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March 19, 2010

Superconductor and Antimatter Bootstrap Space Launch, Propulsion and Weapons


Nuclear fusion or any larger power source that can be put into space combined with superconductors will enable antimatter production that can be 100,000 to one million times more effient in terms of cost than earth based systems.

* A $50-100 million system with 200 KW of power using current (or conservatively within four year technology) could produce several micrograms of antimatter each year.

*A one gigawatt power system inside of an earth orbiting superconducting traps could produce 95 milligrams of antimatter per year. Antimatter could be used to enable super high performance space ships.

Extraction of Antiparticles Concentrated in Planetary Magnetic Fields by James Bickford describes an orbital plasma magnet system for concentrating and trapping antiprotons.

The baseline concept calls for using conventional high temperature superconductors to form two pairs of RF coils that have a radius of 100 m and weigh just 7000 kg combined. A 5000 kg nuclear or solar power system provides the 200 kW required to operate systems and compensate for dissipative losses in the plasma. The magnetic field induced by plasma motion driven by the RF coils is used to first concentrate the incoming antiprotons and then to trap them. Based on the Earth antiproton flux, the system would be capable of collecting 25 nanograms per day and storing up to 110 nanograms of it in the central region between the coils. The system is more than five orders of magnitude more cost effective than Earth based antiproton sources for space-based applications.
The system could collect antimatter at the rate of 8.6 micrograms per year. It only stores 110 nanograms so the stored antimatter would need to be shifted every few days to more permanent storage.

SpaceX could have a Falcon 9 rocket ready this year which could launch 10.4 tons to low earth orbit for about $50 million.



Technology Development Requirements
The collection and use of antimatter produced naturally in the space environment requires four fundamental advances: an understanding of the natural distribution of antimatter, a highly efficient collector, a stable storage medium, and a mechanism to induce thrust. The proposed collection system does not require the development of any fundamentally new technology to make it work.

However, the demonstration of key technologies and significant improvements in several areas would improve the risk weighted economic feasibility. To this end, we have identified the following technologies that need to be demonstrated at a TRL level of seven (7) or above.

Technologies in order of importance

• Compact mass spectrometer placed in highly eccentric orbit. In situ measurements of antimatter fluxes in the Earth’s radiation belt and around the Jovian planets have not been made. The models developed as part of this program should be verified by direct experimental evidence before significant resources are committed to implementing a full system. Current orbital missions do not have the spatial and/or property coverage to characterize the relevant environment. A compact mass spectrometer capable of differentiating protons, antiprotons, electrons, and positrons should be developed and flown in a highly eccentric orbit with an apogee of at least six Earth radii (6 RE) to completely characterize the antiproton and positron environment. Such a system will also contribute greatly to radiation belt knowledge and the interaction between the magnetosphere and the Sun.
• Large-scale demonstration of a plasma magnet. The technology is a critical path item that appears to provide the only mass-efficient system capable of collecting significant quantities of antiprotons. The RF generation equipment and its integration with large-scale coils in the space environment need to be demonstrated.
• Low mass, high strength, long strand, ultra-high current loops. Though the plasma magnet significantly reduces the need for high current wires, RF coils would still benefit from higher current densities. High temperature superconductors with current densities much greater than 10^10 A/m2 at 90K will enable far more compact and mass-efficient systems.
• Radiation tolerant in-orbit power source. The particle collection system is required to operate in a high radiation environment. Though the magnetic field will shield the system from much of the incoming flux, a radiation tolerant power source is necessary to generate the initial current before the field is fully established. The intrinsic energy contained in the field dictates that a high power source be available in order to charge the system in a reasonable time. A space-qualified nuclear reactor with a power output of at least 100 kWe is desirable.
• Antiproton catalyzed fission/fusion engine. Nanograms to micrograms of antiprotons do not have enough intrinsic energy to propel a spacecraft to high velocities when exclusively using the annihilation products. Instead, most concepts rely on using antiprotons to induce fission reactions. The antiprotons catalyze nuclear reactions in sub-critical fissile material to propel the vehicle by leveraging the nuclear material in a safe and controllable manner.
• Passive cooling systems. Reduced-mass multi-layer thermal blankets for passive temperature control of large structures with Tmax < 90K at 1 AU will improve the overall mass efficiency and reduce requirements on the high temperature superconductors wires used. • Affordable lift. Reducing the cost to orbit with new affordable heavy lift options, though not strictly required, will improve overall feasibility.

The 'base design' consisted of a 4000 ton model planned for ground launch from Jackass Flats, Nevada. Each 0.15 kt of TNT (600 MJ) (sea-level yield) blast would add 30 mph (50 km/h, 13 m/s) to the craft's velocity. A graphite based oil would be sprayed on the pusher plate before each explosion to prevent ablation of the surface. To reach low Earth orbit (300 mi), this sequence would have to be repeated about 800 times, like an atomic pogo stick.

Most of the three tons of each of the "super" Orion's propulsion units would be inert material such as polyethylene, or boron salts, used to transmit the force of the propulsion unit's detonation to the Orion's pusher plate, and absorb neutrons to minimize fallout.


