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August 28, 2010

Hollow microneedles could Diagnose and Treat Skin Cancer and Other Diseases

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Hollow microneedles open the door to new techniques for diagnosing and treating a variety of medical conditions. A research team at North Carolina State University has created small microneedles to be used in the treatment of medical conditions by inserting nanoscale dyes called quantum dots into the skin. This new procedure could advance a doctor’s ability to diagnose and treat a variety of conditions, including skin cancer. Microneedles are very small needles, where in one dimension, such as length or width, the size is less than one millimeter (0.04-inches). They were able to fabricate hollow, plastic microneedles using a laser-based rapid-prototyping approach and found that they could deliver a solution containing quantum dots using these microneedles

Predicting Nanoparticle Interactions in Human Bodies

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Left: in a physiological environment, nanoparticles are exposed to different proteins and small molecules. Right: the competitive adsorption of small molecules (upper) and the amino-acid residues of proteins (lower) on a nanoparticle.
Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a method for predicting the ways nanoparticles will interact with biological systems – including the human body. Their work could have implications for improved human and environmental safety in the handling of nanomaterials, as well as applications for drug delivery.

Nature Nanotechnology - An index for characterization of nanomaterials in biological systems

In a physiological environment, nanoparticles selectively absorb proteins to form ‘nanoparticle–protein coronas’ a process governed by molecular interactions between chemical groups on the nanoparticle surfaces and the amino-acid residues of the proteins Here, we propose a biological surface adsorption index to characterize these interactions by quantifying the competitive adsorption of a set of small molecule probes onto the nanoparticles. The adsorption properties of nanomaterials are assumed to be governed by Coulomb forces, London dispersion, hydrogen-bond acidity and basicity, polarizability and lone-pair electrons. Adsorption coefficients of the probe compounds were measured and used to create a set of nanodescriptors representing the contributions and relative strengths of each molecular interaction. The method successfully predicted the adsorption of various small molecules onto carbon nanotubes, and the nanodescriptors were also measured for 12 other nanomaterials. The biological surface adsorption index nanodescriptors can be used to develop pharmacokinetic and safety assessment models for nanomaterials.


One Micron Thick Metamaterial Glass Would be Invisible Fibers

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Optics Express - Weaving the invisible thread: design of an optically invisible metamaterial fibre

We present the design of an invisible metamaterial fibre operating at optical frequencies, which could be fabricated by adapting existing fibre drawing techniques. The invisibility is realised by matching the refractive index of the metamaterial fibre with the surroundings. We present a general recipe for the fabrication of such fibres, and numerically characterise a specific example using hexagonally arranged silver nanowires in a silica background. We find that invisibility is highly sensitive to details of the metamaterial boundary, a problem that is likely to affect most invisibility and cloaking schemes.


August 27, 2010

Transconic Supercritical Fuel Injection Could Be Used by 2014 to Make Gas Engines 30% More Efficient

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Transonic supercritical fuel injection system and its potential for 50-75% efficiency improvement of regular gas engines was covered here before

Autoblog Green has updated information.

Transonic Combustion CEO Brian Ahlborn goal is to have Transonic go into business as a supplier of fuel systems to the auto industry by the 2014-15 time-frame. Given the three to five year lead times required to bring a product to market in this industry, that doesn't leave a lot of time for an automaker to commit to a program with Transonic. Ahlborn is well aware of the difficulty of meeting his target, but he believes the internal combustion engine, "is a long-term product for many decades still to come" and says, "we believe there is a quantum leap breakthrough in what we're doing" and that, "there will be a lot going on commercially next year (2011).

Transonic has been able to attract a substantial amount of venture funding from Vinod Khosla and, in May of this year, the company enticed retired General Motors executives Bob Lutz and Don Runkle to join its board of directors. Runkle's presence is particularly interesting since he also currently serves as the CEO of Ecomotors. There's been no public discussion of combining supercritical fluid injection with the Ecomotors OPOC architecture, but there doesn't seem to be any reason it couldn't be done.
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Ecomotors Opposed-Piston Opposed-Cylinder Engine could make class 8 trucks 45% more fuel efficient. Ecomotors has a goal to demonstrate, in 2010, the automobile industry's first 5-passenger car capable of 100 mpg on the EPA highway cycle.

Combining Ecomotors OPOC and Transconic Supercritical fuel injection system could achieve 70-100% fuel efficiency gains.

NASA Gets $36.5 Million for Eight Advanced Space Technology Projects

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NASA officials are so eager to jump-start advanced technology efforts that they sought and won congressional approval to devote $36.5 million in 2010 funding to eight high-priority research projects.
Those projects, which include joint efforts with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to investigate horizontal launch capabilities, in-orbit satellite servicing and power-beam propulsion.

Overall funding for the Space Technology Program is being determined. The White House and the House of Representatives have a plan to provide $572 million for the Space Technology Program but the Senate approved only $325 million for the program. $300 million in 2011 is for continuing existing projects.


A new highly compact, ultra-sensitive quantum gravimeter device

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Scientists have developed a novel design for a highly compact, ultra-sensitive quantum device to measure subtle changes in gravity over very short time or distance scales.*

Tools of this sort – called atom interferometers (AIs) – are now used to search for natural resources beneath the Earth’s surface, navigate deep underwater or in the air, and measure Newton’s gravitational constant to extraordinary precision. But the new design, by researchers from the Joint Quantum Institute and its Physics Frontier Center, offers the possibility of unprecedented temporal resolution by harnessing the very recently demonstrated ability to create “synthetic” magnetic fields.

“The ability to measure gravity over fine time scales will help in finding oil fields and mineral deposits,” says coauthor and JQI Fellow Victor Galitski. “Imagine an aircraft flying over an unexplored area. If heavy element deposits are hidden underneath, the gravimeter will react promptly by showing strong fluctuations in the local gravity field.”

