November 22, 2008

Forecasts for 2009-2013 and 2025

The Economist magazine has published its "World in 2009"

They have a forecast for China's GDP in 2009 of 4.8 trillion (8% GDP growth) and for the USA $14.8 trillion (-0.2% growth) and for Japan $5.39 trillion (0% GDP growth).

The US$4.8 trillion estimate for China in 2009 matches prior estimates from this site. The US and Japanese GDP estimates are less clear for 2009.

The [bureau of economic analysis] has the 3rd quarter 2008 US current dollar GDP at $14.43 trillion.With slightly negative growth for the 3rd quarter and 4th quarter and likely overall negative in 2009.

IMF estimates for nominal GDP for 2009-2013 are listed at wikipedia. [The recent financial turmoil has caused large fluctuations in currency.]

The National Intelligence Council has forecasts for the world in 2025, but the forecasts appear to be retreading older estimates. Something like the Goldman Sachs paper from 2003 on the Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Japan's official statistics are for GDP at about 560 trillion yen [2000 chain linked].

Current price GDP seems to be less about 530 trillion yen.

The yen is about 94-95 to the US dollar. This places the japanese economy at about 5.5 to 6 trillion US dollars.

November 21, 2008

Promising 10 Nanometer Graphene Computer memory

A team at Rice University has developed graphene 10 atoms thick and less than 10 nanometers wide.

- it would increase the amount of storage in a two-dimensional array by a factor of five.
- the new switches can be controlled by two terminals instead of three, as in current chips. This will allow for practical three dimensional memory layers.
- being essentially a mechanical device, such chips will consume virtually no power when storing memory
- On/off power ratio of one million to one instead of ten to one for phase change memory [higher is better]
- James Tour said the new switches are also fast; in fact, they react faster than his lab’s current testing systems can measure.
- they’re robust. “We’ve tested it in the lab 20,000 times with no degradation,” said Tour. “Its lifetime is going to be huge, much better than flash memory.”
- Typically, graphene is very hard to think about fabricating commercially,” he said, “but this can be done very easily by deposition.

Electronic two-terminal bistable graphitic memories

Transistors are the basis for electronic switching and memory devices as they exhibit extreme reliabilities with on/off ratios of 10,000–100,000, and billions of these three-terminal devices can be fabricated on single planar substrates. On the other hand, two-terminal devices coupled with a nonlinear current–voltage response can be considered as alternatives provided they have large and reliable on/off ratios and that they can be fabricated on a large scale using conventional or easily accessible methods. Here, we report that two-terminal devices consisting of discontinuous 5–10 nm thin films of graphitic sheets grown by chemical vapour deposition on either nanowires or atop planar silicon oxide exhibit enormous and sharp room-temperature bistable current–voltage behaviour possessing stable, rewritable, non-volatile and non-destructive read memories with on/off ratios of up to 10,000,000 and switching times of up to 1 s (tested limit). A nanoelectromechanical mechanism is proposed for the unusually pronounced switching behaviour in the devices.

November 20, 2008

Low Temperature Energy Harvesting - New Low Friction Rankine Generator

Most existing heat-harvesting technologies are efficient only at temperatures above 150 °C, and much waste heat just isn't that hot. Now Ener-G-Rotors, based in Schenectady, NY, is developing technology that can use heat between 65 and 150 °C. [338-453 Kelvin] The company expects to convert 10 to 15 percent of low-temperature waste heat into electricity, delivering a payback in two years or less in most case. This efficiency would be the red box in the graph. It would likely be equivalent to ZT 2-20.

Ener-G-Rotors' technology is based on the Rankine cycle, in which heated fluid flowing through a tube heats a pressurized fluid in a second tube via a heat exchanger. The second tube is a closed loop; the so-called working fluid flowing through it (a refrigerant with a low boiling point, in the case of Ener-G-Rotors) vaporizes and travels into a larger space called an expander. There, as the name would imply, it expands, exerting a mechanical force that can be converted into electricity.

Instead of turning a turbine, the expanding vapor in Ener-G-Rotors' system turns the gerotor, which is really two concentric rotors. The inner rotor attaches to an axle, and the outer rotor is a kind of collar around it. The rotors have mismatched gear teeth, and when vapor passing between them forces them apart, the gears mesh, turning the rotor.

The company claims that the rotor design is far simpler than that of a turbine, making it potentially easier and cheaper to manufacture, as well as more durable. And the company says that it has invented a proprietary way of mounting the rotor on rolling bearings that makes its movement nearly frictionless.

Reducing the friction means that the rotor turns more easily, so the gas doesn't need to exert as much force to generate electricity. That's why the system can work at lower temperatures, which impart less energy to the gas.

