July 14, 2012

Carnival of Space 258

1. DearAstronomer -Nearly a year ago, the Pluto-Charon Dwarf Planet system made headlines with the announcement that a fourth moon had been detected. Today, Alan Stern (SWRI) has announced via twitter ( @alanstern ) that a fifth moon has been detected in orbit around Pluto.

2. Supernova Condensate - So, with a newly discovered moon, exactly how large is Pluto's family anyway?

This image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows five moons orbiting the distant, icy dwarf planet Pluto. The green circle marks the newly discovered moon, designated P5, as photographed by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on July 7. The observations will help scientists in their planning for the July 2015 flyby of Pluto by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. P4 was uncovered in Hubble imagery in 2011. (Credit: NASA; ESA; M. Showalter, SETI Institute)

3. Nextbigfuture - A team of astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is reporting the discovery of a fifth moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The moon is estimated to be irregular in shape and 6 to 15 miles across. It is in a 58,000-mile-diameter circular orbit around Pluto that is assumed to be co-planar with the other satellites in the system.

New Horizon spacecraft, launched in 2006, will fly by Pluto in July, 2015

China expected to have 25 million cars sold in 2015, USA 15.9 million in 2015

US Light vehicles sales for all of 2011 totaled 12.8 million, Autodata said, an increase of 10.3% from 2010.

Car sales may rise 12 percent to 14.3 million this year and 3.5 percent to 14.8 million in 2013, Southfield, Michigan-based AlixPartners said. In the three years through 2016, sales may rise 7.4 percent to 15.9 million, the company said. That trails the market’s pre-recession high of 17.4 million in 2000.

Auto sales in Western Europe may decline 6.9 percent to 13.5 million in 2012, for the fifth-consecutive annual drop, AlixPartners estimated. Deliveries in the region will rise to 14 million in 2013 while remaining below 2007’s peak of 16.8 million through 2021, according to the report.

Auto sales in China may rise to 19.2 million this year, about 1 million lower than AlixPartners estimated last year. Sales in the world’s most populous country may increase to 21.4 million in 2013 and 23.5 million in 2014, the report said.

It is estimated that China's automobile market will keep a stable growth from 2012 to 2015, with a compound annual growth rate of 8.1%. The sales volume is expected to reach 25.287 million by 2015.

China could double US car sales in 2017/2018 and be equal the combined car sales in Western Europe and the United States.

Intelligent car co-pilot

Barrels and cones dot an open field in Saline, Mich., forming an obstacle course for a modified vehicle. A driver remotely steers the vehicle through the course from a nearby location as a researcher looks on. Occasionally, the researcher instructs the driver to keep the wheel straight — a trajectory that appears to put the vehicle on a collision course with a barrel. Despite the driver’s actions, the vehicle steers itself around the obstacle, transitioning control back to the driver once the danger has passed.

The key to the maneuver is a new semiautonomous safety system developed by Sterling Anderson, a PhD student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Karl Iagnemma, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Robotic Mobility Group. The system uses an onboard camera and laser rangefinder to identify hazards in a vehicle’s environment. The team devised an algorithm to analyze the data and identify safe zones — avoiding, for example, barrels in a field, or other cars on a roadway. The system allows a driver to control the vehicle, only taking the wheel when the driver is about to exit a safe zone.

July 13, 2012

Spintronic LED Invented

University of Utah physicists invented a new “spintronic” organic light-emitting diode or OLED that promises to be brighter, cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the kinds of LEDs now used in television and computer displays, lighting, traffic lights and numerous electronic devices.

“It’s a completely different technology,” says Z. Valy Vardeny.

The Utah physicists made a prototype of the new kind of LED – known technically as a spin-polarized organic LED or spin OLED – that produces an orange color. But Vardeny expects it will be possible within two years to use the new technology to produce red and blue as well, and he eventually expects to make white spin OLEDs.