Very Low Fallout Antihydrogen Bombs for Revamped Project Orion

One microgram of antihydrogen would be theoretically by enough to be the trigger for one kiloton antihydrogen bombs. By not having a nuclear fission trigger the amount of fallout is massively reduced. These would be about the size needed for pulse units for project orion style nuclear pulsed propulsion. Each one of the plasma magnet antimatter traps would be able to produce the antimatter for about 8 antihydrogen bombs per year.

On March 24, 2004, Eglin Air Force Base Munitions Directorate official Kenneth Edwards spoke at the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. During the speech, Edwards ostensibly emphasized a potential property of positron weaponry, a type of antimatter weaponry: Unlike thermonuclear weaponry, positron weaponry would leave behind "no nuclear residue", such as the nuclear fallout generated by the nuclear fission reactions which power nuclear weapons.






Other Possible Antimatter Weapons

The most important application is fallout free pulse units for project orion to launch without fallout. Launch costs would drop to $1-5/kg. Plus interplanetary and even interstellar propulsion would be enabled.
In addition to the advantages related to its extremely high energy density and ease of ignition, annihilation has two important characteristics: the release of energy in a matterantimatter explosion is extremely fast (ten to a thousand times shorter than a nuclear explosion), and most of the energy is emitted in the form of very energetic light charged particles (the energy to mass ratio of the pions emitted in annihilation is two thousand times higher than the corresponding ratio for the fission or fusion reaction products). With the help of magnetic fields, very intense pion beams can be created, of the order of 100 megaamperes per microgram of antiprotons. Such beams, if directed along the axis of an adequate device, can drive a magnetohydrodynamic generator, generate a beam of electromagnetic waves, trigger a cylindrical thermonuclear explosion, or pump a powerful Xray laser. In the last case, for example, the pions’s energy could be used to transform in a very uniform plasma, a long cylinder of a substance such as selenium, whose ionized atoms have excited states favorable to the spontaneous emission and amplification of coherent Xrays. But this is only one of the many concepts that permit, thanks to antimatter, to conceive Xray lasers having efficiencies ten to a thousand times higher than those pumped by any other known energy sources.

Designer nanomaterials on-demand from Berkeley Labs

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These transmission electron microscope images show (a) the original nanorod array of cadmium sulfide and (b) a composite made from cadmium sulfide and the chalcogenide copper sulfide. In the composite, nanoparticle ordering is maintained but spacing between the particles decreases

Composites are combinations of materials that produce properties inaccessible in any one material. A classic example of a composite is fiberglass – plastic fibers woven with glass to add strength to hockey sticks or the hull of a boat. Unlike the well-established techniques for producing fiberglass and other macroscale composites, however, there aren’t general schemes available for making nanoscale composites.


Now, researchers at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, in collaboration with researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, have shown how nanocomposites with desired properties can be designed and fabricated by first assembling nanocrystals and nanorods coated with short organic molecules, called ligands. These ligands are then replaced with clusters of metal chalcogenides, such as copper sulfide. As a result, the clusters link to the nanocrystal or nanorod building blocks and help create a stable nanocomposite. The team has applied this scheme to more than 20 different combinations of materials, including close-packed nanocrystal spheres for thermoelectric materials and vertically aligned nanorods for solar cells.



This new process for fabricating inorganic nanocomposites gives us unprecedented ability to tune composition and control morphology.

The researchers anticipate demand from users seeking this latest addition to the Foundry’s arsenal of materials synthesis capabilities, as this mix-and-match approach to nanocomposites could be used in an infinite list of applications, including materials for such popular uses as battery electrodes, photovoltaics and electronic data storage.

“The beauty of our method is not just the flexibility of compositions that can be achieved, but the ease with which this can be done. No specialized equipment is required, a variety of substrates can be used and the process is scalable,” said Ravisubhash Tangirala, a Foundry post-doctoral researcher working with Milliron.

A paper reporting this researcher titled, “Modular inorganic nanocomposites by conversion of nanocrystal superlattices,” appears in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition and is available in Angewandte Chemie International Edition online. Co-authoring the paper with Milliron and Tangirala were Jessy Baker and Paul Alivisatos.

9 pages of supporting material

Inorganic nanocomposites have recently emerged as a means of
controlling material functionality through morphology, as well as
composition, to give rise to combinations of properties not generally
found in homogeneous single-phase materials. However, the
development of nanocomposites is hindered by the lack of general
fabrication methods capable of controlling morphology over a wide range
of compositions. Here we report the preparation of inorganic
nanocomposites through the post-assembly replacement of organic
ligands in nanocrystal (spheres, rods, binary, etc) superlattices with
inorganic chalcogenidometallate clusters (CMCs). Separate synthesis and
processing of the nanocrystals and CMCs enables complete compositional
modularity, while allowing the nanocrystal assemblies to retain their
original morphology.

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IEC Fusion Problem that was Overcome Back in 2008

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The NMSBA (The New Mexico Small Business Assistance) Program helped EMC2 Fusion to access LANL’s (Los Alamos National Lab) sophisticated science and technology expertise, which is normally out of reach for a small technology company.

(H/T JohnFul in TalkPolywell)

Energy Matter Conversion Corporation (EMC2) is a research and development company that is working toward the creation of radiation-free and cost-effective fusion power. If successful, the company will create a fusion power system that would dramatically change the face of power generation worldwide.

