October 03, 2008

Zyvex Atomically Precise Manufacturing funded by DARPA and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund

Zyvex is getting funded by DARPA for $9.7 million to develop atomically precise manufacturing.

This follows earlier funding of $15 million for Zyvex's Atomically Precise Manufacturing project.

Zyvex Labs today announced the award of a $9.7M program funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and Texas' ETF (Emerging Technology Fund). The goal of this effort is to develop a new manufacturing technique that enables "Tip-Based Nanofabrication" to accelerate the transition of nanotechnology from the laboratory to commercial products. Starting with the construction of 'one-at-a-time' atomically precise silicon structures, the Consortium initially plans to develop atomically precise, 'quantum dot' nanotech-based products in volume at practical production rates and costs.

The money will be shared by the Atomically Precise Manufacturing Consortium:

The charter industry APMC members are Zyvex Labs, General Dynamics, Integrated Circuit Scanning Probe Instruments, and Vought Aircraft; while Texas Higher Education members include the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Texas. Other Higher Education members are the University of Central Florida and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Government and non-profit consortium members are the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the North Texas Regional Center for Innovation & Commercialization (NTXRCIC). Other consortium members of all three types are expected to be added as the program progresses into later stages.

Atomically Precise Manufacturing
What does Atomically Precise Manufacturing mean to Zyvex?

Zyvex has been developing technology that will eventually lead to an Atomically Precised Manufacturing (APM) technology. The Zyvex definition of a Molecular Assembler is “a user-controlled fabrication tool capable of creating molecularly precise structures with 3-dimensional capability in an economically viable manner.

The Atomically Precised Manufacturing Project currently consists of three coordinated efforts: Micro Automation, Molecularly Precise Tools, and Patterned Atomic Layer Epitaxy. This new funding seems to be focused on molecularly precise tools.

Molecularly precise tools: Zyvex undertook the APM Project in order to deal with the significant limitations that current scanning probe tips and other molecular manipulation tools have placed on science and technology. We are convinced that nano and molecular manipulation technology will not get out of the research labs until molecularly precise tips and other tools are developed. We believe that molecular pick and place will not be viable until dependable molecularly precise tools are available.

The Micro Automation effort is a result of the realization that affordable molecularly precise manufacturing for many products will only be possible with massive parallelism. Parallel micro-assembly (being supported in part by our NIST-ATP) will develop both the system architecture needed to handle parallel assembly, and the assemblers at the micro scale required to deal with the output of large throughput molecular assemblers.

Previous funding seemed to be more focused on the third part [Atomic Layered Epitaxy]:

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.

At the Productive Nanosystems: Launching the Technology Roadmap Conference: Zyvex's John Randall presented their vision of Atomically Precise Manufacturing and Chris Phoenix of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology covered that presentation in detail.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineer's Productive Nanosystems: Launching the Technology Roadmap Conference in Oct 2007.

Speculation 2015: Third and Fourth Helping Robotic Hands

Extra wearable robotic arms would be helpful. Above is a statue of Vishnu.

If Rodney Brooks' Heartland Robotics goal of low cost worker robots and robot arms were merged with the new bionic arm work at John's Hopkins, then able bodied people could wear or use robotic arms that would function as an extra helping hand or two.

Rodney Brooks, co-founder and CTO of iRobot, recently left his iRobot post to found his own robotics company, Heartland Robotics.

Rodney Brooks new work talks about "I want to effect a powerful evolution in the world's labor markets, and my current focus is to develop low-cost robots that will empower American workers" which is the same as Heartland Robotics. The new work is focused on the Obrero robot.

By 2009, DARPA hopes to have a mechanical arm whose functionality is on par with a flesh-and-blood limb.

The bionic arms have integration and control via mind machine interfaces. Artificial intelligence could be activated at times to initiate independent tasks for the robotic arms. Robotic arms could be detached and mounted on a table or a car dash board so that the arms could perform independent tasks such as feeding a child.

Having highly functional robotic arms could be a simpler research target then fully functional androids that had legs, arms and were mimicking all aspects of a person. Carrying around, wearing or using mounted such robotic arms should be highly useful and productivity enhancing.

Even robotic arms that could not perform the most complex tasks could be useful to hold up a book or laptop or cellular phone while your regular arms were occupied.

There are over one million industrial robots in the world and most are expensive robot arms. This clearly shows that there is value in robot arms. Making effective robot arms that are more inexpensive and lighter and more mobile would have value in many more places in the home and at work. It could be better and more common that robot people like C3PO because there may be fewer situations where you need to go to the extra cost and complexity of one C3PO instead of ten robotic arms.

Nanodiamond drug delivery system could revolutionize cancer treatment

Nanodiamonds, a revolutionary class of nanomaterials, are 2 nanometers in diameter in single-particle form, and can be manipulated to form clusters with diameters in the 50-100nm range. This makes them ideal for drug delivery by shielding and slow releasing drugs trapped within the cluster of Diamond aggregates.

Dean Ho, Northwestern University, has created a thin film polymer sandwitch that surrounds millions of nanodiamond clusters. The nanodiamonds are clustered with chemotherapy agents or RNA.

If a surgical oncologist, for example, was removing a tumor from the breast or brain, the device could be implanted in the affected area as part of the same surgery. This approach, which confines drug release to a specific location, could mitigate side effects and complications from other chemotherapy treatments.

- Drugs can be slowly released over time (several months).
- nanodiamonds can trap nearly 5 times compared to conventional drug delivery
- the new system localizes the drugs to minimize and mitigate side effects
- nanodiamonds can be combined with a wide variety of drugs and RNA

To test the device’s drug release performance, the researchers used Doxorubicin, a chemotherapeutic used to treat many types of cancer. They found the drug slowly and consistently released from the embedded nanodiamond clusters for one month, with more Doxorubicin in reserve, indicating a more prolonged release (several months and longer) was possible. The device also avoided the “burst” or massive initial release of the drug, a common disadvantage with conventional therapy.

