing much of the gap between Western and Russian performance. Fuel developments include the use of burnable poisons - gadolinium and erbium, as well as structural changes to the fuel assemblies.

With uranium-gadolinium fuel and structural changes, VVER-1000 fuel has been pushed out to 4-year endurance and VVER-440 fuel even longer. For VVER-1000, five years is envisaged by 2010, with enrichment levels increasing nearly by one third (from 3.77% to 4.87%) in that time, average burn-up going up by 40% (to 57.7 GWd/t) and operating costs dropping by 5%. With a 3 x 18 month operating cycle, burn-up would be lower (51.3 GWd/t) but load factor could increase to 87%. Comparable improvements were envisaged for later-model VVER-440 units.


Russia is the current world leader with fast neutron reactors.

The Russian BN-600 fast breeder reactor has been supplying electricity to the grid since 1981 and has the best operating and production record of all Russia's nuclear power units. It uses uranium oxide fuel and the sodium coolant delivers 550°C at little more than atmospheric pressure. The BN 350 FBR operated in Kazakhstan for 27 years and about half of its output was used for water desalination. Russia plans to reconfigure the BN-600 to burn the plutonium from its military stockpiles.
Construction has started at Beloyarsk on the first BN-800 [it was refunded and work is expected to complete in 2012], a new larger (880 MWe) FBR from OKBM with improved features including fuel flexibility - U+Pu nitride, MOX, or metal, and with breeding ratio up to 1.3. It has much enhanced safety and improved economy - operating cost is expected to be only 15% more than VVER. It is capable of burning 2 tonnes of plutonium per year from dismantled weapons and will test the recycling of minor actinides in the fuel.


Another russian design is the BREST fast neutron reactor, of 300 MWe or more with lead as the primary coolant, at 540C, and supercritical steam generators. A pilot unit is planned for Beloyarsk and 1200 MWe units are proposed.

FRANCE UPRATING ALMOST ALL OF ITS REACTORS
EdF uprated its four Chooz and Civaux N4 reactors from 1455 to 1500 MWe each in 2003. Over 2008-10 EdF plans to uprate five of its 900 MWe reactors by 3%. Then in 2007 EdF announced that the twenty 1300 MWe reactors would be uprated some 7% from 2015, within existing licence limits, and adding about 15 TWh/yr to output.

FRANCE ALSO EXTENDING NUCLEAR PLANT OPERATING LIFE
The 900 MWe reactors all had their lifetimes extended by ten years in 2002, after their second 10-yearly review. Most started up late 1970s to early 1980s, and they are reviewed together in a process that takes four months at each unit. A review of the 1300 MWe class followed and in October 2006 the regulatory authority cleared all 20 units for an extra ten years' operation conditional upon minor modifications at their 20-year outages over 2005-14.


Nuclear powered ships and the possibility of more widespread usage of nuclear power for ships.

Oil prices dipped below $100 a barrel

The Peak Oil sites had plenty of articles when oil popped above $100 intraday and then articles about oil above $100 and then articles about double digit oil being history Will they be as active if oil goes back below $100 a barrel for an extended period ?

FURTHER READING
Nymex light crude charts

Nymex Brent Crude charts

March 24, 2008

Biosensing nanoscale device to revolutionize health screenings

One day soon a biosensing nanodevice developed by Arizona State University researcher Wayne Frasch may eliminate long lines at airport security checkpoints and revolutionize health screenings for diseases like anthrax, cancer and antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

Frasch works with the enzyme F1-adenosine triphosphatase, better known as F1- ATPase. This enzyme, only 10 to 12 nanometers in diameter, has an axle that spins and produces torque.


What Frasch and his colleagues show is that the enzyme can be armed with an optical probe (gold nanorod) and manipulated to emit a signal when it detects a single molecule of target DNA. This is achieved by anchoring a quiescent F1-ATPase motor to a surface. A single strand of a reference biotinylated DNA molecule is then attached to its axle. The marker protein, biotin, on the DNA is known to bind specifically and tightly to the glycoprotein avidin, so an avidin-coated gold nanorod is then added. The avidin-nanorod attaches to the biotinylated DNA strand and forms a stable complex.
When a test solution containing a target piece of DNA is added, this DNA binds to the single complementary reference strand attached to the F1-ATPase. The DNA complex, suspended between the nanorod and the axle, forms a stiff bridge. Once ATP is added to the test solution, the F1-ATPase axle spins, and with it, the attached (now double-stranded) DNA and nanorod. The whirling nano-sized device emits a pulsing red signal that can then be detected with a microscope.