However, it could be five years before the new LEDs hit the market because right now, they operate at temperatures no warmer than about minus 28 degrees Fahrenheit, and must be improved so they can run at room temperature, Vardeny adds.

A new “spintronic” organic light-emitting diode glows orangish (center) when the device, chilled well below freezing, is exposed to a magnetic field from the two poles of an electromagnet located on either side of the device. University of Utah physicists report inventing the new kind of LED in the July 13 issue of the journal Science. Photo Credit: Tho Nguyen, University of Utah.

Science - Spin-Polarized Light-Emitting Diode Based on an Organic Bipolar Spin Valve

Charge-density-wave instability competes with superconductivity

In combination with prior observations of a large gap in the spin excitation spectrum, new research indicate an incipient charge-density-wave instability competes with superconductivity.

Armed with this knowledge, scientists can start to design new materials that will bring superconductors out of the cold (room temperature superconductors) and into large-scale real world applications.

Researchers from the Canadian Light Source, University of Waterloo, and the University of British Columbia, used no less than four synchrotron facilities worldwide in order to confirm their results. A synchrotron, like Saskatoon’s CLS, where some of the experiments were performed, is a football-field-sized source of brilliant light that enables scientists to study the microstructure and chemical properties of materials.
Dr. Feizhou He observes a sample at the Canadian Light Source beamline where the superconductor data was gathered

Science - Long-Range Incommensurate Charge Fluctuations in (Y,Nd)Ba2Cu3O6+x

Superparamagnetic particles of iron oxide can label blood cells and can be tracked for over one

Superparamagnetic particles of iron oxide were used to label blood cells. Doctors can use MRI to track the magnetic labels for over one week inside the body. It may help doctors track cells in the body to better determine if treatments work. Other forms of labeling use radiation and only can be tracked for a few hours.

Researchers showed that injecting immune cells containing magnetic particles into the bloodstream was safe and did not interfere with cell function. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can then track the cells moving through the body.

“This could change how we assess new treatments affecting inflammation and the outcome of a heart attack or heart failure,” said Jennifer Richards, M.D., lead author and vascular surgeon at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cardiovascular Science in Scotland.

With stem cell therapy, doctors can adapt blood cells to fight disease. But when developing these therapies, it’s hard to tell exactly where cells go and how many go where they are supposed to. Safely tracking them would help scientists better understand how new therapies combat heart disease.

Other tracing methods expose patients to excess radiation or only allow cells to be tracked for a few hours. But MRI scans use no radiation, and cells containing the particles can be monitored for at least a week.

Circulation Cardiovascular Imaging - In Vivo Mononuclear Cell Tracking Using Superparamagnetic Particles of Iron Oxide: Feasibility and Safety in Humans

Aerographite is the lightest material, strong and could enable Statites

The world's lightest solid material has been touted by a team from the Technical University of Hamburg and the University of Kiel in Germany.

New aerographite material is worlds lightest. It is composed of 99.99% air, aerographite has an ultra low density of just 0.2 mg/cm³ and is said to demonstrate extraordinary electrical properties.

Researchers Professor Karl Schulte and Matthew Mecklenburg created it from a network of hollow carbon tubes grown at the nano and micro scales.

According to Prof Schulte, aerographite's sparse nature means it can be compressed by a factor of a thousand, with the ability to then spring back to its original size. The material is also capable of supporting 35 times more weight than the same mass of aerogel.

Because it is electrically conductive and chemical-resistant, the researchers believe it could potentially find its way into devices such as batteries.

A microscope image of aerographite, which is now officially the world's lightest solid material (Image: Technical University of Hamburg)

Advanced Materials - Aerographite: Ultra Lightweight, Flexible Nanowall, Carbon Microtube Material with Outstanding Mechanical Performance

An ultra lightweight carbon microtube material called Aerographite is synthesized by a novel single-step chemical vapor deposition synthesis based on ZnO networks, which is presently the lightest known material with a density smaller than μg/cm3. Despite its low density, the hierarchical design leads to remarkable mechanical, electrical, and optical properties. The first experiments with Aerographite electrodes confirm its applicability.