Ener-G-Rotors initially plans to target industries, such as chemicals, paper, oil, and food, that use plenty of energy and also release a tremendous amount of waste heat, Newell says. Later, the company also hopes to participate in solar-thermal and geothermal projects, and to target consumers with a one-kilowatt system.

The company is installing its first beta unit, a five-kilowatt system, in a combined heat-and-power plant at Harbec Plastics. It is also installing betas at a steam plant for New York utility Consolidated Edison and at a landfill-gas-burning plant for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

If the betas pan out, Ener-G-Rotors plans to expand to a 50-kilowatt demonstration, which is much smaller than the scale that most of its competitors are targeting.

United Technologies, which makes aircraft, aerospace systems, and air conditioning, and smaller companies such as ElectraTherm, are also pursuing low-temperature technologies--and they already have systems installed.

Electatherm Technology

ElectraTherm combines traditional components with patented, cutting-edge technology to create electricity from waste heat. ElectraTherm power systems use a closed-loop organic Rankine cycle (ORC) to create pressure by boiling EPA-approved chemical working fluids into gas. The gas expands in a one way system and turns a patented Twin Screw Expander, which drives a generator to ultimately put out electricity.

- Lowest heat requirement in the industry: 200º F [366K]
- Flexible and scalable from 25kW-1MW
- One third the cost of turbine generators

Heat2Power Won PowerTrain Innovation Award - Use Waste Heat from Cars, Trucks

The heat2power system is based on the use of one or more cylinders for the regeneration of waste heat. These cylinders can be in replacement of the combustion cylinders inside an existing engine or as an add-on module that is connected to the engine by means of a gear set or a belt drive. Also is it possible to have no mechanical linkage between combustion engine and regeneration unit in case the power from the regeneration unit is taken off electrically. The thermal power is extracted from the exhaust of the internal combustion engine by means of a heat exchanger.

The heat2power concept main characterics :

* Fuel savings of about 15 to 35% under ALL driving conditions
* Reduction of CO2 emissions of about 15 to 35% (under same conditions and with same fuel)
* Regeneration system possible as Add-in and as Add-on solution
* Engine block and architecture remain the same and so does the associated tooling
* Gasoline-Otto/heat2power hybrid Engine costs approximately 30% more than a comparable turbocharged gasoline engine
(That is cheaper than a Diesel engine but with comparable fuel efficiency) Diesel/heat2power hybrid Engine increases fuel economy

Review by Heat2Power of heat to power conversion alternative technologies.

AMD Firestream Versus Nvidia Tesla

The AMD Firestream setup from Aprius could be better with eight of the $1499 boards ($12000 plus some amont for the 4U box and backplane.) It will outperform the Nvidia setup and be out in about 4-6 months. Of course Nvidia could go through another rev from its current setup.

The FireStream 9270 uses a compact form-factor and can slide into both workstations and servers -- anything with a PCIe 2.0 x16 slot. The new card will retail for $1,499, and will start shipping in a few weeks.

AMD demonstrated a FireStream-based expansion box at SC08, which will start shipping in early 2009. Built by newcomer Aprius Inc., the Computational Acceleration System (CA8000) is a 4U box that can hold up to eight 9270 GPU boards, yielding an aggregate performance of 9.6 Single Precision teraflops (1.9 Double Precision teraflops). Up to 4 PCIe x16 buses connect the box to host servers, using optical interconnect technology developed by Aprius. Since the connection is optical fiber, the expansion box can use the full speed of the PCIe bus over distances of up to 50
meters. It's meant to offer a lot of compute density, along with the flexibility of a standard host connection.

NVIDIA's strategy seems to be to stake out the middle of the market between workstations and PCs sequestered for GPU computing and full-blown Tesla-accelerated clusters, like the 170 teraflop system just announced by Tokyo Tech. The Tesla personal supers can be used as development and test platforms for Tesla clusters or as HPC production systems in their own right.

Since the NVIDIA reference platform specifies multiple GPUs, a Tesla desktop system will be much more powerful than a single-GPU workstation. The minimum configuration for a Tesla-equipped personal supercomputer includes a quad-core CPU, 3 to 4 C1060 boards (each with a 10-series GPU), and 4 GB of memory per GPU. That would yield a machine capable of 4 SP teraflops and 400 DP gigaflops. These personal systems should retail for around $10,000.

NVIDIA believes the personal super computer market is around 15 million researchers, nearly 6 million of which are in the US alone.

GPGPU versus FPGA personal supercomputer

Obama's Clean Energy Future Goals

Obama announced that he would introduce a federal cap and trade system, a similar cap and trade emissions trading scheme is already in operation in the European Union.