According to Frasch, the rotation discriminates fully assembled nanodevices from nonspecifically bound nanorods, resulting in a sensitivity limit of one zeptomole (600 molecules). Simply put, if it's not moving and flashing, it simply isn't relevant.

Moreover, Frasch says, �Studies with the F1-ATPase in my laboratory show that since it can detect single DNA molecules, it far exceeds the detection limits of conventional PCR [polymerase chain reaction] technology.

Such a detection instrument based on the F1-ATPase enzyme would also be faster and more portable, he adds.

With support from Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz), Frasch will transfer his work from the bench to biotech, through establishment of a local company that utilizes the nano-sized F1-ATPase to produce a DNA detection instrument.

A prototype of the DNA detector is already in development. It is roughly the size of a small tissue box. Sampling would be as simple as taking a swab from an infected wound or a piece of baggage, dissolving it in a solution and placing a drop on a slide bearing reference F1-ATPases and their nanorods. Once in the instrument, red blinking signals emitted by rotating nanorods would let a computer know there's trouble, literally, in a flash.


RELATED NEWS: A One-Step Homogeneous Immunoassay For Cancer Biomarker Detection Using Gold Nanoparticle Probes Coupled With Dynamic Light Scattering
The early detection of cancer can significantly improve the treatment and survival rate of cancer patients. As tumors develop, the cells, tissues and organs can increase or decrease the release of certain chemicals in the circulatory system. These specific chemicals are called biomarkers. Some of these biomarkers have been approved by FDA for the in-vitro diagnosis of different types of cancer. A well known example is the test of PSA (prostate specific antigen) level for prostate cancer detection. A total PSA level of 4 ng/mL is generally considered as a normal threshold, and when this value exceeds 10 ng/mL, the chance of prostate malignancy is increased substantially.

The nanoDLSA immunoassay is fast, highly sensitive, accurate, and extremely easy to conduct. It requires a much smaller amount (at least 100 times less) of blood samples and antibody probes to conduct the assay compared to ELISA. The cost reduction of nanoDLSA compared to other immunoassays is tremendous. Because of the minute amount of sample that is required by nanoDLSA, it is possible to conduct the detection and measurement of one or multiple cancer markers from a single drop of human blood sample using this new immunoassay technology. The goal of this research group is to develop a fully automated system that can be placed in supermarkets, pharmacy stores, hospitals, and clinics for the general public to test their cancer marker levels as frequently as necessary at affordable prices. The biomarker level history obtained from each individual will provide invaluable information to medical doctors for the early screening and diagnosis of cancer. Equally important, such frequent testing is also critical for cancer patients whose cancer marker levels need to be analyzed constantly to monitor the treatment effect and the recurrence of cancer.


RELATED READING
USB stick genetic testing device for $10 or less.

Sun Micro also working on optical communication on and between chips, could make computers 1000 times faster

The US government has funded Sun Microcomputer research for optical on chip and between chip communication.

Recent coverage has NEC working on that as the key technology for 10 petaflop computers in 2010 and IBM as well for faster computers.

Sun believes it is high risk research with a 50% chance of success but that success means computers 1000 times faster.

IBM talks of making computers 100 times faster using 10 times less power

Enabling regeneration in humans: Developing a roadmap

What is required to enable effective limb regeneration in humans in detail ? by Ken Muneoka [Professor Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at Tulane University]
, Manjong Han [Professor Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at Tulane University] and David M. Gardiner Researcher, Developmental & Cell Biology
School of Biological Sciences at U of California at Irvine.

Researchers now understand in detail the steps that occur when a salamander regenerates a limb and they understand the differences for human scarring and human fetal regeneration or limb growth. The early responses of tissues at an amputation site are not that different in salamanders and in humans, but eventually human tissues form a scar, whereas the salamander’s reactivate an embryonic development program to build a new limb. Learning to control the human wound environment to trigger salamanderlike healing could make it possible to regenerate large body parts. A few years to get really good at making mice regenerate and then another ten years to make it happen in humans and get the process approved by regulatory authorities.