New positional sequencing technology could dramatically speed up gene sequencing

Although the field of gene sequencing has advanced exponentially during the past two decades, conventional technology uses light to sequence DNA. A company called Nabsys has developed a new technique that could speed up aggregate throughput by 1,000x. The technique employs using solid state detectors instead of light to sequence DNA,and should result in faster, more accurate, and more informative sequencing. In an interview with Sander Olson for Next Big Future, Nabsys President and CEO Dr. Barrett Bready, M.D. discusses how new positional sequencing technologies could be used to dramatically improve the healthcare and agricultural industries.

Beyond China GDP — Other Indicators Point to Pickup for Economy

CNBC - China's economy grew 7.6 percent in the April-June quarter, slower than the 8.1 percent in the first quarter and 8.9 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

According to Nomura’s Chief China Economist Zhiwei Zhang, among the 32 indicators he tracks, nearly two-thirds showed faster growth in May than April.

“Having a mix of negative and some positive data are typical at turning points in the economy, and indeed our conviction remains strong that the second quarter is the bottom of the economic downswing,” Zhang said. “There are also signs that the policy easing has started to gain traction through the month of June.”

July 12, 2012

Various Groups that want to use Population Reduction as the Main Solution to the Environmental Problems they see

Population matters used to be the Optimal Population Trust (OPT)

The OPT pushed for draconian state controls on birth rates and on immigration: Their press release of 30 May 2006 argues that mass migration is stopping people from repairing the damage caused by climate change and by other factors that led to the migration in the first place.

From the Population Matters frequently asked questions about optimum population level.

The world population of 6.8 billion would need 3.4 planet Earths to achieve typical UK living standards. The United States has an even higher consumption footprint. Optimum population means the best balance between the number of people and the quality of life that they may obtain, though it should not be viewed as an exact number.

Because carrying capacity refers to maximum sustainable population for a given environment, it doesn’t take into account any margin to allow for changes in the environment. This is another reason why the ‘best’ number of people is almost always fewer than the maximum that the environment can support.

They publish their population overshoot calculations by country.

They think Europe should have half of its current population and North America should have 152 million less people.

Once Dominant Internet News Aggregator Digg sells for $500,000

Wall Street Journal - New York technology development firm Betaworks has agreed to buy news-sharing website Digg The price was only about $500,000, three people familiar with the matter said—a pittance for a company that raised $45 million from prominent investors including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and Marc Andreessen. Betaworks is acquiring a website that still has a well known brand and sizable audience of more than 7 million visitors per month as of May, according to comScore.

None of Digg's remaining employees will join Betaworks as part of the acquisition. Chief Executive Matt Williams will join venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz as an entrepreneur-in-residence.

DARPA works towards 100 attojoule all optical switches

DARPA 2013 budget justification is out and it updates progress on DARPA projects. (336 pages) One of the project is to develop 100 attojoules optical switches.

100 attojoules is 10^-16 joules. So achieving 100 attojoule switches means 10,000 trillion operations would take 1 joule of energy. Actual calculations would take more energy to move information and perform other tasks.

Atomic Scale Materials and Devices - Goal 100 attojoules optical switches

FY2011 $16.030 million
FY2012 $9.563 million
FY2013 $2.0 million

Description: This thrust examines the fundamental physics of materials at the atomic scale in order to develop new devices and capabilities. A major emphasis of this thrust is to provide the theoretical and experimental underpinnings of a new class of semiconductor electronics based on spin degree of freedom of the electron, in addition to (or in place of) the charge. A new all optical switch capability will also be investigated. It includes a new, non-invasive method to directly hyperpolarize biological tissues, leading to novel quantitative neurodiagnostics. New materials and prototype devices will be developed to demonstrate a new class of optoelectronics that operate with ultra-low energy dissipation (~100 atom-Joules (aJ)/operation).