Strong annual targets would be established that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to return them to 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them by a further 80% by 2050.

$15 billion will be invested each year to catalyse private sector efforts to build a 'clean energy future'. Obama said there will be "investment in solar power, wind power and next-generation biofuels. We'll tap nuclear power, while making sure it is safe, and we will develop clean coal technologies." This investment would help generate five million green jobs.

It is not clear how nuclear power will actually fit into the plans. If there was only the introduction of an energy plan similar to some of the past congressional proposals and there are the penalties to coal from cap and trade then there would be a substantial increase in nuclear power build. The nuclear power additions would mostly be in southern states where utilities can ensure project financial success by recovering any cost overruns from adjusted (increased) fees to customers.

No matter what is done with energy, government at all levels help pay for it in some way and the people ultimately pay either in taxes or in energy bills. The choice then becomes what is the practical and deployable mix of coal or fossil fuels with air pollution or nuclear power or renewables.

Obama has also said contradictory things about coal.

Worldwide the latest energy trend forecast is coal is expected to increase by 2.6% each year until 2015. Nuclear power and renewables will increase but 2009 will be a slower year for all energy investment because of the credit crunch and financial problems. With coal use still increasing all forms of clean energy are needed.

Obama's transition tracking at

Obama's Energy and Environment policy transition team

Obama's Energy and Environment plans

November 19, 2008

Regenerative Medicine : Hands, Bladders, Ears, Bones, Trachea, Muscle, Organs,

April 2008, Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) gave $42.5 million over five years to Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Wake Forest and its partners are adding $150 million for nearly $200 million. A second consortium with another $42.5 million will be managed by Rutgers and the Cleveland Clinic.

Nature discusses the full soldier regenerative medicine program

- Hands have been successfully transplanted (37 times), but there have been side effects from the immune suppression drugs. Researchers are developing ways to suppress the immune response with less drugs and fewer side effects, this will allow transplants of hands and other organs
- there is progress to growing the bones, tendons and muscles and other tissues of grown fingers from the patients own cells.
- Lab grown bladders were successfully implanted in 2006
- there are promising approaches for growing bone with its own blood supply, cellular matrix for eye lens and eye repairs, stem cells from amniotic fluid and placentas for a possibly limitless supply of stem cells for reconstructive procedures, heart patch tissues, esophagus repair, blood vessels, kidneys and more

- from the recent Convergence08, for about $7500 someone can get their bone marrow stimulated to generate more stem cells which can then be harvested for a personal supply of adult stem cells. It is better to have your own personal stem cell supply from a younger age as those stem cells will be in better condition
Separate from Wake Forest, doctors in Spain got a trachea from an organ donor and stripped the donated trachea of cells that would have been rejected when transplanted into another person. The doctors took adult stem cells and some other cells from the healthy right airway of the woman needing the trachea transplant, grafted those cells onto the stripped-down donated trachea, and marinated the trachea in chemicals in a lab to coax the trachea into rebuilding itself. When the trachea was ready, the doctors implanted it into the patient. The procedure worked, and since the trachea had been prepped by the patient's own stem cells before transplantation, her body accepted it without immune-suppressing drugs.

Large Scale Nuclear Fission Power for the Moon possible around 2020

The pieces for large scale nuclear fission on the moon.

1. Hyperion Power Generation Uranium Hydride reactor maybe ready 2013.
- if fusion is available because of success with IEC fusion or colliding beam then those could be used instead
- If lightweight molten salt reactors were developed those would be better fission reactors

2. Moon mining and extraction of uranium (tech available now just cost and effort)
3. Laser Enrichment ready 2012
4. High efficiency thermoelectrics 2015-2017 (optional for weight saving)
5. A reasonable heavy lift rocket system to deliver 20 ton pieces to the moon
6. As reader Will Brown notes in the comments, lunar cement can be made easily. the lunar cement recipe is for about 600 kilograms (1300 pounds) of Moon dust, 60 kg (130 pounds) of epoxy, 6 kg (13 pounds) of carbon nanotubes and less than a gram of aluminium. This would reduce the weight of cement for the moon by ten times.
7. Initially the mining and enrichment industry for the moon can be avoided by taking a sufficiently safe form of uranium hydride fuel which requires little processing.

The first of the compact fission reactors will not be ready until 2013 at the earliest and could be delayed a few years.

Mining lunar Uranium (even in the its low concentration is possible).

GE Silex Laser enrichment should have its first commercial facility operating in 2012. This would be the better way to enrich the uranium.

By 2020, there will likely be very efficient thermoelectric material for converting heat to electricity so that a heavier steam generator would not be needed.