EMC2 had reached an impasse in their design caused by a device failure in which the plasma arced and lost confinement. This flaw happened so quickly the company needed specialized equipment and expertise to diagnose the issue and maintain the timeliness of their development plans.



Glen Wurden (LANL), Fusion Energy Sciences Program Manager, is an experimental plasma physicist and team leader of the magnetic fusion experimental team. Dr. Wurden’s unique expertise in analysis identified the problem. He used high speed cameras to photograph the fusion reaction and capture images that allowed them to visualize the dynamics of the device failure. He also applied light monitors and a spectrometer to identify impurities that were interfering in the fusion reaction.

The NMSBA Program helped to save EMC2 six months to a year in their development cycle by identifying the technical flaw in only two weeks. Identification of the problem saved the company nearly 30% of their
annual budget. The cost savings will enable EMC2 to hire two more employees and continue with plans to add five more jobs next year. The NMSBA Program has kept a valuable project from stalling. EMC2 is moving
forward on plans to construct a $30 million dollar prototype.

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David Brin Space Exploration Discussion Videos

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David Brin talks about how the Constellation program was no good. He likes going to Phobos (Mars Moon) or near earth asteroids. He wants to open up low earth orbit access to commercial competition. He wants to lower the cost to get to orbit and space. He likes space mining.



Space Exploration Part 1:Planning our next steps in space



Space Exploration Part 2: Mining the sky



Space Exploration Part 3: The Big Picture



Space Exploration Part 4: Ambitious Technologies



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High Temperature Superconductor Status and Future Prospects

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1. Summarized benefits of second generation high temperature superconducting wire and devices Superpower inc believes that with the vortex pinning properties of YCBO and the grain boundary properties of BSCCO 2212 that it could be possible at colder temperatures to achieve magnets with over 100 Tesla in field strength. A graph below illustrates the temperatures and field strength that could be possible with YCBO superconductors. This review is not looking at what could be possible with major breakthroughs in superconductor science which could lead to a new generation of superconductors with even higher field strength and room temperature operation.


One of the most exciting and transformational aspects of 2G HTS conductors is that they simultaneously do two things – first they remove the hard limit of about 24 Tesla that any existing superconductor permits, at least doubling the field, and second they allow generation of fields up to 10 T at temperatures up to at least 55 K, thus finally freeing superconducting magnets from the liquid helium domain. At the National Magnet Lab, we have already shown, in collaboration with SuperPower, how to raise the capability of superconductors to almost 34 Tesla, almost 50% higher than ever before. More broadly 2G HTS superconducts to 5 times the temperature of the best Niobium-based low temperature conductor, enabling a much simpler refrigerator-based magnet technology.

This superior performance in high magnetic fields, along with the wire’s light weight and high current density, has important implications in the aerospace industry as well. SuperPower's 2G HTS wire is a critical ingredient in the successful development of Ad Astra's VASIMR engine.



SuperPower, Inc. celebrated its 10-year anniversary today with the opening of a new exhibit on superconductivity at the Schenectady Museum and Suits-Bueche Planetarium in Schenectady, New York. The exhibition details the company’s accomplishments that include successful scale-up of second-generation (2G) high-temperature superconductor (HTS) wire production at SuperPower’s manufacturing facility in Schenectady, the world’s first in-grid demonstration of 2G HTS wire at the Albany HTS Cable Project, development work in the superconducting fault current limiter (SFCL) device that improves power quality and grid reliability, achievement of world-record magnetic field strengths in magnet coils, and ongoing efforts to demonstrate the technology in other fields.

The electric power industry is a principal application area for high temperature superconductors with benefits that include improved efficiency in power transmission and distribution brought about by a 60-70% reduction in resistive power losses, reduction of carbon footprint, very high power transmission capability at reduced voltages, reduction of device size and weight, and improved aesthetics.

2. Transformational Opportunities of YBCO/REBCO for Magnet Technology (15 page pdf)








3. Burned Rice Husk: An Effective Additive for Enhancing the Electromagnetic Properties of MgB2 Superconductor
We investigated the effect of doping of burned rice husk which contains ultrafine SiO2 and highly reactive carbon, on the crystal lattice and superconducting properties of MgB2 superconductor prepared by an in situ powder in sealed tube method. XRD, TEM, and magnetic measurements confirm the substitution of carbon atoms at boron sites in the MgB2 lattice and the formation of intragrain nanoinclusions in MgB2. From JC (H) characteristics, doped samples show a drastic enhancement of JC compared with pure MgB2. The enhancement of in-field JC values is due to the flux pinning on lattice defects produced by C substitution and nanoscale inclusions of impurity phases.


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Boeing Completes Preliminary Design of 100 Kilowatt Free Electron Laser Weapon System and Eventually Megawatt Class Lasers

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Boeing has a complete 100 kilowatt free electron laser (FEL) design which will operate by passing a beam of high-energy electrons through a series of powerful magnetic fields, generating an intense emission of laser light that can disable or destroy targets

The Boeing news release does not mention the 100 Kilowatt power level, but the $163 million program is working to a 100 kilowatt FEL laser demonstrator and eventually megawatt class FEL that will be deployed on navy ships.

Photonics - Two companies are competing to develop the laser, The Boeing Co.’s Directed Energy Systems Div. in West Hills, Calif., and Raytheon Co.’s Integrated Defense Systems Div. in Tewksbury, Mass. Each has been awarded a 12-month, $6.9 million contract from the Office of Naval Research. The project is estimated to reach $163 million to fully complete a 100-kW demonstration prototype.