We propose a compact atom interferometry scheme for measuring weak, time-dependent accelerations. Our proposal uses an ensemble of dilute trapped bosons with two internal states that couple to a synthetic gauge field with opposite charges. The trapped gauge field couples spin to momentum to allow time dependent accelerations to be continuously imparted on the internal states. We generalize this system to reduce noise and estimate the sensitivity of such a system to be S =∼ 10^− 7 m/s2 Divided by the square root of the frequency.
It can detect 100 million less than the earth's gravity divided by the root of the frequency.

This device appears to be about 100 times more sensitive than airborne gravimeters from 1999 discussed in security documents that talked about detecting underground facilities. The 10^-7 m/s^2 sensitivity was achievable for stationary devices.

A network of superconducting gravimeters can achieve 10^-8m/s^2 sensitivity.
Future atom optics-based sensors have been expected to outperform existing inertial sensors by a factor of one million.
The theoretical expectation was that atom interferometers could get to 10^-12 m/s^2 sensitivity

Limits of atom gravimeters are discussed here.

Even a short interrogation time of 100 ms allows our cold atom gravimeter to reach an excellent short term sensitivity to acceleration of 1.4×10^-8g at 1 s.


3D Television without the Glasses

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Journal of Diplay Technology - Integral Three-Dimensional Television Using a 33-Megapixel Imaging System

We [Science and Technology Research Laboratories, NHK(Japan Broadcasting Corporation), Tokyo, Japan] have developed integral three-dimensional (3D) television using an ultra high definition imaging system. The system uses a device having 7680 pixels in the horizontal direction and 4320 pixels in the vertical direction for each of the red, green, and blue channels. A lens array comprising 400 lenses is configured in the horizontal direction and one comprising 250 lenses is configured in the vertical direction. The system is designed to ensure a maximum spatial frequency of 11.3 cycles/degree and a viewing angle of 24 degrees when the display is observed from three times the display height. The setup described here has simultaneously maintained the balance between the maximum spatial frequency and the viewing angle by shortening the focal length of the elemental lens while narrowing the pitch of the elemental lens. We have confirmed the generation of 3D images with an appearance that varies in a natural manner according to the position of the observer.


The technical details of integral TV have been covered at nextbigfuture before as well the Japanese plan to get a working system by 2016 and fairly wide deployment by 2022 in time for the World Cup in Korea

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 16

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The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 16 is up at Idaho Samizdat

The Nuclear energy Institute looked at a study comparing the job impact of different energy technologies. This site provided the following :
1. Pebble Bed advanced high temperature reactor update. 70% of the cost of LWR. Per Peterson trying to get it commercialized by 2020 and can achieve over 50% burn and set the stage for LFTR, IFR or fission/fusion hybrids.

India, China and other nuclear energy updates

Russia's fast neutron reactor plans. They are trying to build new ones for $1600/kw.

August 26, 2010

A versatile, solvent-free methodology for the functionalisation of carbon nanotubes

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The capacity to make carbon nanotubes is thousands of times greater than the current capacity to add comaplex surface chemistry. This new method allow carbon nanotubes to be functionalized far faster and cleaner than before.

High temperature activation of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) provides a new and highly versatile functionalisation strategy. The reaction allows the attachment of a wide variety of functional species onto the nanotube surface at grafting ratios between 1–8 wt%, whilst maintaining the intrinsic properties of the untreated materials. The underlying, radical-based, reaction mechanism has been established by quenching experiments and EPR studies. The distribution of the functionalised sites has been investigated at the microscopic scale using tagging reactions. The grafted products have been characterized by electron microscopy, thermal analysis (TGA), Raman spectroscopy, and inverse gas chromatography (IGC). The change in the CNT surface properties after grafting has been quantified in terms of dispersive and specific surface energies, and altered dispersibilities in a broad range of solvents. It is possible to carry out the reaction using gas phase reagents, providing a clean, efficient, and scalable methodology, relevant to a diverse range of applications.

DARPA iFAB Vision for Open Source Foundry Fabrication and DARPA Autonomous Robot Program

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1. DARPA has the iFAB program to develop "foundry-style manufacturing capability." By which they mean microchip foundries - the generic, build-any-chip-for-any-designer factories that churn out microchips for every application you can imagine, and which are the dominant mode of manufacture for most of the silicon in use today.

The specific goals of the iFAB program are to rapidly design and configure manufacturing capabilities to support the fabrication of a wide array of infantry fighting vehicle models and variants. Parallel efforts titled vehicleforge.mil and Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Combat Vehicle (FANG) seek to develop the infrastructure for and conduct a series of design challenges (termed Adaptive Make Challenges) intended to precipitate open source design for a prototype of the Army's Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV).

The iFAB end vision--to be developed in the second phase of the program which will be solicited under a separate BAA at the conclusion of the present effort--is that of a facility which can fabricate and assemble the winning FANG designs, verified and supplied in a comprehensive metalanguage representation with META/META-II tools.

Designer optoelectronics – quantum mechanics for new materials

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European researchers have combined computer modelling of quantum mechanics and precision fabrication processes to create novel transparent conductive oxides made to order for a wide range of scientific and consumer applications.

China Will Make the Godson 3B 128 Gigaflop chip for 2011 and Will Make Godson 3C 16 core 28 nm chip for 2012

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HPCWire reports that China will make the Godson 3B supercomputer chip for 2011. It will be a 64-bit server chip with extended vector processing using a 65 nanometer process. The 8-core CPU reportedly delivers a whopping 128 gigaflops, but consumes just 40W of power. The vector processing consists of a 256-bit SIMD unit, which include eight 64-bit multiply-accumulate units.