The Hyperion Power Generation uranium hydride liquid metal fission reactor will weigh fifteen to 20 tons, depending on whether you're measuring just the reactor itself or the cask—the container that we ship it in—as well. It was specifically designed to fit on the back of a flatbed truck because most of our customers are not going to have rail. It's about a meter-and-a-half across and about 2 meters tall. It will generate 27-30 Megawatts of electrical power from 70 MW of thermal power. This means 0.5 to 0.75 tons per MWe for the nuclear reactor. The steam turbine to convert the power is counted separately. The core size is about one seventh the size of compact sub reactor cores.

Mining Lunar Uranium
Launching a loaded uranium reactor to the moon would not be possible because of the public relations issues. The unloaded reactors could be sent with heavy lift capability. Then a compact system to process the concentrations of Uranium and thorium on the moon would have to be built on the moon. There are uranium concentrations on par with uranium in granite on earth in the better locations on the moon.

Moonminer looks at mining the 2-6 ppm of uranium from KREEP on the moon.

The KREEP will consist of complex minerals made mostly of silicon, oxygen, aluminum, iron and magnesium with some other good stuff like phosphorus, potasssium, uranium and rare earth metals like lanthanum (used to increase the refractive index of glass) and hafnium.

we must do is break down the crystal matrix like we do with other minerals by melting, quenching and grinding. Iron bearing material can be removed with magnets. Then we can carbochlorinate the stuff by mixing it with carbon dust, exposing it to a stream of chlorine gas (both C and Cl will be carefully recycled and replenished by volatile mining) and heating it with solar reflectors or lenses. This will convert the stuff to chloride salts like that which we find in seawater. The silicon tetrachloride will boil off at only 56.9 C. It will be decomposed with solar heat to get pure silicon for solar panels and recover chlorine gas. Aluminum chloride will sublimate at 178 C. It can be recovered and electrolyzed to get aluminum. Carbon monoxide will also form and vaporize off to be recycled by reaction with hydrogen for conversion to methane and water which can be pyrolized and electrolyzed respectively to recover hydrogen, carbon and get some oxygen. The chloride salts that remain will be dissolved in water and pumped through plastic filters to get the uranium.

We can imagine other plastic filters that will absorb phosphorus, potassium, rare earths, thorium and other trace metals perhaps. After uranium filtration, the salt laden water will be boiled down, condensed, and the metallic chloride salts will be decomposed with extreme solar heat in a ceramic retort to recover chlorine, or they will be subjected to electrolysis. Note that the nuclear scientists also filtered titanium, vanadium and cobalt out of seawater, so we should capture these in the process of filtering out uranium if they are present.

Separating those metals from each other could be problematical. Uranium can be fluorinated to make UF6 which has a low boiling point, so we could just do that to roast it out of the mix of metals we filter out of our salt solution.

Some analysis of the energy required to get uranium from granite level concentrations of 6-10ppm.

Uranium concentrations on earth

There are methods to get uranium from such low concentrations but tend to be expensive. However, even $1000-10000 per kg to recover low concentration uranium from the moon would be worthwhile.

Natural uranium in our solar system is about 0.7% U235 and the rest U238. The Hyperion Power Generation reactor uses 4.9% U235.

If we were to use the General electric/silex laser enrichment (being deployed commercially in 2012) that could then bring the material up to sufficient enrichment efficiently and more compactly.

Estimate the silex laser process needs 5-50 kWh/SWU [separative work units], actual details are classified but based on the 2-20 times better gas centrifuge statements.

A kilogram of LEU requires roughly 11 kilograms U as feedstock for the enrichment process and about 7 separative work units (SWUs) of enrichment services. To produce one kilogram of uranium enriched to 3.5% U-235 requires 4.3 SWU if the plant is operated at a tails assay 0.30%, or 4.8 SWU if the tails assay is 0.25% (thereby requiring only 7.0 kg instead of 7.8 kg of natural U feed).

How Efficient Will the Hyperion Power Generator Be?
Based on a re-examination of the wording of the uranium hydride reactor patent by Otis Peterson, the reactor can burn 50% of fissile material (the odd number isotopes and not Uranium 238). Thus the efficiency of fuel burning is probably about 67% better than current reactors. Current reactors burn 30% of the starting fissile material. This would suggest being in the range of 60-90 gwd/t (gigawatt days per ton.)

Hyperion's CEO has stated a football size amount of waste is what is left after 5 years of 70 MWth, which would only be about 140 kg. If it started with 300 kg of uranium.