In addition to their large surface area, nanodiamonds have many other advantages that can be utilized in drug delivery. They can be functionalized with nearly any type of therapeutic. They can be suspended easily in water, which is important for biomedical applications. The nanodiamonds, each being four to six nanometers in diameter, are minimally invasive to cells, biocompatible and do not cause inflammation, a serious complication. And they are very scalable and can be produced in large quantities.

The architecture of the device is amenable to housing small molecule, protein, antibody or RNA- or DNA-based therapeutics. This gives the technology the potential to impact a range of treatment strategies where implanted, long-term drug release is needed.

“One of the most significant aspects of this work is that the fabrication procedures are highly scalable, meaning hundreds, or even thousands, of devices potentially could be manufactured in parallel and at low cost,” said Ho.

“The nanodiamonds are quite economical and have already been mass-produced as lubrication components for automobiles and for use in electronics,” added Robert Lam, a graduate student in Ho’s research group and the article’s lead author.

Because of the proven biocompatibility and massively parallel deposition capabilities of parylene, the researchers are engaged with pre-clinical trials of the nanodiamond-embedded parylene.

Taiwan has brought the cost of nanodiamonds down to about $300 for 10 milligrams.

The research paper, Nanodiamond-Embedded Microfilm Devices for Localized Chemotherapeutic Elution, is here

Dean Ho and his team are doing a lot of interesting work, which is described at his website.

More Nanoscale medicine by Dean Ho and team

Interrogation of cyto-regulatory networks via nanofabricated probe technology

MUC1 Protein Mediates the Growth of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells, Stem Cell Treatment and Cancer Breakthrough

The cleaved form, MUC1*, is expressed on undifferentiated human embryonic stem cells while the full-length, uncleaved protein (MUC1-FL) is expressed on differentiated stem cells.

These studies represent a big step forward for human stem cell research and the future of stem cell transplantation. Previously Minerva Biotechnology reported that the MUC1 protein exists in the same altered form, MUC1*, on over 75% of human cancers. Genetically engineered stem cells have the potential to rejuvenate the human body, cure diseases and extend life. Stem cells seem to be key to the rejuvenation of the immune system, muscles and the cornea.

Minerva Biotechnologies and the University of California at Santa Barbara discovered that a single, new growth factor can not only support massive growth of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in vitro, but also maintains them in a nearly 100% undifferentiated state without the need for fibroblast "feeder cells". This represents a major step forward for potential stem cell therapies as well as in the basic understanding of the mechanisms that regulate stem cell growth and differentiation.

We have shown that undifferentiated embryonic stem cells do not express full-length MUC1. Rather, they express a low molecular weight cleavage product, MUC1*, which we previously demonstrated has growth factor receptor-like activity on tumor cells. NM23, which was shown to be an activating ligand of MUC1* on cancer cells, co-localizes with MUC1* on pluripotent cells. Unexpectedly, we found that newly differentiated cells no longer express cleaved MUC1* or its ligand, NM23. Newly differentiated stem cells present full-length MUC1. Transition zones between undifferentiated and differentiating cultured stem cells can be found that continue to express OCT4, while also expressing uncleaved, full-length MUC1, which appears to be a marker for the onset of differentiation. Thus, the switch from cleaved MUC1* to the full-length protein may be one of the first detectable signals of the onset of differentiation. These results imply that MUC1* may be a more accurate marker of pluripotency than OCT4 and thus antibodies that recognize MUC1* could be used to search for, identify and isolate pure populations of pluripotent stem cells. Anti-MUC1* has been used extensively in our labs to effectively identify and sort both live and fixed MUC1*-positive cancer cells using FACS. These methods can be readily extended to identifying and sorting live embryonic stem cells, which could automate and improve the procedure for separating out stem cells that remain pluripotent from those that have begun to differentiate. At present this is an imprecise and labor-intensive process that depends on the technician's ability to visually discriminate between cell types then manually dissect pluripotent cells without contaminating the pool with cells that have already entered the differentiation process.

As on cancer cells, MUC1* functions as a growth factor receptor on pluripotent embryonic stem cells. Under conditions that included adding conditioned media from fibroblast feeder cells, antibody-induced dimerization of the extracellular domain of MUC1* stimulated the growth of hESCs more than two-fold better than current methods and importantly without requiring the addition of exogenous bFGF. Further, the addition of MUC1* dimerizing ligands, Anti-MUC1* or NM23, enabled the growth of pluripotent stem cells in feeder-cell-free and bFGF-free minimal growth media. In fact, stem cell growth supported by the addition of MUC1* ligands to minimal media resisted spontaneous differentiation and produced more pluripotent cells than any other growth condition that we tested. In contrast, neither minimal stem cell growth media nor media plus bFGF produced any undifferentiated stem cells. Stem cells that were cultured in conditioned media from fibroblasts plus bFGF generated a mixture of undifferentiated and differentiated colonies and the colonies were smaller than those produced by MUC1* stimulation. Thus, in addition to mediating the growth of embryonic stem cells, MUC1* may be a modulator of differentiation. The data presented strongly suggest that MUC1* is a critical marker for the identification and isolation of pluripotent embryonic stem cells as well as a key mediator of the growth and differentiation of pluripotent stem cells.

Stem cell transplantation is discussed at wikipedia

Immunology and stem cells could be combined to rejuvenate and re-program the immune system for better health.

Genetically tweaked stem cells reacted to biochemical signals to revive the ability of muscle tissue in old mice to repair itself nearly as well as the muscle in the mice's much younger counterparts. [Genetically engineered stem cells were used to rejuvenate muscles. Make old muscles young]

October 02, 2008

Current and Future High Resolution Digital Cameras

One of my 156 predictions made in March 2006 was that gigapixel cameras would be common in the 2009-2015 timeframe. The Seitz Roundshot that takes 470 Megapixel images in 3 seconds and costs $36,500 is getting very close. There are other gigapixel scanning cameras and cameras for satellites and space applications but those will not be common.

The Seitz Roundshot D3 camera takes 470 Megapixel images in 3 seconds and the camera costs Euro 26,000 ($36,500).