Defenseupdate - The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is investing nearly $25 million in the FEL program during fiscal year 2009. In April, ONR awarded Raytheon and Boeing $6.9 million to complete the preliminary design of the electric-powered Free Electron Laser; additional $156 million are earmarked or the system's development and demonstration in realistic tests at sea. Boeing will partner with U.S. Department of Energy laboratories, academia and industry partners to design the laser. According to the Navy's request the weapon class FEL demonstrator will be a 100kW device, designed to operate at the 1.6 micron near infrared (NIR). A follow-on Megawatt class FEL could be an element of the full fledged weapon system test bed to follow the current development, that would include a beam director, beam control and fire control elements for eventual introduction into the Fleet.




The FEL based weapon system is promising to transform future naval warfare capability by providing an ultra-precise, speed-of-light capability and unlimited magazine depth to defend ships against new, challenging threats, such as hyper-velocity cruise missiles. Furthermore, the future weapon could be employed in different levels, from non lethal to lethal effects. Other benefits of FEL include its ability to engage multiple targets at light speed, reduced dependency on explosive magazine, provide counter-surveillance at sea, flexible defense of the battle group, advanced maritime situational awareness and high-resolution imagery. FEL is expected to be deployed with the Navy's future all-electric ship architecture.

Free-electron lasers work by injecting a number of electrons into a linear accelerator, where they are amplified to very high energy levels. Directed through a sequence of powerful electromagnetic fields, the electrons emit energy, creating an intense laser beam. “The FEL is the only all-electric laser that is capable of producing megawatt-and-above powers,” said Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing’s Directed Energy Systems.

To enhance energy, two variables of the system must be changed. The first includes increasing the number of times an electron group is injected into the accelerator, and the second, increasing the number of electrons.

One of the key benefits of the free-electron laser is that it is tunable in both its power levels and its wavelengths. To facilitate a successful and powerful laser beam that propagates through the atmosphere and that will not become absorbed, various wavelengths must be available – depending on environmental conditions – on a day-to-day basis. In addition, adjusting the power allows for fully destroying a target or for merely disabling it. The laser also provides a point-defense capability that uses high-resolution imaging and a beam director to pinpoint a specific spot on a target quickly and accurately.

There are three phases to the 100 KW demonstrator. The first, 1A, will involve a year of constructing an introductory design proposal for the 100-kW prototype FEL system, while the second phase, 1B, will be to create a detailed design. The third, phase 2, will be the fabrication, integration and testing of the FEL prototype.

Technical Design from 2006 of a 100 KW Free Electron Laser

Technologies Toward a 100-KW Free-Electron Laser (Los Alamos, 3 pages)
The challenges of a 100-kW free-electron laser (FEL) are not insurmountable but nevertheless require technological solutions beyond the incremental refinements of mature technologies. Efforts are underway to develop technologies that will enable a new level of FEL performance, e.g. 100-kW average power or greater. These technologies include high-gain amplifiers driven by high-brightness electron beams, high-average-current
electron injectors, spoke resonator cavities for energy recovery linac, beam-break-up (BBU) suppression, and new concepts of high-efficiency tapered wigglers.

* High-average-current Injectors
Three candidates for the high-average-current injectors are being developed. They are the DC gun-SRF booster combination, the SRF gun and the normalconducting radio-frequency (NCRF) gun. The DC gun has been the workhorse of the Jefferson Lab FEL. It has achieved 10-mA average current.

* Spoke Resonators
A relatively new design of superconducting RF cavities called the spoke resonators offer a number of advantages: mechanical rigidity to resist vibrations, small transverse dimension, strong cell-to-cell coupling and the potential for high BBU limits. At the same diameter, the spoke resonator’s operating frequency is about one-half that of elliptical cavities. This means that a 350-MHz spoke cavity has the same diameter as a 700-MHz elliptical cavity but can operate at 4.5 K.

*A new concept of a tapered wiggler called the stair-step wiggler has the potential of delivering the same extraction efficiency as, but not the complexity of, a convention a linearly tapered wiggler.

* Beam-break-up Suppression
A very innovative way to significantly increase the multi-pass, multi-beam BBU limit in an ERL is by modifying the recirculation transfer matrix using skewed quadrupole magnets. This modification could be either a rotation or a reflection in such a way that BBU cannot develop or develops at a much higher current. This novel approach has quadrupled the measured BBU limit at the Jefferson Lab FEL. With refinements, it is conceivable
that much higher BBU limits can be achieved.

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March 18, 2010

Cambridge discovery could pave the way for quantum computing

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Two experimental systems at the forefront of modern physics research — a single trapped ion and a quantum atomic gas — have been combined for the first time by researchers at Cambridge.

The successful creation of this hybrid system opens the way to new types of experiment, in which the precise controllability of trapped ions can be used to study and manipulate quantum gases with nanometre precision.


In recent years, the ultracold quantum gases known as Bose-Einstein condensates and single ions confined in electromagnetic traps have both been used to explore a wide range of problems in fundamental physics.

Writing in this week's Nature, the team from the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge describe the immersion of a single trapped ytterbium ion in a Bose-Einstein condensate of neutral rubidium atoms.