300 kg of uranium has 300,000 MW days of power if converting 100% of fissionable material (the starting uranium and its fissionable products. (1000 gwd/t * 0.3 tons)

The 70MWth for 5 years would need 5 *365*70 = 127,750 MW days

This would suggest that 42% of the available fissionable power.

This site is confident about advancing nanoscale manufacturing capability. This should lead to nanomaterial thermoelectrics with ZT scoreof 4-20 and possibly higher. This would be as good as steam generators efficiency in a lighter weight system.

Fusion power may not be ready until later. The best bet being the Tri-alpha energy colliding beam fusion and the EMC2 Inertial electrostatic fusion.

Technology Roundup: Stem Cells, Antimatter, Ten Minute Blood Test, Biosynthetic Fuel

1. A Colombian woman has become the world's first recipient of windpipe tissue constructed from a combination of donated tissue and her own cells.

Stem cells harvested from the woman's bone marrow were used to populate a stripped-down section of windpipe received from a donor, which was then transplanted into her body in June. The construction of the windpipe is the second organ produced outside the body using stem cells or cells from the patient's own body. In 2006, Anthony Atalaat Wake Forest University Medical School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, revealed that his team had fitted seven children with bladders reconstructed from their own tissue.

This is part of the ongoing progress in recellularization.

much of the published recellularization work to date has focused on building new heart valves - or even complete hearts. It seems that any comparatively simple tissue structures are well within reach of present day tissue engineering, however. A decade from now, this sort of replacement for damaged organs will be commonplace.

2. Laser production of anti-matter has made progress. Livermore researchers detected anti-matter about 10 years ago in experiments on the since-decommissioned Nova “petawatt” laser – about 100 particles. But with a better target and a more sensitive detector, this year’s experiments directly detected more than 1 million particles. From that sample, the scientists infer that around 100 billion positron particles were produced in total.

Chen and her colleagues used a short, ultra-intense laser to irradiate a millimeter-thick gold target. “Previously, we concentrated on making positrons using paper-thin targets,” said Scott Wilks, who designed and modeled the experiment using computer codes. “But recent simulations showed that millimeter-thick gold would produce far more positrons. We were very excited to see so many of them.”

3. A microfluidic chip identifies 35 proteins in a drop of blood within 10 minutes. The entire analysis process is performed on the chip. First, blood cells are separated from protein-rich serum, which travels down the narrow channels. These channels are coated with protein-capturing bar codes that light up under a fluorescent microscope if the blood drop contained the protein of interest.
Credit: James Heath

Researchers hope to make bedside diagnostics based on blood proteins a reality by bringing down the cost of such tests by at least an order of magnitude.

4. Several startups are working on different appraochges with synthetic biology to make fuel.

Most of these companies are launching their pilot programs now, with the average time to market being three to four years

- Amryis’ aim is to quickly deliver its renewable fuels to market and rapidly achieve the scale needed to make a difference globally, with plans for commercially available fuel by 2011. “No Compromise™ fuels are renewable fuels that demand no sacrifice in performance or penalty in price, and offer a superior environmental profile by reducing lifecycle emissions of 80% or more compared to petroleum fuels
- Mascoma’s production facility is expected to produce 40 million gallons of ethanol and other valuable fuel products per year.
- LS9 has launched a pilot program this year and plans to be producing biofuel on a commercial scale in three to five years. LS9 developed new metabolic pathways that efficiently convert fatty acids to a broad portfolio of petroleum replacements.
- Gevo develops advanced biofuels technology based on butanol and its derivatives.
- Agrivida’s seed and process technologies allow the entire plant to be converted into biofuels as a result of improved liquefaction and saccharification characteristics.

November 18, 2008


The panel and presentations on life extension were the highlight of the Convergence08 unconference.

- Gregory Benford's companyGenescient has bought Methuselah fruit flies. The flies were not allowed to breed until half were dead. So selective breeding over 28 years has resulted in flies that live 4.5 times longer than normal. Over 700 genes have been identified as effecting longevity. The flies share 75% of human genes.
- Genescient will be introducing supplements based on identifying small molecules that activate longevity genes but finding those sequences in natural herbs or foods or items grandfathered by the FDA. Thus no lengthy and expensive clinical trials will be needed.
- Bruce Ames: Whenever you're short of any micronutrient you're aging faster. Bruce has developed a low calorie bar to top up micronutrient levels more effectively than vitamin pills and other supplements
- Terry Grossman: Red Yeast Rice can help lower cholesterol as effectively as some statins. Also, take plant sterol supplements. There are cheap tests for early detection of heart disease.

Synthetic Biology panel

- Many synthetic biology companies are targeting biofuels and another means to enhance energy production. It is where big money is and no FDA approval delays.