A second generation D3 camera will be available in October with better image quality and other improvements.

Seitz Phototechnik has the 160 Megapixel camera. The camera costs $35000 (Euro 25000). It takes the 160 megapixel shot in one second.

Other scanning cameras such as ones from Better Light take up to several minutes to capture the image.

50 Megapixel Hasselblad cameras are available.

A 60 megapixel Hasselblad will be available April 2009.

Phase One has a 60.5 megapixel camera.


There is table of digital cameras and their image resolution at wikipedia

Gigapixel images are discussed at wikipedia

Vision Research Advances 1,000,000 Frames-per-Second High-Speed Digital Camera Offering With Launch of the Phantom(R) V12.1 Many rapidly shot lower resolution digital pictures can be stitched together into a larger high resolution image.

Extreme photography equipment.

Nikon MX rumored to have 40.7 megapixels and will be released early in 2009.

Sony has the Alpha 900 out now for $3000-6000 with 24 megapixels for a digital SLR camera.

DSLR Killer in Late 2009 from Company Now Killing 35mm film

The RED Digital Cinema Camera Company is rumored to be releasing a DSLR-killer in late 2009.

We believe, and are developing for late 2009, a replacement for DSLRs. Currently, we call it a DSMC (Digital Still & Motion Camera).

More discussion of the RED camera technology advantages.

Red needs to be taken seriously because they are well on their way to replacing 35mm film cameras with superior and cheaper high-res digital video cameras.

Carnival of Space Week 73

The Carnival of Space is up at Alice Astro Info.

This site looked at using magnetic flux to hold together giant (200 meter and bigger) space telescopes.

Centauri Dreams takes the long view of civilization and interstellar travel.

Ideafestival talks about J. Richard Gott's predictions based on the Copernican Principle, which is that there is nothing special about the moment in time we are at. Therefore, we can use how old something is now and then suppose that it has a 50% chance of continuing to double that age and then set a confidence range of three standard deviations to get a confidence range of 5-95% for the expected future life of anything.

In 1993, he predicted that the space program would last between 10 months and 125 years - again this is with a 95 percent statistical confidence. With 95% confidence, humanities life expectency on earth would be an additional 5,100 years and 7.8 million years.

Therefore, there is high priority on setting up colonies offworld and having a dynamic space capability very soon before the space program might end.

Cosmic log at msnbc looks at asteroids and the need for detection and defense

Check out the carnival of space week 73 for a lot more.

Imaging and laser related roundup: 25 million barcodes per second and lensless cell counting

1. Building on a series of recent breakthroughs in ultrafast analog-to-digital conversion, UCLA engineers have designed a bar code reader that is nearly a thousand times faster than any device currently in use.

The new imaging technique, developed by researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, enables the detection of ultrafast, non-repetitive transient phenomena in real time and can produce one-dimensional bar codes with a frame rate on the order of 25 million frames per second.

Conventional bar code readers use one of two approaches to acquire an image of the bar code. In one, a laser beam is scanned over the code to measure the intensity of the light reflected back by the black-and-white pattern. In such devices, the activity of the mechanical scanner limits the image-acquisition speed to less than 1,000 frames per second. In the second type, a digital camera, such as a CCD- or CMOS- based device, takes a picture of the code, which is then recognized by the computer. The frame rate of these devices is limited to about 1,000 frames per second by the refresh rate of the CCD or CMOS image sensor.

The new technology, dubbed the CWEETS Scanner (chirped wavelength electronic encoded time domain sampling), first maps the one-dimensional bar code image onto the spectrum of an ultrashort laser pulse and then maps that into an amplitude-modulated waveform that is captured with a single optical-to-electrical converter.

Counting shadows: A new cell counter uses the imaging chip from a digital camera to record the “shadows,” or diffraction signatures, from cells in blood and other samples. Simple algorithms allow cells to be identified and counted because each cell type has a unique signature. In this image taken with the cell counter, yeast cells are circled in blue, red blood cells are circled in red, and beads are circled in green. Credit: Aydogan Ozcan

2. Also from UCLA, a lensless imaging system finds and recognizes the shadows of T cells and bacteria.

Clinical tests for identifying and counting normal and bacterial cells in blood and other samples can tell doctors the source of a bacterial infection or help them monitor the immune health of people with HIV. But conventional cell counting is costly and time-consuming. A simple, lensless imaging system being developed by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, uses a chip like the one found in a digital camera to count and distinguish different types of cells in blood and drinking water, and simple algorithms to identify and count the cells. The imager could be carried in a device the size of a cell phone and used to monitor water quality and to provide cheap diagnostics in rural and underdeveloped areas.

"What we record is not an image but a diffraction signature," says Aydogan Ozcan, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at UCLA who's developing the cell counter. The blurred, pixellated images created by his cell counter are of such low quality that Ozcan doesn't call the system a microscope. But these images contain just enough information to identify and count cells, which is all that's needed for many clinical

3. Fiber lasers advance with better diode technology. 25% efficient conversion of electricity from the wall into laser power for high power kilowatt level fiber lasers.

Recent developments in high-power fiber-laser technology are closely related to improvements in high-brightness fiber-coupled pump laser diodes. Today it is possible to build kilowatt-level fiber lasers operating at 1 µm, based on standard commercial fiber, components, and 976 nm laser diodes. Advances in eye-safe fiber-laser technology indicate that the same path is likely at 2 µm based on thulium-doped fibers and 790 nm diode technology.

Based on the diode data in the previous section, the current high-brightness 976 nm diodes have an approximate 45% electrical-to-optical (E-O) efficiency making the total amplifier E-O efficiency around 35%. Further improvements are anticipated as the diode material improves.

This pump technology, coupled with the latest advances in highly efficient Tm-doped fibers [Thallium-doped], has allowed eye-safe fiber laser technology to approach 25% wall-plug efficiency and further improvements are likely as diode material continues to mature at these new operating wavelengths.

4. Low power liquid lens: an adjustable-focus lens made of two drops of water could be used in small cameras.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, NY, are proposing a type of liquid lens--made of only two drops of water--that changes shape when bombarded with sound waves. Using sound requires much less power than previous methods and could, with improvements in resolution, make the lens attractive for use in small surveillance cameras and cell phones.