They showed that they can control the two systems independently, and study their interactions. They also observe 'sympathetic cooling' of the ion by the condensate - an effect that might ultimately prove useful in quantum computing.

According to Dr Michael Köhl: "We placed a single charged Ytterbium atom into a Bose-Einstein condensate, which at only a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero is the coldest thing in the universe."

The results could be used to cool quantum computers - devices that, by employing the laws of quantum mechanics, can solve certain computational tasks much faster than any existing computer. Basic quantum processors already exist but they are not yet surpassing the fastest normal computers.

"Today's most powerful quantum computers are made from single atoms, like our Ytterbium, trapped in vacuum, but they need to be refrigerated in order to compute correctly. Usually this is done with laser light, which is quite complicated, expensive, and it interrupts the computing process. With our new technique, quantum computers could be cooled continuously in the future which could pave the way to a more widespread application," says Dr Köhl.

The picture shows the team's experimental apparatus comprising of the ion trap inside the vacuum chamber. The inset shows schematically the single ion (red) in the Bose-Einstein condensate (dark grey).

Nature - A trapped single ion inside a Bose–Einstein condensate

Improved control of the motional and internal quantum states of ultracold neutral atoms and ions has opened intriguing possibilities for quantum simulation and quantum computation. Many-body effects have been explored with hundreds of thousands of quantum-degenerate neutral atoms1, and coherent light–matter interfaces have been built. Systems of single or a few trapped ions have been used to demonstrate universal quantum computing algorithms and to search for variations of fundamental constants in precision atomic clocks. Until now, atomic quantum gases and single trapped ions have been treated separately in experiments. Here we investigate whether they can be advantageously combined into one hybrid system, by exploring the immersion of a single trapped ion into a Bose–Einstein condensate of neutral atoms. We demonstrate independent control over the two components of the hybrid system, study the fundamental interaction processes and observe sympathetic cooling of the single ion by the condensate. Our experiment calls for further research into the possibility of using this technique for the continuous cooling of quantum computers. We also anticipate that it will lead to explorations of entanglement in hybrid quantum systems and to fundamental studies of the decoherence of a single, locally controlled impurity particle coupled to a quantum environment

Editor's Summary - A Bose–Einstein trap

Until now, quantum atomic gases and single trapped ions have been treated separately in experiments. Now a team from the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge has combined the two, in the form of a hybrid quantum system composed of a Bose–Einstein condensate of neutral atoms and a trapped atomic ion. They achieve independent control over the two systems, study the fundamental interaction processes and observe sympathetic cooling of the single ion by the condensate. Possible avenues of research that this could lead to include the continuous cooling of quantum computers, and explorations of entanglement in hybrid quantum systems.
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Three-Dimensional Invisibility Cloak at Optical Wavelengths

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Three-Dimensional Invisibility Cloak at Optical Wavelengths

A three-dimensional invisibility-cloaking structure operating at optical wavelengths based on transformation optics has been designed and realized. Our blueprint uses a woodpile photonic crystal with tailored polymer filling fraction to hide a bump in a gold reflector. Structures and controls are fabricated by direct laser writing and characterized by simultaneous high-numerical-aperture far-field optical microscopy and spectroscopy. Cloaking operation with large bandwidth of unpolarized light from 1.4- to 2.7-µm wavelength is demonstrated for viewing angles up to 60 degrees

8 pages of supporting material

Beyond military applications, cloaking devices are drawing interest from telecommunications companies, who see them as a way to send information by light more efficiently. One idea is to use the new materials to build "superantennas" that can concentrate light and other electromagnetic waves to make laser-like beams.

From physorg,
the cloak is a structure of crystals with air spaces in between, sort of like a woodpile, that bends light, hiding the bump in the gold later beneath, the researchers reported in Thursday's online edition of the journal Science.

In this case, the bump was tiny, a mere 0.00004 inch high and 0.0005 inch across (100 microns x 30 microns), so that a magnifying lens was needed to see it.

"In principle, the cloak design is completely scalable; there is no limit to it," Ergin said. But, he added, developing a cloak to hide something takes a long time, "so cloaking larger items with that technology is not really feasible."

"Other fabrication techniques, though, might lead to larger cloaks," he added in an interview via e-mail.

The value of the finding, Ergin said, "is that we learn more about the concepts of transformation optics, and that we have made a first step in producing 3-D structures in that field."

Alan Boyle's Msnbc cosmic log has coverage of 3d invisibility



Guardian UK - Tolga Ergin and Nicolas Stenger at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany used a technique called direct laser writing lithography to create a sheet of cloaking material from tiny plastic rods. The spacing of the rods, each of which measured one thousandth of a millimetre wide, alters a property of the material known as the refractive index, which changes the speed of light inside it.

The researchers placed a piece of the material over a dimple in a gold sheet and used infrared cameras to see what happened. When the cloak was in place, it altered the speed of light around the bump in such a way that the gold sheet appeared to be flat. The experiment was equivalent to hiding something under a carpet and having the carpet disappear too.

It is the first time researchers have demonstrated a cloak that works in three dimensions. Previous devices have hidden objects when looked at head-on, but did not work if viewed from the side. "We were surprised that the cloaking effect was still so good, Ergin told the US journal, Science.