The Speculist convergence08 wrap up

The Speculist had about twelve radiocost interviews from convergence08 I was one of the people interviewed on the second day of interviews.

My talk at convergence08

Paul Saffo keynote.

- Robots and sensors will be the next big thing

Keith Henson talked about a plan for getting a lot of space based solar power.

Anders Sandberg talked about brain emulation.
Alcor talk on cryonics

PJ Manney on empathy and technology

More session notes

Nvidia GPGPU Desktop Supercomputer and Convey HC-1 FPGA supercomputer

Nvidia has desktop supercomputers through several retail partners that have a peak of 4 teraflops performance using GPGPUs and a cost in the range of $8000-10,000

Nvidia personal supercomputing information is here

There are links to the online retailers for the Nvidia desktop supercomputers here

Here is the datasheet for the Convey Computer HC-1.

In early benchmark tests, the HC-1 running a protein sequencing application (an actual application running at Convey's first customer, the University of California at San Diego) showed a factor of 16 improvement in performance compared to a single two-socket Xeon box running the same code. A base HC-1 machine with a quad-core Xeon processor and 4 GB of memory on one side and the FPGA co-processor and 8 GB of memory on the other side costs $32,000. If you do the math, that's roughly 16 times the math oomph for about half the price of 16 reasonably configured two-socket Xeon boxes.

Convey computer claims 10x performance increase, 84% power reduction, 83% reduced footprint, and substantially lower operating costs versus regular X86 systems.


The Convey FPGA supercomputer:

The Convey Computer HC-1 has a special memory architecture. The FPGA and its personality are plunked on a chip that has 16 memory channels reaching out to the system, providing 80 GB/sec of bandwidth into the FPGA. The x64 processor and the FPGA are linked together with a cache-coherent shared virtual memory space, and applications see the x64 instruction set and a set of co-processor instructions implemented in the FPGA's personality.

Colfax sells Nvidia desktop supercomputers.

Energy Cost Analysis 2008

Energy price estimates from Lazard. A June 2008 study.

LCOE energy costs
The energy costs here have adjusted alternative energy with tax credits. The nuclear energy price assumes that the facility lasts 20 years instead of 40 to 60 or more years which has been the actual experience.

Assumptions in the Estimates

Nuclear is the carbon friendly conventional power source for baseload power. The alternatives for baseload power that are carbon friendly have supply issues (geothermal, landfill gas, biomass and fuel cell)

US energy subsidies.

November 17, 2008

High Impact Technology Update

Convergence08 was this past weekend, Nov 15-16, 2008. There were many talks and discussions.

I gave an update on high impact technology. I did not have the proper connection for a Macbook and an older projector, so gave this talk with the slides as mainly my own notes.

A preamble was added. During the initial panel discussion on Artificial Intelligence Q and A an audience member mentioned: "when there no longer is scarcity and we have economic abundance...". The first part of technology update relates to energy, and energy is the foundation of civilizations economy. Currently the world uses 15 Terawatts. The United States uses 4 Terawatts of electricity. Each person in the United States uses about 11KW. The world population in 2040 will be about 9 billion. For everyone in the world to be at the current average US level would take 99TW in 2040. For everyone to have five times the current average US level would take 500TW. This would be a minimum lack of scarcity situation. It would be getting everyone up to the energy usage level of an Obama defined rich person with $250,000/year and 55KW. Even if there was double the energy efficiency that would still be 250 TW. Factory mass produced deep burn fission power would require
One million reactors producing 250 MWe. If they were 50% efficient at converting heat to electricity and could burn 730 GWd/ton. 250,000 tons of Uranium or Thorium would be needed each year.

The world currently uses 1.5 billion tons of steel every year and 2.5 billion tons of cement. Currently only 46,000 tons of carbon fiber and about 100 tons of carbon nanotubes are produced per year. Even with ten to one efficiency because of higher strength to weight ratio and mixing the carbon materials, you would need at least 100 million tons of carbon nanotubes to fully convert to a high strength carbon nanotube world. To get to a world of abundance that would mean 1 billion to 10 billion tons of graphene, carbon nanotubes or diamond.

Energy Technology

Deep burn and seriously scaling nuclear power

Nuclear Fission
Hyperion Power Generation Uranium Hydride not a scam
Update on Hyperion Power Generation - 100 orders, target 4000 of the 27MWe reactors built from 2013-2023

China looks to factory mass produce a walk away safe high temperature 200 MW pebble bed reactor. First one to be completed 2013 followed by dozens more.

Molten Salt reactors like the Fuji Molten salt design could burn 99% of the fuel.