Brazil's Agricultural Miracle

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From the Economist magazine, over the last four decades Brazil has become the first tropical agricultural giant and the first to challenge the dominance of the “big five” food exporters (America, Canada, Australia, Argentina and the European Union).

Brazil has followed more or less the opposite of the agro-pessimists’ prescription. For them, sustainability is the greatest virtue and is best achieved by encouraging small farms and organic practices. They frown on monocultures and chemical fertilisers. They like agricultural research but loathe genetically modified (GM) plants. They think it is more important for food to be sold on local than on international markets. Brazil’s farms are sustainable, too, thanks to abundant land and water. But they are many times the size even of American ones. Farmers buy inputs and sell crops on a scale that makes sense only if there are world markets for them. And they depend critically on new technology. As the briefing explains, Brazil’s progress has been underpinned by the state agricultural-research company and pushed forward by GM crops. Brazil represents a clear alternative to the growing belief that, in farming, small and organic are beautiful.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), state support accounted for 5.7% of total farm income in Brazil during 2005-07. That compares with 12% in America, 26% for the OECD average and 29% in the European Union. And Brazil has done it without deforesting the Amazon (though that has happened for other reasons). The great expansion of farmland has taken place 1,000km from the jungle.

Brazil also has more water. According to the UN’s World Water Assessment Report of 2009, Brazil has more than 8,000 billion cubic kilometres of renewable water each year, easily more than any other country. Brazil alone (population: 190m) has as much renewable water as the whole of Asia (population: 4 billion). And again, this is not mainly because of the Amazon. Piauí is one of the country’s driest areas but still gets a third more water than America’s corn belt.


Hong Kong Researchers use Silver Nanoparticles to Make Better Organic Electronics that Can Be Made with Roll to Roll Fabrication

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A pioneering study by researchers of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has shown that sandwiching a simple layer of silver nanoparticles can significantly improve the performance of organic transistors which are commonly used in consumer electronics. This revolutionary breakthrough is expected to cut down the cost of memory devices such as touchscreens and e-books and improve their performance. The novel method developed by PolyU researchers is much more compatible with the low-cost, continuous roll-to-roll fabrication techniques used to make organic electronics.

Alkaline Hydrogen Fuel Cells with Carbon Capture and Storage for Almost Double the Efficiency of Cleaner Coal Power

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B9 Coal is working on combining Alkaline Hydrogen Fuel Cells with Underground Coal Gasification (UCG)to make 47% efficient coal power that has carbon capture and sequestering (versus 26% efficient with carbon capture at current plants and 28% with carbon capture at IGCC plants) [12 page pdf] (H/T David Martin] Coal power will still be used for decades so this combination of technologies looks like the cleanest and most efficient approach to using coal. The process can also be used for cogeneration so that more thermal efficiency can be achieved.

A 500 megawatt (MW) project is being put forward for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) CCS demonstration competition. Rio Tinto Alcan’s Lynemouth Plant in Northumberland has been announced as a potential site for the plant.

The project will offer greatly enhanced efficiency conversion of coal to electricity, whilst enabling about 99% carbon capture. AFC Energy’s alkaline fuel cells convert hydrogen to electricity at 60% efficiency and, when combined with UCG, can provide a projected cost per kWh of as low as 4p (US$0.06), according to B9.

Carnival of Space 168 - space telescopes

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The Carnival of Space 168 is up at Weird Sciences.

This site provided :
The extremely large telescope projects : 24-42 meter telescopes and the LSST with several new tech advances.

The Laser Interferometer space antenna -LISA is a gravity wave observatory that would open an entirely new window in the universe. Using ripples in the fabric of space-time caused by the motion of the densest objects in the universe, LISA will detect the mergers of black holes with masses ranging from 10,000 to 10 million solar masses at cosmological distances, and will make a census of compact binary systems throughout the Milky Way. LISA's measurements of black hole mass and spin will be important for understanding the significance of mergers in the building of galaxies. LISA also is expected to detect signals from stellar mass compact stellar remnants as they orbit and fall into massive black holes. Detection of such objects would provide exquisitely precise tests of Einstein’s theory of gravity. There may also be waves from unanticipated or exotic sources, such as backgrounds produced during the earliest moments of the universe or cusps associated with cosmic strings.

Simonstronomy has also taken a look at the decadal survey, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Exploring the first stars, galaxies, and quasars is a tremendous challenge, but our ability to look back in time to the beginnings of our Universe improves every year. Astronomers are now looking forward to the time when we can look backward as far as there is anything to see.

The second key science objective is Seeking Nearby, Habitable Planets.

Solar Activity Affects Decay Rates And Can Provide Warning of Solar Flares

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The Map shows the effects of a 4800 nT/min geomagnetic field disturbance at 50° geomagnetic latitude scenario. The regions outlined are susceptible to electrical grid collapse due to the effects of the GIC disturbance; the impacts would be of unprecedented scale and involve populations in excess of 130 million. SOURCE: J. Kappenman, Metatech Corp., “The Future: Solutions or Vulnerabilities?,” presentation to the space weather workshop, May 23, 2008.
On Dec 13, 2006, a solar flare sent a stream of particles and radiation toward Earth. Purdue nuclear engineer Jere Jenkins, while measuring the decay rate of manganese-54, a short-lived isotope used in medical diagnostics, noticed that the rate dropped slightly during the flare, a decrease that started about a day and a half before the flare.

Long-term observation of the decay rate of silicon-32 and radium-226 seemed to show a small seasonal variation. The decay rate was ever so slightly faster in winter than in summer.

If this apparent relationship between flares and decay rates proves true, it could lead to a method of predicting solar flares prior to their occurrence, which could help prevent damage to satellites and electric grids, as well as save the lives of astronauts in space.