Inside the material, the plastic rods are arranged like planks of wood piled up on each other. The high precision of the structure means it is possible to control the refractive index so it varies in just the right way to bend light around whatever object is hidden beneath it.

"The material has a higher refractive index on top of the bump, so light hitting that part is slowed down a little bit compared with light impinging on the rest of the surface," said Stenger. "That compensates for the shape of the bump, and in the end, it is exactly as if there was no bump."

Research into cloaking devices has attracted funding from military organisations, such as the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, which backs high-risk science research for the Pentagon. In the near term, cloaking materials are expected to be used to hide aircraft from radar more effectively.


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US Has the Most Billionaires by a Wide Margin and Japan Has Relatively Few Billionaires In Spite of Being Second in Number of Millionaires

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This is from the Forbes Interactive Map of world billionaires

Japan used to have a lot of billionaires before the collapse of their real estate market. Japan has the second most millionaires.




The Merrill Lynch - Capgemini World’s Wealth Report 2009 defines HNWIs as those who hold at least US$1 million in financial assets and Ultra-HNWIs as those who hold at least US$30 million in financial assets, with both excluding collectibles, consumables, consumer durables and primary residences. The number of ultra high net worth individuals worldwide is estimated at about 80,000-95,000. The 80,000 estimate is for 2008. There was a recovery in 2009.

Merrill Lynch/Cap Gemini Wealth Report 2009 (40 page pdf)

Spectrem Group affluent market insights finds that US millionaires have partially recovered from the financial crisis

* U.S. Millionaires Grow 16% to 7.8 Million in 2009 after a sharp decline in 2008.
* Households Worth $5 Million or More Increased 17% to 980,000 (in the USA).
* In addition to the millionaire groups, the broader affluent population, those with a net worth of $500,000 or more (NIPR), grew by 12% in 2009 to 12.7 million (in the USA).


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World Nuclear Energy in 2010

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The status of nuclear reactors expected to start in 2010

Nuclear Power Reactor Details - LINGAO 3 (Ling Ao II Phase 2) (China)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2010/08/31
Net Capacity 1000 MWe
Commercial Operation 2010/12/15
Construction Started 2005/12/15

Nuclear Power Reactor Details - QINSHAN 2-3 (China)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2010/12/28
Net Capacity 610 MWe
Commercial Operation 2011/03/28
Construction Started 2006/03/28

Nuclear Power Reactor Details - RAJASTHAN-5 (India)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2009/12/22
Net Capacity 202 MWe
Commercial Operation 2010/02/04

Nuclear Power Reactor Details - RAJASTHAN-6 (India)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2010/02/28
Net Capacity 202 MWe
Commercial Operation 2010/03/31

Nuclear Power Reactor Details - KAIGA-4 (India)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2010/04/30
Net Capacity 202 MWe
Commercial Operation 2010/05/31



The second reactor at Russia's Volgodonsk nuclear power plant has been brought to the minimum controlled power level, moving it a step closer to starting commercial operation. (Jan 2010, 950 MWe)

Nuclear Power Reactor Details - ATUCHA-2 (Argentina)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2010/10/01
Net Capacity 692 MWe
Commercial Operation N/A

Nuclear Power Reactor Details - BUSHEHR 1 (Iran)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2010/07/01
Net Capacity 915 MWe
Commercial Operation 2010/12/20


Some of the 2011 and 2012 Reactors

Nuclear Power Reactor Details - QINSHAN 2-4 (China)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2011/09/28
Net Capacity 610 MWe
Commercial Operation 2012/01/28
Construction Started 2007/01/28

Nuclear Power Reactor Details - KUDANKULAM-1 (India)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2011/02/28
Net Capacity 917 MWe
Commercial Operation 2011/03/31

Nuclear Power Reactor Details - KUDANKULAM-2 (India)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2011/08/31
Net Capacity 917 MWe
Commercial Operation 2011/09/30

Nuclear Power Reactor Details - SHIN-KORI-2 (korea)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2011/08/01
Net Capacity 960 MWe
Commercial Operation 2011/12/31

Nuclear Power Reactor Details - SHIMANE-3 (Japan)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2011/12/15
Net Capacity 1325 MWe
Commercial Operation 2011/12/15

Nuclear Power Reactor Details - CHASNUPP 2 (Pakistan)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2011/05/31
Net Capacity 300 MWe
Commercial Operation 2011/08/31


Nuclear Power Reactor Details - FLAMANVILLE-3 (France)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2012/05/01
Net Capacity 1600 MWe
Commercial Operation N/A

Nuclear Power Reactor Details - WATTS BAR-2 (USA)
Connected to Electricity Grid 2012/08/01
Net Capacity 1165 MWe
Commercial Operation N/A

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency will run Monju (fast reactor) at zero output for two months (April/May 2010). They plan to achieve a 40 percent output next year and 100 percent output in 2012. Full-scale operation is planned in or after 2013

A Joint Venture will design and produce a prototype Russian 100 MW lead-bismuth fast reactor (SVBR-100) with a view of commercializing the technology.

SVBR-100 is being developed at the enterprises owned by Rosatom. The JV’s short-term plans include completing the RND for the project and producing a detailed design of the pilot reactor and principal equipment and also obtaining necessary licenses. A pilot power generating unit based on SVBR-100 technology is scheduled to be commissioned around 2019. IAEA’s estimates show that some 500-1000 power generating units based on small-to-medium reactors can be launched in the period till 2040. The SVBR technology could account for 10% to 15% of the global nuclear power market of small-to-medium capacity.