October 01, 2008

Molecular Genetics of Aging Conference

Ouroboros has extensive coverage of The Molecular Genetics of Aging conference.

The conference had ten sessions:
Session I: Genetics of simple organisms

Presenters covered research into worms, yeast, flies and more.

Session IIa: Genome stability, damage & repair

-Christian Beauséjour argued that mice do not clear DNA-damaged cells
-Philipp Oberdoerffer (from David Sinclair’s lab) asked: What drives chromatin reorganization and how does it relate to mammalian aging?

Session IIb: Telomeres

Telomeres are examined as a clock of cellular aging

Session III was “oral presentations from abstracts,” a series of unrelated short talks;
Session IV was a poster session

Session V was a series of talks about mitochondria

Session VI: Senescence, apoptosis and stress

Session VII: Stem cells

Session X: Environmental interventions

This session is devoted to external treatments and their effect on lifespan.

Topics and Co-Chairs:
Genetics I
Heidi Tissenbaum (U Mass Worcester MA USA)
Scott Pletcher (Baylor Houston TX USA)

Genomic Stability
Jan Vijg (Buck Institute Novato CA USA)
Elizabeth Blackburn (UC San Francisco CA USA)

Mitochondria / Metabolism
Peter Rabinovitch (U Washington Seattle WA USA)
Leonard Guarente (MIT Boston USA)

Cellular Senescence / Apoptosis / Run and Stress
John Sedivy (Brown U Providence RI USA
Norman Sharpless (UNC Chapel Hill NC USA)

Stem Cells
Irina Conboy (UC Berkeley CA USA)
Karl Rudolph (Med Sch Hanover Germany)

Proliferative Homeostasis
Paul Hasty (UT Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX USA)
Rolf Bodmer (Burnham Institute San Diego CA USA)

Environment / Interventions
Richard Miller (U. Mich., Ann Arbor MI USA)
Steven Spindler (UC Riverside CA USA)

Genetics II
Anne Brunet (Stanford U CA USA)
Jan Hoeijmakers (Erasmus U Rotterdam Netherlands)

Applied biosystems introduces system for $10,000 whole genome sequencing

Applied Biosystems (NYSE:ABI) today announced a new genomic analysis platform, the SOLiD™ 3 System, that is expected to enable scientists to sequence a human genome for approximately $10,000.

Earlier this year, Applied Biosystems used the SOLiD 3 System’s underlying oligonucleotide ligation and detection technology to sequence a human genome for less than $60,000 [in 4 weeks]. Technical enhancements to the new platform that enable higher sample and data throughput are expected to further decrease the cost of genomic sequencing. The new system is 42% faster so whole human genomes could be sequenced in a little over 2 weeks.

We are still on track for $100 whole genome sequencing by 2012

Whole genome sequencing costs continue to fall: $300 million in 2003, $1 million 2007, $60,000 beginning of 2008, $10,000 now and $5000 by the end of 2008.

UPDATE: Complete Genomics, a startup funded with $47 million, plans to sell full human genome sequencing for $5000 starting in the spring of 2009. They plan to sequence 1,000 human genomes in 2009 and 20,000 in 2010

- The SOLiD 3 System includes walk-away automation, which facilitates up to seven days of unattended operation. This reduces the need for technician interaction with the platform and increases laboratory productivity.

-The new platform is capable of detecting more than 400 million sequence tags per run, allowing researchers to survey approximately four mouse or human transcriptomes in a single run, while maintaining the sensitivity to detect molecules present at a single copy per cell.

-The SOLiD 3 System is capable of generating 20 billion bases of mappable sequence data per run in customer laboratories, and has demonstrated runs of greater than 25 billion bases of mappable sequence data at Applied Biosystems’ research and development facilities.

-the SOLiD 3 System is expected to be globally available in early 2009.

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.

Promising thermoelectric project goal 20% improvement in fuel efficiency for cars [boost diesel car to 57% efficiency]

Thermoelectrics could capture currently wasted heat to boost overall vehicle efficiency from 38% to 57%. A 50% efficient free-piston engine could be boosted to 65% overall efficiency A regular 30% gas engine would be boosted to 51% overall efficiency.

Scientists at RTI are teaming up with several leading universities and a major aerospace company to develop the next generation of thermoelectric materials – revolutionary technologies that can efficiently convert heat differentials or waste heat into electrical energy for a wide range of applications.

The project will be funded up to $5.8 million and the RTI-led team will develop new materials and devices that operate across a broad temperature range – from 0o C to about 700 degrees C, to achieve the goal of near 30 percent energy conversion efficiencies.

Such a technology can pave the way for improving the fuel-efficiency of automobiles by almost 20 percent and can also lead to efficient energy harvesting for electronics.

Sufficiently advanced thermoelectrics could also help increase the efficiency of smaller powerplants.

The 30% energy efficiency is triple the efficiency of todays common thermoelectrics and double most advanced systems and would get to range of using solid state thermoelectrics to replace refrigerators [thermoelectrics can help cool as well as convert heat to electricity] and many small car sized engines. Typical conversion systems become less efficient as they are scaled down to small size. This means there is a crossover point: below some power level thermoelectric technology will tend to be more efficient. Increasing ZT will move the crossover point to higher power levels, increasing the range of applications where thermoelectrics compete. Thus the ZT of 3 to compete with current best car size and refridgerator mechanical systems.

Thermoelectrics for cars would place thermoelectric chips around heat sources like the tailpipe to capture heat for power

This site has had extensive coverage of thermoelectric systems in the past and believes that advanced thermoelectrics will be deployed over the next few years and will be widespread by 2020.