The one human tissue type within a limb that lacks regenerative ability is the dermis, which is composed of a heterogeneous population of cells, many of which are fibroblasts—the same cells that play such a pivotal role in the salamander regeneration response. After an injury in humans and other mammals, these cells undergo a process called fibrosis that “heals” wounds by depositing an unorganized network of extracellular matrix material, which ultimately forms scar tissue. The most striking difference between regeneration in the salamander and regenerative failure in mammals is that mammalian fibroblasts form scars and salamander fibroblasts do not. That fibrotic response in mammals not only hampers regeneration but can be a very serious medical problem unto itself, one that permanently and progressively harms the functioning of many organs, such as the liver and heart, in the aftermath of injury or disease.

Studies of deep wounds have shown that at least two populations of fibroblasts invade an injury during healing. Some of these cells are fibroblasts that reside in the dermis, and the others are derived from circulating fibroblastlike stem cells. Both types are attracted to the wound by signals from immune cells that have also rushed to the scene. Once in the wound, the fibroblasts migrate and proliferate, eventually producing and modifying the extracellular matrix of the area. This early process is not that dissimilar to the regeneration response in a salamander wound, but the mammalian fibroblasts produce an excessive amount of matrix that becomes abnormally cross-linked as the scar tissue matures. In contrast, salamander fibroblasts stop producing matrix once the normal architecture has been restored.



Our research group has already described a natural blastema in a mouse amputation injury, and our goal within the next year is to induce a blastema where it would not normally occur. Like the accessory-limb experiments in salamanders, this achievement would establish the minimal requirements for blastema formation. We hope that this line of investigation will also reveal whether, as we suspect, the blastema itself provides critical signaling that prevents fibrosis in the wound site.

If we succeed in generating a blastema in a mammal, the next big hurdle for us would be coaxing the site of a digit amputation to regenerate the entire digit. The complexity of that task is many times greater than regenerating a simple digit tip because a whole digit includes joints, which are among the most complicated skeletal structures formed in the body during embryonic development. Developmental biologists are still trying to understand how joints are made naturally, so building a regenerated mouse digit, joints and all, would be a major milestone in the regeneration field. We hope to reach it in the next few years, and after that, the prospect of regenerating an entire mouse paw, and then an arm, will not seem so remote.


Understanding how limbs are formed

Limbs are formed by a series of interactions that occur between a specialized group of ectodermal cells at the tip of the limb bud that forms a structure called the apical ectodermal ridge (AER), and the mesenchymal cells that underlie the AER. The apical ectoderm produces factors that are necessary for distal outgrowth by the mesenchyme. Mesenchymal cells interact with one another and with the AER to establish spatially distinct patterns of gene expression followed by the differentiation of specific structures. The primary focus of my research is to understand how cells become distinct from one another. In the 1980’s Ken Muneoka cell lineage work on developing and regenerating amphibian limbs demonstrated similarities between development and regeneration, and also established the over-contribution of fibroblasts in the regeneration response. To begin to address regeneration in higher vertebrates, Ken Muneoka pioneered in utero surgical techniques that make it possible to carry out regeneration studies on the developing mammalian limb. In the early 1990’s Ken Muneoka participated with Susan Bryant’s lab in a study that demonstrated retinoic acid acted to induce a mesenchymal signaling center in the limb bud called the Zone of Polarizing Activity (ZPA). This finding has now been demonstrated with loss of function studies and with more sophisticated molecular probes with the same conclusion.


FURTHER READING
Digit regeneration in fetal Mice is regulated by Msx1 and BMP4 [2003]

Limb regeneration in higher vertebrates : Developing a roadmap [2005]

Regenerating Life [2005]

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have established the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine

national center of expertise in regenerative medicine focused on developing and delivering therapies that reestablish tissue and organ function impaired by disease, trauma or congenital abnormalities


Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials

Cellular therapies

Medical devices and artifial organs

Tengion, a clinical stage biotechnology company, has pioneered the Autologous Organ Regeneration Platform™ that catalyzes the body's innate ability to regenerate.

Tengion Launches Third Phase 2 Clinical Trial of Regenerated Human Bladder


Tengion is also working on a neo-kidney (not in clinical trial yet) and Tengion Neo-Vessel™ Neo-vessels are being developed with the goal of using a patient's own cells to build blood vessels for patients that need vascular access for dialysis and for patients who are receiving peripheral by-pass surgery or coronary artery bypass surgery.

CBS news coverage of regenerative medicine progress.