Previous article that looked at nuclear power in 2009 and 2010

2010 7 new reactors, 6.2 GWe (shifted the two Canadian Reactors to 2011)
2011 11 new reactors, 9.3 GWe
2012 10 new reactors, 9.92 GWe
2013 12 new reactors, 13.08 GWe
2014 14 new reactors, 13.63 GWe

OECD power generation for 2009 in a pdf report by the IEA.

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Fiber Mesh Made for Countering Chemical and Biological Toxins

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Physorg - Scientists from the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine have synthesized a single, multifunctional polymer material that can decontaminate both biological and chemical toxins. They described the findings recently in Biomaterials

They devised a polyurethane fiber mesh containing enzymes that lead to the production of bromine or iodine, which kill bacteria, as well as chemicals that generate compounds that detoxify organophosphate nerve agents.

"This mesh could be developed into sponges, coatings or liquid sprays, and it could be used internally or as a wound dressing that is capable of killing bacteria, viruses and spores," said lead investigator Gabi Amitai, Ph.D., of the McGowan Institute and the Israel Institute for Biological Research. "The antibacterial and antitoxin activities do not interfere with each other, and actually can work synergistically."

In their experiments, the material fended off Staph aureus and E. coli, which represent different classes of bacteria. After 24 hours, it restored 70 percent of the activity of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that is inhibited by nerve agents leading to fatal dysfunction of an essential neurotransmitter.





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Roll to Roll Printed Nano-based RFID tags Uses Carbon Nanotube Infused Ink

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CREDIT: GYOU-JIN CHO/SUNCHON NATIONAL UNIVERSITY
RFID tags printed through a new roll-to-roll process could replace bar codes and make checking out of a store a snap.


Rice University and Korean collaborators produce printable tag that could replace bar codes Cho and his team are developing the electronics as well as the roll-to-roll printing process that, he said, will bring the cost of printing the tags down to a penny apiece and make them ubiquitous. It should be commercialized in five years. The roll-to-roll carbon nanotube electronics would be the first of increasingly complex and more capable inexpensive printable electronics.

Rice researchers, in collaboration with a team led by Gyou-jin Cho at Sunchon National University in Korea, have come up with an inexpensive, printable transmitter that can be invisibly embedded in packaging. It would allow a customer to walk a cart full of groceries or other goods past a scanner on the way to the car; the scanner would read all items in the cart at once, total them up and charge the customer's account while adjusting the store's inventory.

More advanced versions could collect all the information about the contents of a store in an instant, letting a retailer know where every package is at any time.

Cho, Tour and their teams reported in the journal a three-step process to print one-bit tags, including the antenna, electrodes and dielectric layers, on plastic foil. Cho's lab is working on 16-bit tags that would hold a more practical amount of information and be printable on paper as well.

There are several hurdles to commercialization. First, the device must be reduced to the size of a bar code, about a third the size of the one reported in the paper, Tour said. Second, its range must increase.

Tour allayed concerns about the fate of nanotubes in packaging. “The amount of nanotubes in an RFID tag is probably less than a picogram. That means you can produce one trillion of them from a gram of nanotubes – a miniscule amount. Our HiPco reactor produces a gram of nanotubes an hour, and that would be enough to handle every item in every Walmart.

"In fact, more nanotubes occur naturally in the environment, so it's not even fair to say the risk is minimal. It's infinitesimal."



The technology reported in the March issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices is based on a carbon-nanotube-infused ink for ink-jet printers first developed in the Rice lab of James Tour, the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science. The ink is used to make thin-film transistors, a key element in radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags that can be printed on paper or plastic.

All-Printed and Roll-to-Roll-Printable 13.56-MHz-Operated 1-bit RF Tag on Plastic Foils

An all-printed rectifier that can provide at least 10 V dc from a 13.56-MHz radio frequency identification (RFID) reader and an all-printed ring oscillator that can generate at least 100 Hz of clock signal to read a 96-bit RFID tag in a second under the dc power provided by the rectifier should first be printable on plastic foils for the realization of roll-to-roll (R2R) printed ultralow cost RFID tags. Here, we describe a practical way to provide all-printed and R2R-printable antenna, rectifiers, and ring oscillators on plastic foils and demonstrate 13.56-MHz-operated 1-bit RF tags. The all-printed and R2R-printable 13.56-MHz 1-bit tags can generate 102.8 Hz of clock signal as the tag approaches the 13.56-MHz RFID reader.

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Quantum Smoothing Measurement is Two Times Better than standard quantum limit.

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Researchers at LSU have invented an optical sensor that surpasses a quantum limit to sensitivity previously believed to be unbeatable. The breakthrough has a broad array of applications, from gravity wave observatories seeking to observe distant and bizarre astrophysical phenomena, to optical gyroscopes used in commercial navigation. This work exploits quantum properties of light to design of the most sensitive optical interferometer ever devised.