A goal of the US Department of Energy is the 60% efficient diesel engine which would use advanced thermoelectrics to capture currently wasted heat. [this powerpoint presentation describes all the areas where advanced thermoelectrics would help]

- Capture waste heat in aluminum manufacturing to allow widespread usage of aluminum which would reduce the weight of cars. Lighter cars are more fuel efficient. Currently Jaguar, Aston Martin and Audi A-8 have aluminum frames and bodies which reduce vehicle weight by about 500 pounds. Oak Ridge National Laboratory has empirically developed a rule of thumb that a 10 percent reduction in vehicle weight improves fuel economy by 5 to 7 percent.

- Improve refrigerators and eliminate the use of harmful gases (R-134a)

RTI Thermoelectric research

Effect of nanodot areal density and period on thermal conductivity in SiGe/Si nanodot superlattices, Feb 2008

September 30, 2008

Vertical Farming Details and Updates

Vertical farming/urban farming is a plan to grow produce in vertical, multi-story structures within urban areas to reduce the dependence on food grown and transported long distances.

Vertical farming will be using new versions of hydroponics and aquaponics. It will use about 100 times less water and provide over 5 times greater energy efficiency. The system can provide positive monetary returns within two years.

$122 million investment for 5 warehouses to grow spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, fish, head lettuce, leaf lettuce to feed the city of Chicago
$4.7 annual operating
$97.7 million annual revenue

Professor Despommier argues that the technology to construct vertical farms currently exists. Developers and local governments in the following cities have expressed serious interest in establishing a vertical farm: Inchon (South Korea), Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), and Dongtan (China).

Omega garden Carousel

Aquaponics (fish farming + hydroponics) hybrid with Raft System

One floor of vertical farm

Vertical farming at wikipedia

Main vertical farming website

Free-piston engine could be twice as fuel efficient as combustion engines

Sandia National Laboratory led by Sandia researcher Peter Van Blarigan that has been testing physical components of free-piston engines which could be 50% efficient. This is about twice as good as current gas combustion engines and about as efficient as fuel cells. Fuel cells are too expensive. He is assembling a complete free-piston engine prototype, a project that he expects to complete within a year. There are two working ends instead of current single active end pistons. It would use two combustion chambers at the of a dumb-bell [see pictures]. Each movement would drive a double two stroke combustion process.

Super high efficiency diesel engines could win in the marketplace and provide as much or more efficiency compared to the free piston engine.

Advanced thermoelectrics could capture some of the 50% power that is unused by the free-piston engine and could boost overall efficiency to 65%.

Wikipedia entry on the free piston engine.

Potential advantages of the free-piston concept include:

Simple design with few moving parts, giving a compact engine with low maintenance costs and reduced frictional losses. The operational flexibility through the variable compression ratio allows operation optimisation for all operating conditions and multi-fuel operation. The free-piston engine is further well suited for HCCI (Homogenous Charge Compression Ignition) operation.

The main challenge for the free-piston engine is engine control, which can only be said to be fully solved for single piston hydraulic free-piston engines. Issues such as the influence of cycle-to-cycle variations in the combustion process and engine performance during transient operation in dual piston engines are topics that need further investigation.

Pempek Systems has a staff of 50 and are working on a second version of a free-piston engine

25KW version of the FP3 free piston engine

Cost Effective Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography to at least 11 nanometers

ASML Holding NV (ASML) presents today at the 2008 International Symposium on Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography (EUV) on recent achievements in its EUV lithography program and unveils a production system roadmap that supports cost-effective chip manufacturing to at least 11 nanometers (nm). This would enable the ITRS roadmap to stay on track through 2022.

The ASML EUV roadmap is different from the International technology roadmap for semiconductors which is linked to here and which has the table below:

EUV Technology Milestones

Both IMEC and Albany have EUV development programs being executed on ADT systems with continuously improving performance results.

* The first functional devices made using EUV lithography on full-field chips were published in February 2008.
* The contact layer of a functional 32-nm SRAM cell printed using EUV lithography was demonstrated in July 2008.
* Progress with photoresist development has yielded 28-nm half pitch images using single exposure, conventional illumination, and no OPC (Optical Proximity Correction). OPC is a photolithography enhancement technique that modifies the chip design pattern on the mask to compensate for image errors due to diffraction.
* System overlay has been improved to 5 nm, the same distance a human hair grows in 1 second.
* Throughput has seen a ten-fold increase since the ADT systems were first installed.
* The first prototype LPP (Laser Produced Plasma) system is operational and 100W burst power was achieved on schedule. LPP is one method of generating EUV photons for imaging and will be used in the first NXE production systems. Discharge-produced-plasma (DPP) is another method which is currently used in the ASML EUV ADT.
* In addition to critical development work on ADT that enables EUVL for production, critical technology milestones have been reached on hardware for the volume production platform.

September 29, 2008

Speculative Technological Convergence - Nuclear power for Ten Thousand Exoskeletons

Previously this site speculated on near term technology that would enable a powerful version of the science fiction Bolo supertank.

Now the converged projection is that technology will soon enable effective exoskeletons with compact electric engines, mass-produced portable nuclear reactors, UAVs with electric engines, higher electrical density and longer lasting ultracapacitor/battery combinations.

Hyperion Power Generation plans to sell and build the four thousand 27-30MWe reactors over the first ten year period or less. [2013-2022] Each reactor should weight 15-20 tons and cost about $25 million.

The highest power to weight ratio electric engines could be used to power the Sarcos exoskeleton.

The person wearing the exoskeleton can carry 100-200kg without tiring so having 60kg of weight for an electric engine, ultracapacitors and batteries would work to power the exoskeleton. The Pipestrel motorized glider has 46kg of lithium batteries that store 6kwh of power. The AK30K016 electric motor, which weighs 14 kg, generates 30kw (40HP), 1800 RPM, 200Nm at 95% efficiency. The Hyperion Power Generation reactor could use 15-20% of its power to supply the power for ten thousand exoskeletons. A fleet of robotically flown electric UAVs could deliver charged power-packs of batteries/ultracapacitors to the exoskeletons.

Long lasting ultrabatteries should be commercially available in 2011

The fleet of UAVs can also provide air support and airspace control for the exoskeleton troops.

Beamed power and wireless energy transfer alternative to UAV supply chain
Wireless energy transfer has been demonstrated by Intel at 75% efficiency over short distances.