Russians have and are making breeder reactors. A smaller and newer Russian design is the Lead-Bismuth Fast Reactor (SVBR) of 75-100 MWe. [90 gwd/t]This is an integral design, with the steam generators sitting in the same Pb-Bi pool at 400-480°C as the reactor core, which could use a wide variety of fuels. The unit would be factory-made and shipped as a 4.5m diameter, 7.5m high module, then installed in a tank of water which gives passive heat removal and shielding. A power station with 16 such modules is expected to supply electricity at lower cost than any other new Russian technology as well as achieving inherent safety and high proliferation resistance

Very High Temperature Reactor could burn 65% of fissionable material

Deep burn high temperature reactor design for 500 gwd/t and europeans working on accelerator driven ultra high burn reactors with 700+gwd/t [after 2020].

75% of the new nuclear reactors are being built outside the OECD (developed world, US and Europe). Mainly in China, Russia and India.
Uranium can last for twenty thousand years even using 100 times the current level of power usage.

Nuclear Fusion
IEC fusion results from latest demo project are still being reviewed and have not been published.

IEC fusion traps a cloud of electrons and then has positive ions released that are drawn to electron and eventually collide to cause fusion.

Fantastic space propulsion if IEC fusion works

Focus fusion is another smaller fusion project which is technically promising but underfunded.

Focus fusion and the company behind it.

Tri-alpha Energy is a venture funded fusion project with $40+ million in investment.

TriAlpha is the brainchild of Norman Rostoker, a senior fusion researcher. He had previously collaborated with another researcher, Maglitch, on the MIGMA approach to advanced fuels. This approach involved shooting two counter-circulating beams of ions at each other in a confining magnetic field. It was not very workable, as the ion densities would always be very low. Rostoker combined this idea with another device, the Field Reversed Configuration, sending the beams into the FRC.

Dr. Hendrik Monkhorst of the Quantum Theory Project and his collaborator, Dr. Norman Rostoker of UC Irvine, designed a novel type of fusion reactor called the Colliding Beam Fusion Reactor (CBFR).

CBFR in Field Reversed configuration has a cylindrical shape, rotates at a high rate about its axis inside a solenoidal magnet, and thus produces a magnetic field that closes upon itself: a kind of self-confinement of fuel nuclei was established, with all confined particles flowing in the same direction. Protons rotate at a high rate, with an energy of about 1 MeV, and Boron 11 are slower, which causes the protons to literally ‘rear-end’ the Boron 11 with an energy at which fusion cross-section is highest. The collaborators found that plasma parameters could be set such that essentially all injected protons and Boron 11 undergo fusion to 4-Helium which were guided into Direct Energy Converter (DEC) devices. These devices turned their kinetic energy directly into electricity, unlike previous techniques where water was boiled, producing steam which drove turbines to eventually produce electricity. Resulting advantages included abundant fuel supply, nearly no radioactivity, no danger of runaway reactions or explosions, scalability of size and output power, easier engineering and maintainability.

Seaweed, fungus, waste and algae biofuels

Better Engines, hybrid and electric cars

Free piston and ecomotors diesel engine

Ultracapacitors and hybrid and electric cars

Superconductors and Thermoelectrics

Superconductors show increasing progress to room temperature.

Korea making 1300 HP engine for 2010

Thermoelectric progress and graphs explaining thermoelectrics

All thermoelectric articles

Exaflop and Zettaflop Computers
Onchip photonics needed for zettaflop computing

Tensilica configurable processors could make affordable and manageable energy efficient exaflop computers

Quantum Computers
128 qubit dwave quantum computer

Transformation Optics
Transformation optics

Avogadro Scale Computing
Digging into Avogadro scale computing work

DNA Sequencing
Gene sequencing category articles.

DNA Nanotechnology
DNA Nanotechnology category articles

Atomically Precise Manufacturing and Mechnosynthesis
Zyvex's funded atomically precise manufacturing program

$3.1 million to validate diamond mechanosynthesis computational chemistry work

Micron Scale Claytronics
Micron scale claytronics

Brain Emulation
Brain emulation and the brain emulation roadmap

Carnival of Space 79

Carnival of space 79 is up at One Astronomers' Noise

This site contributed an article about buying the future that we want.

Centauri Dreams covers the concept of an inflatable beryllium sail to send a mission to the Oort comet cloud.