Stalker small unmanned aerial system powered by Lasers for 48 hours of flight

Lockheed Martin and LaserMotive, Inc., recently demonstrated the capabilities of an innovative laser power system to extend the Stalker Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) flight time to more than 48 hours. This increase in flight duration represents an improvement of 2,400 percent.

Stalker is a small, silent UAS used by Special Operations Forces since 2006 to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
Stalker UAV fly for 48 hours with wireless laser recharging

LAser Motive has a 7 page laser power beaming fact sheet

LaserMotive has demonstrated wireless power systems with a receiver specific power as high as 800 W/kg. By comparison, lithium-ion batteries used in small UAVs are generally used with a specific power in the range of 200-500 W/kg.

With current laser cells, the deliverable power is limited mainly by cell cooling, and it can easily exceed 6 kW/m2, or about 1 HP per square foot.

Current diode laser technology and reasonable apertures can produce useful beam intensity at the receiver out to a range of ~10km. Longer distances can be achieved by switching to higher-quality sources (such as fiber lasers), although there is a penalty in cost and efficiency can be achieved by switching to higher-quality sources (such as fiber lasers), although there is a penalty in cost and efficiency.

DARPA's Living Foundries Project

DARPA 2013 budget justification is out and it updates progress on DARPA projects. (336 pages)

(Formerly part of Synthetic Biology project)
The goal of Living Foundries is to create a revolutionary, biologically-based manufacturing platform to provide new materials, capabilities and manufacturing paradigms for the DoD and the Nation. The program seeks to develop the new tools, technologies and methodologies to transform biology into an engineering practice, speeding the biological design-build-test cycle and expanding the complexity of systems that can be engineered. The goal is to enable the rapid development of previously unattainable technologies and products, leveraging biology to solve challenges associated with production of new materials, novel capabilities, fuels and medicines and providing novel solutions and enhancements to military needs and capabilities. For example, one motivating, widespread and currently intractable problem is that of corrosion/materials degradation - a challenge that costs the DoD nearly $23 billion per year and has no near term solution in sight. Living Foundries offers the potential to program and engineer biology, and enable the capability to design and engineer systems that rapidly and dynamically prevent, seek out, identify and repair corrosion/materials degradation. Ultimately, Living Foundries aims to provide game-changing manufacturing paradigms for the DoD, enabling distributed, adaptable, on-demand production of critical and high-value materials, devices and capabilities in the field or on base. Such a capability will decrease the DoD's dependence on tenuous material and energy supply chains that could be cut due to political change, targeted attack or environmental accident. Living Foundries aims to do for biology what very-large-scale integration (VLSI) did for the semiconductor device industry - i.e. enable the design and engineering of increasingly complex systems to address and enhance military needs and capabilities.

DARPA META Project for highly adapable foundry style manufacturing of military vehicles

DARPA 2013 budget justification is out and it updates progress on DARPA projects. (336 pages) One of the best funded projects is program to enable military vehicle to be developed and built 10 times faster.

The goal of the META program is to develop novel design flows, tools, and processes to enable a significant improvement in the ability to design complex defense and aerospace systems that are correct-by-construction. The program seeks to develop a design representation of meta-language and a domain-specific component model library from which system designs can quickly be assembled and their correctness verified with a high degree of certainty. Such a "fab-less" design approach is complemented by a foundry-style manufacturing capability, consisting of a factory capable of rapid reconfiguration between a large number of products and product variants through bitstream reprogramability, with minimal or no resultant learning curve effects. Together, the fab-less design and foundry-style manufacturing capability is anticipated to yield substantial---by a factor of five to ten---compression in the time to develop and field complex defense and aerospace systems.