A recent experiment beamed power over 92 miles.

Carbon Nanotube Sheets produced at seven meters per minute

As reported in the journal Science: UTD/CSIRO team recently demonstrated that synthetically made carbon nanotubes can be commercially manufactured into transparent sheets that are stronger than steel sheets of the same weight.

Starting from chemically grown, self-assembled structures in which nanotubes are aligned like trees in a forest, the sheets are produced at up to seven meters per minute. Unlike previous sheet fabrication methods – using dispersions of nanotubes in liquids – this dry-state process produces materials made from the ultra-long nanotubes required to optimise their unique set of properties.

A team of nanotechnologists at The University of Texas at Dallas, along with Brazilian collaborators, have discovered that sheets of carbon nanotubes can produce bizarre mechanical properties when stretched or uniformly compressed. These unexpected but highly useful properties could be used for such applications as making composites, artificial muscles, gaskets or sensors.

Ray H. Baughman website

Universityt of Texas at Dallas NanoTech Institute

CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia's national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

CSIRO has dry spun carbon nanotubes

Four scanning electron microscope images of the spinning of carbon nanotube fibres.

* image one is a scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of a spinning triangle in which CNT fibres can be seen drawing off the forest
* image two (clockwise rotation) shows a close-up of the CNTs being drawn from the forest and highlights the alignment of the fibres
* image three shows the twist insertion point
* image four shows a section of the yarn which is comprised of over 100 000 nanotubes.

Ultrabattery Should be Commercially Sold by 2011

Japan’s Furukawa Battery Company signed an international commercialization and distribution agreement for the technology.

The Australian UltraBattery has a life cycle that is at least four times longer and produces 50 per cent more power than conventional energy storage systems. The technology is approximately 70 per cent cheaper than the batteries currently used in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).

UltraBattery hybrid car that has lasted over 100,000 miles.

The car driving around the test track

The technology is scheduled to be commercially available in the automotive market and for motive power applications throughout Japan, Thailand, North America, Mexico and Canada within two years.

UltraBattery technology also has applications for renewable energy storage from wind and solar. CSIRO is part of a technology start-up that will develop and commercialise battery-based storage solutions for these energy sources.

Past coverage of the Ultrabattery.

Multi-part self assembling stomach robot and nanotubes for better neural implants

By using magnetic links between capsules, researchers hope to build a snake-like robot that can self-assemble inside a patient’s stomach.
Credit: ETH Zurich

There were two advances that accelerate the integration of humans with electronic and robotic devices:

1. Modules that self-assemble inside the stomach could perform more-sophisticated diagnosis and treatment.

A collaboration of researchers from Italy, France, Switzerland, and Spain, called ARES, is testing a way for multiple capsules to automatically snap together. Each would be swallowed individually before assembling into a more complex device once safely in the stomach.

The ultimate goal is for each capsule to perform a different task: one for imaging, one for power, one to take samples, and so on. Once inside the stomach, the capsules would link together, creating a snake-like device that could slide through the intestines, performing more-complex tasks than those performed by a single capsule or several free-floating ones.

"Instead of having a single capsule, we propose a modular approach where each of the capsules could have different functionalities," says Zoltán Nagy, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), in Zurich, and a member of the ARES project. "Before we can actually talk about such complex robots inside the stomach, we need to solve the fundamental problem of self-assembly. Our work suggests one [way that] this can be done robustly," says Nagy.

"One of the main constraints [of the swallowable imaging capsule] is the battery," says Milan Dodig, a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic, who uses the device to treat his patients. "It takes almost 60 percent of the volume of the capsule; it's not steerable [and] can still miss stuff. The angle of the images is also limiting, and you can't see the complete [intestine]."

In these scanning electron microscope images, electrodes coated with carbon nanotubes, like the one on the right, are more conductive and better at interfacing with nervous tissue. The electrode on the left is bare.
Credit: Edward Keefer

2. researchers at the University of Texas are developing electrodes that are more efficient at both sending and receiving electrical stimuli. These electrodes, which are coated with carbon nanotubes, could lead to neural implants that monitor how they affect the neurons that they stimulate, conserving battery life and reducing side effects.

Pancrazio says that the nanotube coating might enable researchers to make smaller electrodes that cause fewer side effects. Using conventional electrodes for deep-brain stimulation, Pancrazio says, "you end up stimulating not only the area of interest but also other regions, leading to speech dysfunction and other problems." The ideal electrode would be small enough to interact with only a single neuron. But when electrodes are miniaturized, their impedance increases and their performance decreases. Electrodes coated in carbon nanotubes might be more amenable to miniaturization.

Is the current US / World situation more like Mexico's crisis of 1994-1998 ?

People have mostly been comparing the current crisis to the Japanese financial crisis and decade of economic stagnation. However there have been other foreign financial crisis that may be a closer parallel. All of the foreign financial crisis provide examples of what should be avoided. A series of direct support programs in Mexico to homeowners failed because it created a culture of non-payment for mortgages. Home prices have to get stabilized and programs have to be designed to keep people in their homes and making what payments that they can. Japan showed the failure of acting too slowly with programs that were too weak.

Mexican taxpayers have been asked to absorb the cost of bailing out the country's banks after the 1994 peso collapse and, in addition, bear the burden of any new bad loans the institutions have amassed since then [1994-1998].

Here is a 2000 Harvard paper that examines the crisis faced by Mexico and the failed attempts to Mexican attempt bailout its banks and homeowners.

The currency devaluation that Mexico suffered at the end of 1994 set off a recession and banking crisis from which the country has still not fully recovered. The housing market has been one of the sectors most seriously affected. Despite attempts by the government to aid banks and borrowers with mortgage loans, default rates have remained high.