The concept goes back to Joerg Strobl, who first published it in a 1989 paper for the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. And it’s a design that seems to scale well if properly deployed. The team studied two configurations, one a generation ship with inflated sail radius of 541.5 kilometers, a payload of 107 kg, and a separation between the sail faces of one kilometer. A second is a near-term extrasolar probe with sail radius of 937 meters, a 30 kg payload and a 1.8 meter separation. The numbers show how well the concept adjusts to different missions:

From the point of view of kinematics, mechanical stress, and thermal effects, the hollow-body solar photon sail scales well. Both configurations had a spacecraft areal mass density of 6.52 × 10−5 kg/m2, a peak internal gas pressure of 1.98 × 10−4 Pa, and a peak perihelion temperature of 1412 K. If fully inflated at the 0.05 AU perihelion of an initially parabolic solar orbit, both had a peak radiation-pressure acceleration of 36.4 m/s2 and exited the solar system at 0.00264c after an acceleration duration less than one day.

The new paper looks hard at the issues these designs face, including problems with the proposed 0.05 AU close pass by the Sun and the effects of solar radiation on sail materials and the hydrogen fill gas. The result is a modification of the near-term concept discussed above, with perihelion adjusted to 0.1 AU.

The tensile strength of beryllium degrades with temperature, the sail could burst from electrostatic pressure at the earlier 0.05 AU perihelion. Increasing the perihelion distance lowers the electrostatic pressure dramatically and makes the mission feasible.

There is a lot of coverage of the first directly imaged extrasolar planets.

Go to the carnival of space 79 for a lot more.

November 16, 2008

Hyperion Power Generation not a Scam and Licensing Delays Would not be Fatal to the Company

Hyperion Power Generation is venture capital funded company that is trying to factory mass produce a uranium hydride nuclear reactor. $25-30 million per unit which would be 15-20 tons and generate 27 MW of electricity and 70 MW thermal. It would burn up to 50% of the uranium nuclear fuel for 5-10 years. It would then be dug up out of the ground and processed by the company and remove about a football or softball of unburned fuel.

1. Hyperion Power Generation is not a scam.
The company has been in discussions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Then the issue is not if they are real but can they deliver and when would they deliver. The NRC had a powerpoint where they estimated review times.

On page 8 of this PDF, the NRC is estimating 2008-2011 for Hyperion pre-application work and then 2012-2015 for license review. Hyperion is shooting for June 2013. So Hyperion needs to help the NRC accelerate by 18 months to meet their schedule. The NRC has indicated that the schedule is tentative pending the actual application.

The NRC strategy is to use the licensee generated work for the licensing. ie. NRC will make Hyperion do the work to answer NRC questions. NRC just needs to have a few people who understand what to ask and understand prepared answers. this is the same as building code licenses at cities. The city department building people depend upon
the builders, architects and engineers highrises, buildings and buildings to prepare the proof of safety and reliability.

Uranium hydride is real. Edward Teller tried to make bombs out of the stuff back in the 1950s and got a disappointing 200 tons of explosion. A question is how well the self regulation and moderation of the hydrogen will work in the HPG patented approach from LANL.

2. The system has the potential to save a lot of money for enhancing oil and oilshale

For getting oil from oil shale this system can supply heat instead of natural gas. Hyperion also offers a 70% reduction in operating costs (based on costs for field-generation of steam in oil-shale recovery operations), from $11 per million BTU for natural gas to $3 per million BTU for Hyperion. Over five years, a single Hyperion reactor can save $2 billion in operating costs in a heavy oil field. A lot of
the initial one hundred orders are from oil and gas companies.

Even taking an extra 5 years to full automation and having some higher initially costs is not fatal to the company or the ideas. Being able to sell to oil and gas firms internationally or in China while awaiting full NRC approval could still work. ie. An extra few years to really deliver but have some sales to keep things going until the full vision is realized. I think it is somewhat comparable to SpaceX.
Trying to take an innovative approach to an older tech problem, with an entrepreneurial effort. The superior approach should be result in systems that have advantages, but execution will be only be seen as it unfolds.

So the cost can go up a lot and this thing is still worthwhile.

3. The concept of getting to factory mass production and shorter build times makes a lot sense.

4. China is looking to factory mass produce their 200MW high temperature reactor (first one going in 2009-2013). China seems likely to push ahead to execute on this even if initial costs are higher than expected. They have the money to stick with it and execute. 8+ units with common control center. Russia is looking to mass produce small breeder reactors that are factory mass produced. Russia is building their 800MW breeder now Beloyarsk-4 and is in an agreement to sell one like it to China.
Russia has had the 600MW breeder running for decades. Russia's oil and gas money should fund this through to completion with the goal of remaining an energy power after the oil and gas run out.

Mass produced
More automated design and new approach to safety
Deep burn fission (new types of reactors)
smaller systems for better economics

Are ideas that should be pursued along with innovative nuclear fusion.
Even if HPG fails, those new ideas for nuclear fission are good.