An effective solar flare warning system means that the threat of a massive solar flare shorting out unprotected electric grid components would be eliminated. There has been concern that a massive solar flare could cause widespread grid damage and potential a lot of human deaths if the electrical could not be restored in a timely fashion. Having a day and half of warning of a massive solar flare would allow for the electrical grid stations to be put into proper electrical grounding mode so that they would be immune to the expected solar flare.

A new study from the National Academy of Sciences outlines grim possibilities on Earth for a worst-case scenario solar storm. Modern power grids are so interconnected that a big space storm — the type expected to occur about once a century — could cause a cascade of failures that would sweep across the United States, cutting power to 130 million people or more in this country alone. The worst storms can knock out power grids by inducing currents that melt transformers. "Impacts would be felt on interdependent infrastructures with, for example, potable water distribution affected within several hours; perishable foods and medications lost in 12-24 hours; immediate or eventual loss of heating/air conditioning, sewage disposal, phone service, transportation, fuel resupply and so on," the report states.

Outages could take months to fix, the researchers say. Banks might close, and trade with other countries might halt.

"Emergency services would be strained, and command and control might be lost," write the researchers, led by Daniel Baker, director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Jenkins and Fischbach guessed that the culprits in this bit of decay-rate mischief were probably solar neutrino

Hygroelectricity to Harness Electrical Charge and Dissipate Lightning

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Fernando Galembeck, of the University of Campinas in Brazil, has shown that water vapor in humid air can accumulate charge and transfer it to materials it comes in contact with. He says it might be possible to design collectors that exploit this behavior to generate electricity. The technology, which he calls "hygroelectricity" could provide an alternative to solar power in places without much sunlight but with a lot of humidity. It could also be used to prevent lightning strikes, he says, by draining electrical charge out of the air. He notes, however, that the research is very early stage and that such technology could be a long time coming.

NEI Corporation and UC San Diego Expect 1000 Watt-hour Per Kilogram Energy Density Lithium Batteries by Mid-2011

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NEI Corporation and the University of California, San Diego won a Phase II Small Business Technology Transfer contract from NASA to develop and implement high energy density cathode materials for lithium batteries

The outcome of the program will be a commercially useable cathode material with exceptionally high capacity - more than 250 milliAmp-Hours per gram (250 mAh/g) at about 4V, which translates to an energy density of more than 1000 Watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg). This represents a factor of two enhancement in energy density over lithium cobalt oxide, which is the most commonly used cathode material at the present time. NEI expects to have sample cathode materials for testing by interested end-users by the middle of 2011.

August 25, 2010

Silicene Atom Thick Silicon Has Graphene Like Electronic Properties

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Silicene ribbons have been prepared for the first time by physicists in France. The leaders of that effort, Hamid Oughaddou from Cergy-Pontoise University and Bernard Aufray of the French National Center for Scientific Research say that silicene ought to be able to do everything graphene can, with the extra advantage of already being compatible with existing silicon technology

Applied Physics Letters - Evidence of graphene-like electronic signature in silicene nanoribbons

We report on the electronic properties of straight, 1.6 nm wide, silicene nanoribbons on Ag(110), arranged in a one-dimensional grating with a pitch of 2 nm, whose high-resolution scanning tunneling microscopy images reveal a honeycomb geometry. Angle-resolved photoemission shows quantum confined electronic states of one-dimensional character. The silicon band dispersion along the direction of the nanoribbons suggests a behavior analogous to the Dirac cones of graphene on different substrates.

Graphene with Perfect Edges and Monolayers

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The Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory is creating a set of tools for fabricating perfect graphene sheets, including the recent finding that electron radiation prevents connections between monolayers

Oak Ridge claims to have uncovered a new method of fabricating perfect edges and monolayers in graphene.

Applied Materials Claims Game Changing Flowable Chemical Vapor Deposition for 256 Gigabyte 3D NAND Flash Chips at 20 Nanometer Lithography

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Applied Materials, Inc. today announced its breakthrough Applied Producer(R) Eterna(TM) FCVD(TM) (Flowable CVD(1)) system, the first and only film deposition technology capable of electrically isolating the densely-packed transistors in 20nm-and-below memory and logic chip designs with a high-quality dielectric film. The system will enable NAND skyscraper (3d NAND memory) wafers with 256 gigabyte NAND flash chips. It will also enable the creation of complex finfet transistors which are needed for faster and lower power chips. It will also enable DRaM 4F2 8 gigabit DDR4.

The gaps between these transistors can have aspect ratios of more than 30:1 -- five times higher than current requirements -- and highly-complex profiles. The Eterna FCVD system's unique process completely fills these gaps from the bottom up, delivering a dense, carbon-free dielectric film at up to half the cost of spin-on deposition methods -- which require more equipment and many additional process steps.

"The need to fill smaller and deeper structures in advanced chip designs creates a physical roadblock for existing deposition technologies. Applied has broken through this barrier today with the introduction of its new Eterna FCVD system -- delivering the disruptive technology that can enable the continued progress of Moore's Law," said Bill McClintock, vice president and general manager of Applied's DSM/ CMP(2) Business Unit. "With the Eterna FCVD system, Applied continues its decade-long leadership in gap-fill technology, providing a unique, simplified and cost-effective solution for customers to meet the challenges of multiple new chip generations."

Applied's proprietary Eterna FCVD process delivers a liquid-like film that flows freely into virtually any structure shape to provide a bottom up, void-free fill. The Eterna FCVD system is installed at six customer sites for DRAM, Flash and Logic applications, where it is integrated on Applied's benchmark Producer platform.


Applied Materials has a page on their new technology.