The results of this study provide insight into why the ADE government aid program
failed between 1995 and 1996. Loan contracts that permitted excessive negative amortization coupled with a decline in property values left many borrowers with negative equity in their homes. With negative home equity, borrowers default to maximize wealth. Nearly two decades of research on mortgage pricing have shown that default should be viewed as a contingent claim attached to the mortgage contract. Lenders sell a put option when they originate a mortgage that explicitly allows the borrower to relinquish the home at the price of the mortgage. When the value of the outstanding loan exceeds the value of the house, the put is in the money and a rational, wealth-maximizing borrower will default. Mexican mortgage holders have largely responded, as financial theory would predict, by exercising the put option to default on their loans.

Direct discounts off the balance of the loan would have been a more effective policy for stemming default and encouraging restructure. Eventually, nearly three years later, the government did decide to support banks in granting such discounts through a program called Punto Final. By this time, however, borrowers had grown to expect a new relief program each time delinquency rose. Strategic default was well cultivated in the market making it ever harder to attain positive results even from a well-designed program. Successive policy failures, such as that of the ADE program, helped nurture a culture of non-payment.

Another academic paper examining Mexico's problems up to 1994

Japan's handling of its financial crisis also shows what does not work well.

$200 Device Boosts Diesel Fuel Efficiency by 19% and Reduces Particulate Pollution by 10 times

Emitted droplets from an electrified fuel injector split to become smaller and smaller.

A small device (less than $200 to produce) placed just before the fuel injection for the engine, producing a strong electric field to reduce the fuel viscosity, resulting in much smaller fuel droplets in atomization. Because combustion starts at the droplet surface, smaller droplets lead to cleaner (10 times less particulate pollution) and more efficient combustion. Both laboratory tests and road tests confirm our theory and indicate that such a device improves fuel mileage significantly (mileage increased up to 19%). The technology is expected to have broad applications, applicable to current internal combustion engines and future engines as well.

Widely applied if it saved 10% of fuel usage it would saved the US over $70 billion/year in oil. Only a little over half of the oil used in the USA is for cars and trucks the rest is for industrial processes, heating, planes, trains, ships.

The technology, developed on the new physics principle, consumes very small power and improves fuel efficiency significantly, we expect it will have wide applications on all types of internal combustion engines, present ones and future ones. By adjusting the values for the electric field and time duration, we could make this technology work effectively for other fuels, such as biodiesel, kerosene, and gasoline.

An electric field makes diesel thinner because some molecules in the fuel become charged and aggregate together, reducing their overall surface area. That means less friction between them, and a less viscous fuel. Tao and colleagues believe fuel efficiency gains were lower under stop-start urban driving conditions because the rate at which fuel flows through their device constantly varies. They are working on a version that varies its electric field to match fuel flow rate and keep viscosity constantly reduced in stop and go traffic.

Matt Thomas of CFD Research Corporation works on similar fuel electrification techniques. He says fitting the device to new cars will not produce such spectacular efficiency gains, but adds that it would still cut emissions.

Being able to retrofit existing diesel engine cars and trucks with this device would reduce overall oil usage by 2% in the USA. 10% of oil is used for diesel fuel cars and trucks in the USA. This technology would reduce European fuel usage by over 5% because of the higher diesel fuel usage. Assuming that the technology will work on other fuel types then the overall fuel consumption could be reduced by 10% or more. The cost to apply it the 100 million most highly used cars and trucks would be $20 billion. Saving 10% of oil usage in the USA would be 2 million barrels per day. The savings would be 200 million dollars per day assuming $100 per barrel for oil. This would be over $70 billion dollars per year.

(a) Installation of the device on the Cornaglia Iveco diesel engine.
(b) Installation of our device on Mercedes-Benz 300D, a diesel sedan.

September 28, 2008

Nanotechnology roundup: Graphene production and Copying Electric eel cells for implantable batteries

1. Two independent teams have shown that it is possible to produce stable suspensions of single-layer graphene from graphite crystals using chemical techniques.

2. A numerical model of a cell from the electric eel shows that artificial cells can be built to have higher power output densities and greater energy conversion efficiencies than natural cells, allowing them to potentially power medical implants and other devices.

Designing artificial cells to harness the biological ion concentration gradient
Jian Xu & David A. Lavan

Cell membranes contain numerous nanoscale conductors in the form of ion channels and ion pumps that work together to form ion concentration gradients across the membrane to trigger the release of an action potential. It seems natural to ask if artificial cells can be built to use ion transport as effectively as natural cells. Here we report a mathematical calculation of the conversion of ion concentration gradients into action potentials across different nanoscale conductors in a model electrogenic cell (electrocyte) of an electric eel. Using the parameters extracted from the numerical model, we designed an artificial cell based on an optimized selection of conductors. The resulting cell is similar to the electrocyte but has higher power output density and greater energy conversion efficiency. We suggest methods for producing these artificial cells that could potentially be used to power medical implants and other tiny devices.

3. Graphene devices: The first observation of saturating transistor characteristics in a graphene field–effect transistor is reported, demonstrating the feasibility of graphene devices for analogue and radio–frequency circuit applications without the need for bandgap engineering.

Current saturation in zero-bandgap, top-gated graphene field-effect transistors
Inanc Meric, Melinda Y. Han, Andrea F. Young, Barbaros Ozyilmaz, Philip Kim & Kenneth L. Shepard

The novel electronic properties of graphene including a linear energy dispersion relation and purely two-dimensional structure, have led to intense research into possible applications of this material in nanoscale devices. Here we report the first observation of saturating transistor characteristics in a graphene field-effect transistor. The saturation velocity depends on the charge-carrier concentration and we attribute this to scattering by interfacial phonons in the SiO2 layer supporting the graphene channels. Unusual features in the current–voltage characteristic are explained by a field-effect model and diffusive carrier transport in the presence of a singular point in the density of states. The electrostatic modulation of the channel through an efficiently coupled top gate yields transconductances as high as 150 microS microm-1 despite low on–off current ratios. These results demonstrate the feasibility of two-dimensional graphene devices for analogue and radio-frequency circuit applications without the need for bandgap engineering.