Physics Review Letters - Adaptive Optical Phase Estimation Using Time-Symmetric Quantum Smoothing

The precision of any measurement is fundamentally limited by the standard quantum limit. Often there are classical quantities related to the dynamical evolution of a quantum system one would like to measure, a process known as quantum parameter estimation. This kind of estimation is useful in delicate measurements ranging from gravitational wave detection to quantum computation. Recently, Tsang considered the case of quantum estimation for dynamical systems and proposed a method called quantum smoothing that combines past observations with “future” measurements (that is, a signal is inferred from measurements both before and after a chosen point in time).

As reported in Physical Review Letters, Trevor Wheatley at the University of New South Wales in Canberra, Australia, and co-workers in Australia, Japan, and Canada now have experimentally tested these ideas by considering the problem of estimating the phase of a continuous optical field in the presence of classical noise. The authors use optical modulators to prepare a laser beam in a known state with a predetermined noise signature and then apply an adaptive measurement technique to estimate the optical phase. By including data obtained after time t with data collected before t along with Tsang’s theory, the researchers were able to estimate the phase at t with a mean-square error more than a factor of 2 smaller than the standard quantum limit.

Combining quantum smoothing with adaptive measurements gives the maximum improvement over the standard (perfect non-adaptive, filtering) quantum limit. The experimental improvement of a factor of 2.24 +/ 0.14 in the mean-square error compares well with the theoretical maximum (using phase diffused coherent states) of 2p2. These insights and techniques will be applicable to the even more interesting case of estimation using non-classical states, where the improvement can be arbitrarily large.

A version of the full article is in arxiv (5 pages)



Adaptive Optical Phase Estimation Using Time-Symmetric Quantum Smoothing

Quantum parameter estimation has many applications, from gravitational wave detection to quantum key distribution. The most commonly used technique for this type of estimation is quantum filtering, using only past observations. We present the first experimental demonstration of quantum smoothing, a time-symmetric technique that uses past and future observations, for quantum parameter estimation. We consider both adaptive and nonadaptive quantum smoothing, and show that both are better than their filtered counterparts. For the problem of estimating a stochastically varying phase shift on a coherent beam, our theory predicts that adaptive quantum smoothing (the best scheme) gives an estimate with a mean-square error up to 2√2 times smaller than nonadaptive filtering (the standard quantum limit). The experimentally measured improvement is 2.24±0.14.

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March 17, 2010

Unraveling silks’ secrets - cooperative chemical bonds

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A new analysis of the structure of silks explains the paradox at the heart of their super-strength, and may lead to even stronger synthetic materials.

Scientists at MIT have unraveled some of their deepest secrets in research that could lead the way to the creation of synthetic materials that duplicate, or even exceed, the extraordinary properties of natural silk.

Silks are made from proteins, including some that form thin, planar crystals called beta-sheets. These sheets are connected to each other through hydrogen bonds — among the weakest types of chemical bonds, and a far cry from the much stronger covalent bonds found in most organic molecules. Buehler’s team carried out a series of atomic-level computer simulations that investigated the molecular failure mechanisms in silk. “Small yet rigid crystals showed the ability to quickly re-form their broken bonds, and as a result fail ‘gracefully’ — that is, gradually rather than suddenly,” graduate student Keten explains.

“In most engineered materials” — ceramics, for instance — “high strength comes with brittleness,” Buehler says. “Once ductility is introduced, materials become weak.” But not silk, which has high strength despite being built from inherently weak building blocks. It turns out that’s because these building blocks — the tiny beta-sheet crystals, as well as filaments that join them — are arranged in a structure that resembles a tall stack of pancakes, but with the crystal structures within each pancake alternating in their orientation. This particular geometry of tiny silk nanocrystals allows hydrogen bonds to work cooperatively, reinforcing adjacent chains against external forces, which leads to the outstanding extensibility and strength of spider silk.



One surprising finding from the new work is that there is a critical dependence of the properties of silk on the exact size of these beta-sheet crystals within the fibers. When the crystal size is about three nanometers (billionths of a meter), the material has its ultra-strong and ductile characteristics. But let those crystals grow to five nanometers, and the material becomes weak and brittle.

Buehler says the work has implications far beyond just understanding silk. He notes that the findings could be applied to a broader class of biological materials, such as wood or plant fibers, and bio-inspired materials, such as novel fibers, yarns and fabrics or tissue replacement materials, to produce a variety of useful materials out of simple, commonplace elements. For example, he and his team are looking at the possibility of synthesizing materials that have a similar structure to silk, but using molecules that have inherently greater strength, such as carbon nanotubes.

The long-term impact of this research, Buehler says, will be the development of a new material design paradigm that enables the creation of highly functional materials out of abundant, inexpensive materials. This would be a departure from the current approach, where strong bonds, expensive constituents, and energy intensive processing (at high temperatures) are used to obtain high-performance materials

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Another Digital Camera That is Capable of Replacing 35 mm Film

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The ARRI Alexa platform is aimed squarely at the RED ONE digital camera. RED digital cameras have been used by directors such as Peter Jackson and Steven Soderbergh, and on feature movies including Angels & Demons. ARRI has designed the Alexa for shooting feature movies, television dramas, and commercials. The ARRI cameras have 3.5K CMOS chips.

The ARRI Alexa cameras will be officially launched at the NAB show in April 2010. The A-EV will be available in June 2010, with the A-EV Plus available in September, and the A-OV Plus due in December. Prices are expected to start at US$69000.






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