* It allow for planarized cap
* They can create 100 angstrom (10 nanometer) thick film without defects

Kitegen 3 Megawatt Prototypes under Construction

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In an Italian video below, the next Kitegen (kite powered wind generator) is under construction at Berzano San Pietro, and at first it will produce less than 3 Megawatts. It will be equipped with a smaller-than-required kite of 100-150 square meters. The Stem will be like a giant fishing rod and will be very light and made of an aluminum composite panel with a honeycomb structure.

The flight altitude will be restricted to only 300 meter in that site due to a huge and complex bureaucracy problem.

Cisco and Verizon are pushing for true holograms and 3D TV delivered via 1 Gigabit Per Second Fiber Network by 2020

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Cisco predicts that high-definition TV and 3D TV content will increase 13 times between 2009 and 2014. In total, HDTV and 3D video will account for 42 percent of the video on the Internet by 2014. Cisco predicts that in the next four years, more than 90 percent of all content traversing the Net will be some form of video, whether it's peer-to-peer or streamed from servers.

Beyond 3D video, Chambers sees holographic technology as being the next truly big advancement in video technology. "3D will make things more lifelike, " he said. "But I think in 10 years we'll be seeing holograms used. Not only can this be used to enhance business communications, but imagine the implications for certain vertical businesses like medicine."

Verizon Communications Chief Information Officer Shaygan Kheradpir said his company is already working with researchers to bring holographic technologies into homes and small businesses. And the medical industry is one place where he sees a particularly good fit for holograms.

Solar Thermal Electrochemical Photo for Iron and Fuel Without Carbon Dioxide

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Stuart Licht of George Washington University has developed a new solar energy conversion process (Solar Thermal Electrochemical Photo) conversion process. "STEP generation of energetic molecules: A solar chemical process to end anthropogenic global warming,” .

High solubility pathway for the carbon dioxide free production of iron

We report a fundamental change in the understanding of iron oxide thermochemistry, opening a facile, new CO2-free route to iron production. The resultant process can eliminate a major global source of greenhouse gas emission, producing the staple iron in molten media at high rate and low electrolysis energy.

George Washington University Professor Develops Carbon Dioxide-Free Method Of Producing Iron press release from university

George Washington University Professor Stuart Licht has developed a revolutionary carbon dioxide-free method of producing iron that could provide a breakthrough for an industry that has been using the same polluting process of iron smelting for more than three thousand years. By using renewable solar energy and a process of solar conversion that he patented called Solar Thermal Electrochemical Photo (STEP) energy conversion, Dr. Licht is able to easily extract pure metal iron from the two prevalent iron ores, hematite and magnetite, without emitting carbon dioxide. Today, the commercial iron industry emits an estimated 6.8 trillion 2.4 billion (1.3 billion tons of steel at 1.7-.9 tons of CO2 per ton) tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.


Intel Human Brain Imaging and Machine Learning Research

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Intel is developing new technology could allow people to dictate letters and search the internet simply by thinking. The work is being done at the Human brain project with Intel and Carnegie Mellon. Dean Pomerleau heads up Intels Pittsburgh research lab and is wearing a prototype brain interface below. 2020 has been mentioned as a target date for commercialization of the more advanced version of this device.

Unlike current brain-controlled computers, which require users to imagine making physical movements to control a cursor on a screen, the new technology will be capable of directly interpreting words as they are thought.

Intel's scientists are creating detailed maps of the activity in the brain for individual words which can then be matched against the brain activity of someone using the computer, allowing the machine to determine the word they are thinking.

Intel already have a working prototype that can detect words such as "screwdriver", "house" and "barn", by measuring around 20,000 points in the brain.

Work is under way to produce smaller pieces of equipment that can be worn as headsets and that can produce the same level of detail as hospital sized MRI.

August 24, 2010

Pebble Bed Advanced High Temperature Reactor Can Enable Lower Costs and Enable Deep Burn and Advanced Fuel Cycle Reactors

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The Pebble Bed Advanced High Temperature Reactor was covered here last year.

Brave New climate looks at the work on the Pebble Bed Advanced High Temperature Reactor to achieve lower costs (70% of the cost of existing light water reactors) and deep burn of nuclear fuel (ten times more efficient use of uranium).

The Pebble Bed Advanced High Temperature Reactor (PB-AHTR) is a liquid salt cooled, high temperature reactor design developed at UC Berkeley in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other national labs.

Per’s aim is to develop really compact nuclear units with very high power densities, based on mostly well-understood technology that is deployable on the time-scale of a decade or less. The driving aim is to get these units commercialized in the near term, and to bring down costs, thereby paving the way for later widespread commercial deployment of full Generation IV designs like the LFTR (liquid flouride thorium Reactor) and IFR (Integral Fast Reactor), which not only achieve high burnup (use up 15 times more of the uranium and leave less waste), but also completely close the fuel cycle.


A Few Oil, Gas and Coal Fatal Accidents that the Union of Concerned Scientist is Not so Concerned about

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The Union of Concerned Scientists recently covered a 1988 nuclear power accident which caused no deaths.

There are plenty of fatal coal and oil and natural gas accidents that the Union of concerned scientists are unconcerned about.

There were 161 oil pipeline deaths and 576 injuries (from 2554 accidents in the US) 2000-2009. From 2001 to 2007, offshore oil drilling operations had 356 spills, 476 fires, 302 injuries and 41 worker fatalities.

Air pollution causes 50,000 premature deaths each year in the UK. Lives are shortened by an average of 9 years. The air pollution is from coal, oil and natural gas.

The scientific evidence linking air pollution to heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular death has "substantially strengthened," and people, particularly those at high cardiovascular risk, should limit their exposure, according to an updated American Heart Association scientific statement.

The World Health Organization states that 2.4 million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution, with 1.5 million of these deaths attributable to indoor air pollution. "Epidemiological studies suggest that more than 500,000 Americans die each year from cardiopulmonary disease linked to breathing fine particle air pollution. The World Health Organization has more details on air pollution here.