Stem cell Advance roundup : restoring hearing, fixing spinal cords, fixing hearts and more

1. Researchers have created healthy stem cells from adult cells--no embryo required and no side effects.

Until now, however, creating iPS [induced pluripotent stem] cells without integrated viruses had been a major hurdle for stem-cell researchers. Although Hochedlinger has overcome that hurdle, he says there is still some distance to travel. While retroviral techniques allow scientists to turn about one in every 1,000 skin cells into an iPS cell, the adenovirus is far less efficient: only one in every 10,000 to 100,000 fetal liver cells can be converted.

Once there are more iPS cells they can be compared to embryonic stem cells to confirm that they are identical.

2. Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology Announces: Reversible 3D Cell Culture Gel Invented by IBN Published in Nature Nanotechnology. This should help with the study and use of stem cells and increase the flexibility of working with cells.

A thixotropic nanocomposite gel for three-dimensional cell culture
Y. Shona Pek, Andrew C. A. Wan, Asha Shekaran, Lang Zhuo & Jackie Y. Ying

Thixotropic materials, which become less viscous under stress and return to their original state when stress is removed, have been used to deliver gel–cell constructs and therapeutic agents. Here we show that a polymer–silica nanocomposite thixotropic gel can be used as a three-dimensional cell culture material. The gel liquefies when vortexed—allowing cells and biological components to be added—and resolidifies to trap the components when the shear force from spinning is removed. Good permeability of nutrients and gases through the gel allows various cell types to proliferate and be viable for up to three weeks. Human mesenchymal stem cells cultured in stiffer gels developed bone-like behaviour, showing that the rheological properties of the gel can control cell differentiation. No enzymatic, chemical, or photo-crosslinking, changes in ionic strength or temperature are required to form or liquefy the gel, offering a way to sub-culture cells without using trypsin—a protease commonly used in traditional cell culture techniques.

3. Researchers in Rochester, N.Y., and Colorado have shown that manipulating stem cells prior to transplantation may hold the key to overcoming a critical obstacle to using stem cell technology to repair spinal cord injuries.

The research teams in Denver and Rochester consider the dramatically dissimilar outcomes between the different astrocyte transplants a development that can change the way stem cell technologies are used to repair spinal cord injuries. To that end, the researchers are in the process of developing a safe, efficient and cost-effective way to use this approach to better define the optimal human astrocytes with an eye toward use for clinical trials.

4. According to an Italian research team publishing their findings in the current issue of Cell Transplantation, hearing loss due to cochlear damage may be repaired by transplantation of human umbilical cord hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) since they show that a small number migrated to the damaged cochlea and repaired sensory hair cells and neurons.

5. Mayo Clinic investigators have demonstrated that stem cells can be used to regenerate heart tissue to treat dilated cardiomyopathy, a congenital defect.

Researchers transplanted 200,000 embryonic stem cells into the wall of the left ventricle of the knockout mice. After one month the treatment improved heart performance, synchronized electrical impulses and stopped heart deterioration, ultimately saving the animal's life. Stem cells had grafted into the heart and formed new cardiac tissue. Additionally, the stem cell transplantation restarted cell cycle activity and halved the fibrosis that had been developing after the initial damage. Stem cell therapy also increased stamina and removed fluid buildup in the body, so characteristic in heart failure.

6. Immature, or “baby,” fat cells lurk in the walls of the blood vessels that nourish fatty tissue, just waiting for excess calories to help them grow into the adult monsters responsible for packing on the extra pounds, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found in mice.

In future research, the scientists plan to characterize the cells more fully and to isolate the progenitors just by removing unwanted fat. These cells then can be moved to other locations in that same person for reconstructive purposes, to treat a variety of diseases, and also paradoxically to treat obesity and diabetes.

7. A single cell can repopulate damaged skeletal muscle in mice, say scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine, who devised a way to track the cell's fate in living animals. The research is the first to confirm that so-called satellite cells encircling muscle fibers harbor an elusive muscle stem cell.

Identifying and isolating such a cell in humans would have profound therapeutic implications for disorders such as muscular dystrophy, injury and muscle wasting due to aging, disuse or disease.

Spacex fourth launch successfully reaches orbit

Spacex Exploration Technologies has successfully launched the first privately-developed all-liquid fuel rocket that was able to reach orbit.

Falcon 1, a 70-foot-long rocket powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene, is the first in a family of low-cost launch vehicles priced at $7.9 million each.

Besides the Falcon 1, SpaceX is developing for NASA a larger launch vehicle, Falcon 9, capable of flying to the international space station when the current space shuttle fleet retires in 2010.

There should be two more launches in 2008. A falcon 1 with a payload and the first flight of the Falcon 9 heavy lift rocket. The launch manifest has five launches planned in 2009 and three in 2010.

ATSB (Malaysia) Q4 2008 Falcon 1

Falcon 9 Maiden Flight 2008 Falcon 9

MDA Corp. (Canada) 2009 Falcon 9

MIT solves 100 year Fluid Dynamics Problem

This month the MIT team reports extending its fluid separation theory to three dimensions, as shown by this simulation of a fluid separating (green lines) from the surface of a spinning sphere it is flowing past. Image courtesy / Amit Surana, Gustaaf Jacobs and George Haller, MIT

MIT scientists and colleagues have reported new mathematical and experimental work for predicting where that aerodynamic separation will occur. This can lead to more efficient cars and better planes and boats.

In 1904, Ludwig Prandtl derived the exact mathematical conditions for flow separation to occur. But his work had two major restrictions: first, it applied only to steady flows, such as those around a car moving at a constant low speed. Second, it only applied to idealized two-dimensional flows.

Since 1904 there have been intense efforts to extend Prandtl's results to real-life problems, i.e., to unsteady three-dimensional flows.

A century later, Haller led a group that did just that. In 2004 Haller published his first paper in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics explaining the mathematics behind unsteady separation in two dimensions. This month, his team reports completing the theory by extending it to three dimensions. Haller's coauthors are Amit Surana, now at United Technologies; MIT student Oliver Grunberg; and Gustaaf Jacobs, now on the faculty at San Diego State University.

The researchers said it's too soon to quantify the level of improvement in performance of cars and planes that might stem from the work, noting that more work must be done before it can be applied to commercial technologies