India Constructing and Approving More Nuclear Reactor Build, China, France and USA nuclear updates

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1. A ceremony has been held to mark the start of groundbreaking for units 7 and 8 of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Project (RAPP) in India. First concrete is scheduled to be poured at the site before the end of the year. RAPP 7 and 8 will be 700 MWe indigenously designed pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs). The pouring of first concrete for the units is planned for December, after excavation works have been completed. The reactors are scheduled to begin commercial operation in June and December 2016, respectively. The estimated cost of constructing the two units is put at Rs 123.2 billion ($2.6 billion).

India approved the construction of two further 700 MWe PHWRs at Kakrapar in Gujarat state. According to NPCIL, excavation work has now been completed for the two units at Kakrapar and the company is awaiting approval from the AERB to begin pouring concrete. The Kakrapar site already hosts two 220 MWe PHWRs, which entered commercial operation in 1993 and 1995, respectively. The larger Kakrapar units 3 and 4 are due to start operating in 2012


THAI oil recovery project on track for mid-2012 and oil Pipelines to North Dakota and Bakken Oil will be Expanded

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1. Petrobanks May River oil sand project phase 1 is on track for mid-2012 to produce about 10,000 to 15000 barrels per day.

This project will prove the scaling of the THAI oil recovery process. THAI™ (Toe to Heel Air Injection) is an evolutionary new configuration for in-situ combustion which combines a horizontal production well with a vertical air injection well placed at the toe. THAI would allow 70-80 percent recovery of oil-in-place.

Spintronics’ breakthrough holds promise for next-generation computers

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Using powerful lasers, Hui Zhao, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas, and graduate student Lalani Werake have discovered a new way to recognize currents of spinning electrons within a semiconductor. Their findings could lead the way to development of superior computers and electronics

Nature Physics - Observation of second-harmonic generation induced by pure spin currents

Spintronics, where the spin of electrons is used to carry information, is a rapidly growing area of research. There are several techniques for generating pure spin currents however, there is no method that can directly detect them, largely because they carry no net charge current and no net magnetization. At present, studies of pure spin currents rely on measuring the induced spin accumulation with either optical techniques or spin-valve configurations. However, spin accumulation does not directly reflect the spatial distribution or temporal dynamics of the pure spin current, and therefore does not give a real-time or real-space measurement. Here we demonstrate a second-order nonlinear optical effect of the pure spin current that has never been explored before, and show that it can be used for the non-invasive, non-destructive and real-time imaging of pure spin currents. The detection scheme can be applied in a wide range of materials with different electronic band structures because it does not rely on optical resonances. Furthermore, the control of nonlinear optical properties of materials with pure spin currents may have potential applications in photonics integrated with spintronics.

Progress to Rechargeable Lithium Ion Batteries that Can Woven into Clothing

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Scientists reported progress today in using a common virus to develop improved materials for high-performance, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that could be woven into clothing to power portable electronic devices. These new power sources could in the future be woven into fabrics such as uniforms or ballistic vests, and poured or sprayed into containers of any size and shape, said Mark Allen, Ph.D., who presented the report. He is a postdoc in Angela Belcher’s group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). These conformable batteries could power smart phones, GPS units, and other portable electronic devices.

Interview of David Renolds of Lyric Semiconductor Who Make the Probabilitistic Processor

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Here is the David Reynolds interview by Sander Olson. Mr. Reynolds is the co-founder and VP of Product Development of Lyric Semiconductor, which has recently emerged from Stealth mode. Lyric has just announced new Intellectual Property based on probabilistic processing. Probabilistic processing is increasingly being used for a wide variety of computing tasks, and Lyric claims massive power and efficiency improvements using their IP. Lyric states that their upcoming GP5 will be able to perform probabilistic computations 1,000x more efficiently than a conventional CPU.
Ben Vigoda thesis paper (209 pages) (H/T reader cclaan)



Question: Your company, Lyric semiconductor, is just emerging from stealth mode. How long has Lyric been operating?
Answer: The technology was originally created by Ben Vigoda at MIT, who wrote his PhD thesis on probability processing. Lyric was founded by Ben and me; our chairman and sole VC is the semiconductor industry veteran Ray Stata. We have so far raised over $20 million from DARPA and Stata Venture Partners. We have already filed 50 patents, and have about 30 employees.

August 23, 2010

Two Memristors are Needed to Mimic Hebbian Learning in Synapse

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One of the defining features of the connections between neurons is that they become stronger when neurons fire together; hence the phrase "neurons that fire together, wire together", a phenomenon otherwise known as Hebbian learning. Various experiments have shown that this effect is most pronounced early in the learning process, when the increase in connection strength is greatest. Later learning merely reinforces the links

Using a single memristor to connect two neurons, the memristance decreases when a voltage is applied which increases the current which in turn causes the memristance to drop further, in a kind of positive feedback effect. Using two memristors in series solves the problem according to work by Farnood Merrikh-Bayat and Saeed Bagheri Shouraki. Choosing their memristance carefully allows them to reproduce Hebbian-type synapse strengthening more or less exactly.

Russias Fast Neutron Reactor Plans

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Russian President Medvedev has prioritized fast reactor technology in 2009 and assured the projects sufficient federal spending amid Russia's uneasy recovery from the global economic crisis. The government has allocated 110.4 billion rubles ($3.6 billion) for research in this and other nuclear energy areas until 2020 under the New Generation Nuclear Technologies program adopted in February.

The fast breeder reactor achieves what industry insiders call a closed fuel cycle, the ability to use byproducts from one nuclear reaction as fuel for another, allowing for a spectacular expansion of fuel reserves. It usually uses mixed oxide fuel made up of about 20 percent plutonium and 80 percent plain, unenriched uranium that transmutes into more plutonium as it burns.

China Will Start Building 186 Kilometers of Track for Mega Straddle Buses by the end of 2010 to Help Reduce Traffic Jams by 25-30%


China is developing mega straddle buses to help solve traffic congestion like a recent 9 day 60 mile long traffic jam.

This bus straddles the road allowing it to pass over the normal road traffic on China’s busy city streets. The buses are 6 meters (18 feet) wide and 4.5 meters (13.5 feet) high which means they take up two road lanes, while still being low enough to get under most of the cities overpasses.
It can reduce traffic jams by 25-30% on main routes. Running at an average of 25 miles per hour, it can take 1,200 people at a time, or 300 passengers per cart. The straddling bus is that it runs above cars and under overpass. Its biggest strength is saving road space, efficient and high in capacity.

Each of these mega-buses will have a capacity of 1200 passengers while they zip down the streets blanketing commuters. They are electric powered, using a relay charging system that would recharge the bus as it is traveling by maintaining contact with at least one high-power electrical conductor that makes contact with the roof of the bus. The bus will either be on a railway style system, similar typical trolly cars we have now, or equipped with laser sensing cameras using regular tires following a painted line. The cost savings of this opposed to underground methods are over 90%. The Mentougou district of Beijing is beginning to lay out 186km of tracks by this years end for a pilot program

Virtual Router Smashes Speed Records

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MIT Technology Review reports that researchers in South Korea have built a networking router that transmits data at record speeds from components found in most high-end desktop computers. A team from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology created the router, which transmits data at nearly 40 gigabytes per second--many times faster than the previous record for such a device.

The techniques used by the researchers could lead to a number of breakthroughs, including the use of cheaper commodity chips, such as those made by Intel and Nvidia, in high-performance routers, in place of custom-made hardware. The software developed by the researchers could also serve as a testbed for novel networking protocols that might eventually replace the decades-old ones on which the Internet currently runs.

Mentor Produces 16-nanometer Test Chips but there are Big Uncertainties

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Joseph Sawicki, vice president and general manager of the Mentor Graphics Corp.'s Design to Silicon Division, has said that the first 16-nm test chips go out a couple of months ago.

The current 16nm work is mostly intellectual-property development.

Challenges in scaling up biofuels infrastructure

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Ramping up biofuels production to replace fossil fuels and provide a significant portion of the nation's energy will require nothing short of a transformation of the U.S. agricultural, transportation and energy sectors in the next few decades, according to a bioenergy expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences

"It is estimated that bioenergy has the potential to provide up to 60 percent of the world's primary energy, and biomass seems poised to provide a major alternative to fossil fuels," he wrote. "The International Energy Agency estimates that a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will require an exponential increase in bioenergy production, to 20 percent of our total energy supply in less than 40 years.

Progress to Colossal Magnetoelectricity and Denser Hard drives

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(a) The transverse spiral Mn magnetic order found in many multiferroic perovskite manganites. Here the Mn spins rotate around an axis defined by the cross product Si×Si+1, while the magnetic propagation Q is parallel to the vector joining these two spins ri,i+1. The direction of the ferroelectric polarization is given by the cross product P=(Si×Si+1)×Q. In the same figure the O atoms (red circles) are coherently displaced from their paraelectric position by a distance d (depicted as white circles) and are related to the Dzyaloshinskii vector by Di,i+1~λd×ri,i+1 , where λ is the spin-orbit coupling constant. (Adapted from [2].) (b) A depiction of a weak ferromagnetism generated from a DM interaction from a small canting of antiferromagnetic spins that are stacked along the c axis. For clarity only one column of spins along the c axis is shown. In this arrangement the Dzyaloshinskii vector changes sign between pairs of spins. A team of scientists at Rutgers University has found a material in which an electric field can control the overall magnetic properties of the material. If the magnetoelectric effect discovered by the Rutgers group can be extended to higher temperatures, it could be useful for manipulating small-scale magnetic bits in ultra high-density data storage.

Towards colossal magnetoelectricity?



Physical Review Letters - Cross-Control of Magnetization and Polarization by Electric and Magnetic Fields with Competing Multiferroic and Weak-Ferromagnetic Phases

Oak Ridge Research to Minimize Problematic Graphene Loops with Electron Irradiation

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ORNL simulations demonstrate how loops (seen above in blue) between graphene layers can be minimized using electron irradiation (bottom).

A research team led by ORNL's Bobby Sumpter, Vincent Meunier and Eduardo Cruz-Silva has discovered how loops develop in graphene, an electrically conductive high-strength low-weight material that resembles an atomic-scale honeycomb.

Nickel Borate for Fuel Cells Could Elimate the Need for Expensive Platinu

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A new catalyst could help speed development of inexpensive home-brewed solar energy systems for powering homes and plug-in cars during the day (left) and for producing electricity from a fuel cell at night (right). Credit: Patrick Gillooly/MIT
200-fold boost in fuel cell oxygen production efficiency advances “personalized energy systems".

Good catalysts already are available for the part of the electrolyzer that produces hydrogen. Lacking, however, have been inexpensive, long-lasting catalysts for the production of oxygen. The new nickel borate catalyst fills that gap and boosts oxygen production by 200-fold. It eliminates the need for expensive platinum catalysts and potentially toxic chemicals used in making them.

The new catalyst has been licensed to Sun Catalytix, which envisions developing safe, super-efficient versions of the electrolyzer, suitable for homes and small businesses, within two years.

Controlling Piezoelectric Response in Semiconductor Quantum Dots via Impulsive Charge Localization

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Nanoletters - Controlling Piezoelectric Response in Semiconductor Quantum Dots via Impulsive Charge Localization

By direct observation of coherent acoustic phonons, we demonstrate a novel extrinsic piezoelectric response in colloidal CdSe semiconductor quantum dots. This response is driven by the migration of charges to the surface of the quantum dot on a vibrationally impulsive time scale. Surface- and fluence-dependent studies reveal that the observed carrier capture based piezo response is controllable and is at least an order of magnitude larger than the intrinsic piezo response of wurtzite CdSe.


The generation of an electric field by the compression and expansion of solid materials is known as the piezoelectric effect, and it has a wide range of applications ranging from everyday items such as watches, motion sensors and precise positioning systems. Researchers at McGill University's Department of Chemistry have now discovered how to control this effect in nanoscale semiconductors called "quantum dots," enabling the development of incredibly tiny new products.


Laser Wakefield Particle Accelerators Can Be Simulated 300 Times Faster

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A recent breakthrough in computer modeling may help hasten the day when accelerators thousands of times more powerful than current accelerators can be built in a fraction of the space—and for significantly less money.

Laser wakefield acceleration works by shooting powerful laser pulses through a cloud of ionized gas (plasma). The pulse creates a wave (or wake) on which introduced electrons "surf," much as human surfers ride ocean waves. Using this method, researchers have demonstrated acceleration gradients 1,000 times greater than conventional methods. Experiments using laser wakefields have so far spanned no more than a few centimeters, but if scientists successfully extend that to meters and can string several laser wakefield stages together, an accelerator more powerful than the LHC would theoretically require a wake path only 10-100 meters long.

Programmable Soft Lithography - Solvent Assisted Nanoembossing for Nanopatterning Six Inch Wafers for Less than $100

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Nanoletters - Programmable Soft Lithography: Solvent-Assisted Nanoscale Embossing

This paper reports an all-moldable nanofabrication platform that can generate, from a single master, large-area nanoscale patterns with programmable densities, fill factors, and lattice symmetries. Solvent-assisted nanoscale embossing (SANE) could increase the spacing of patterns up to 100% as well as decrease them down to 50% in a single step by stretching or heating a polymer substrate. Also, SANE could reduce critical feature sizes as small as 45% compared to the master by controlled swelling of patterned molds with different solvents. These capabilities were applied to generate plasmonic nanoparticle arrays with continuously variable separations and hence different optical properties on the same substrate.


The magical world of Shrinky Dinks -- an arts and crafts material used by children since the 1970s -- has taken up residence in a Northwestern University laboratory. A team of nanoscientists is using the flexible plastic sheets as the backbone of a new inexpensive way to create, test and mass-produce large-area patterns on the nanoscale.

The method offers unprecedented opportunities to manipulate the electronic, photonic and magnetic properties of nanomaterials. It also easily controls a pattern’s size and symmetry and can be used to produce millions of copies of the pattern over a large area. Potential applications include devices that take advantage of nanoscale patterns, such as solar cells, high-density displays, computers and chemical and biological sensors.

“No other existing nanopatterning method can both prototype arbitrary patterns with small separations and reproduce them over six-inch wafers for less than $100,” Odom said.

SANE offers a way to meet three grand challenges in nanofabrication from the same -- and a single -- master pattern: (1) creating programmable array densities, (2) reducing critical feature sizes, and (3) designing different and reconfigurable lattice symmetries over large areas and in a massively parallel manner.

Michael Vassar Google Talk on Transitions from Scholarship to Darwinian Science

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This is basically the same talk that Michael Vassar made at the 2010 Singularity summit.

H/T to Michael Anissimov at Accelerating Future

August 22, 2010

Google Prediction API

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The Prediction API enables access to Google's machine learning algorithms to analyze your historic data and predict likely future outcomes. Upload your data to Google Storage for Developers, then use the Prediction API to make real-time decisions in your applications. The Prediction API implements supervised learning algorithms as a RESTful web service to let you leverage patterns in your data, providing more relevant information to your users. Run your predictions on Google's infrastructure and scale effortlessly as your data grows in size and complexity.

The Prediction API can be used in a variety of contexts. Application developers who want to predict new results from historic data can benefit from prediction capabilities. Example uses include user sentiment analysis, language identification, product recommendation, message routing, and fraud detection, among others.

The Prediction API supports CSV formatted training data, up to 100M in size. Numeric or unstructured text can be sent as input features, and discrete categories (up to a few hundred different ones) can be provided as output labels. * Google heavily uses predictive models for many tasks such as spam filtering, language identification, and objectionable content identification.

* Training time varies with the size of the training data, but testing has shown training times ranging from a few seconds to over an hour.

* Prediction can be performed in real-time, usually less than a second.

* You cannot currently download your model.

* The goal of the preview period is to collect feedback from a diverse range of developers. Participants will be selected from existing users of Google developer services as well as those who sign up on the waiting list.

Getting Started with the API

Here are the getting started instructions

You can access the Prediction API many different ways through its RESTful interface; however, the examples in this Getting Started Guide show you how to access the API by using simple UNIX shell commands. To learn about the other ways you can access the Prediction API, see the Developer's Guide, and our Third Party Libraries page.

Step 1—Upload

1. Check that your data is formatted for training.

Training data uploads currently must follow CSV format with each line as one datapoint with the first column representing the parameter to be predicted, and the remaining parameter as prediction signals. A language categorization dataset for English, Spanish, and French based off selected sentences from great works in each language can be found here.

2. Upload your data to Google Storage for Developers.

For more information on how to request a Google Storage for Developers account and how to upload data, please see the Google Storage for Developers Getting Started Guide.

While there are many ways to access Google Storage for Developers, the Google Storage for Developers manager graphical interface is the simplest. First, create and name a bucket, which will be referred to in the following examples as {$mybucket}, click on that bucket and upload your data to that bucket, shown below as ${mydata}.