The META effort will also explore the initial design of a next generation ground vehicle by employing a novel, model-based correct-by-construction design capability, a highly-adaptable foundry-style manufacturing capability, and crowd-sourcing methods to demonstrate 5x-10x compression in the timeline necessary to build an infantry fighting vehicle. Beginning in FY 2012, the specific ground vehicle application work will be funded in PE 0602702E, Project TT-04, Advanced Land Systems.

FY 2011 $49 million
FY 2012 $56 million
FY 2013 $75 million

Rapamycin antiaging research and overstated diabetes risks

David Stipp - The first strong evidence that a drug could slow aging in mammals came out in 2009 when scientists reported that chronically feeding doses of rapamycin to mice significantly extended their average and maximum lifespans. Yet rapamycin, a drug used to help prevent rejection of transplanted organs, causes multiple side effects in people, including elevated triglycerides and cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease; moderate immune suppression, perhaps increasing infection risks; and low blood platelet levels, which raises the specter of dangerous bleeding. In recent years another especially surprising and troubling side effect has come to the fore: Chronically taking large doses of rapamycin induces “insulin insensitivity” in both rodents and humans, leading to rising blood sugar and potentially to type 2 diabetes.

The troubling data on rapamycin’s side effects have come mainly from studies in which sizable doses were taken by sickly people, many of whom were on potent immunosuppressants such as cyclosporin (chiefly organ transplant patients). These data aren’t necessarily indicative of rapamycin’s side effects when taken in smallish amounts by healthy adults as a broad-spectrum reducer of degenerative disease risks (which is one way to describe an anti-aging drug). Most, if not all, of rapamycin’s side effects are dose-dependent—smaller doses pose less risk. Thus, it seems possible that a dosing regimen could be found that confers preventive gains with little risk. One expert on mTOR and aging, Mikhail Blagosklonny at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., has proposed that intermittent doses of rapamycin might do the trick. Not coincidentally, Blagosklonny authored the recent theory paper downplaying the drug’s reported diabetes risk

A recent paper suggests that the diabetes risk is overblown.

DARPA Projects - Enabling Quantum Technology and Trying To Achieve 10 bits per photon communication

DARPA 2013 budget justification is out and it updates progress on DARPA projects. (336 pages)

Enabling Quantum Technologies

FY 2011 $8.385 million
FY 2012 $9.233 million
FY 2013 $15.70 million

Description: This thrust emphasizes a quantum focus on technology capabilities including significantly improved single photon sources, detectors, and associated devices useful for quantum metrology, communications, and imaging applications. In addition, this thrust will examine other novel classes of materials and phenomena such as plasmons or Bose-Einstein Condensates (BEC) that have the potential to provide novel capabilities in the quantum regime, such as GPS-independent navigation via atom interferometry and communications, and ultrafast laser technologies.

DARPA Nanotech Projects -$34 million investigating cold fusion and excess heat was found

DARPA 2013 budget justification is out and it updates progress on DARPA projects. (336 pages)

1. Fundamentals of Nanoscale and Emergent Effects and Engineered Devices - IE Cold Fusion Investigation

FY2011 $16.745 million
FY2012 $11.65 million
FY2013 $5.5 million

This is the project where DARPA is spending about $34 million to investigate cold fusion on the nanoscale. They have found and generated excess heat for at least 2.5 days.

Description: The Fundamentals of Nanoscale and Emergent Effects and Engineered Devices program seeks to understand and exploit physical phenomena for developing more efficient and powerful devices. This includes developing devices and structures to enable controllable photonic devices at multiple wavelengths, engineering palladium microstructures with large deuterium loadings to study absorption thermodynamics and effects, enabling real-time detection as well as analysis of signals and molecules and origin of emergent behavior in correlated electron devices, and developing stabilization and scale-up methods to fabricate high pressure crystal structures at low pressures. Arrays of engineered nanoscale devices will result in an order of magnitude (10 to 100 times) reduction in the time required for analysis and identification of known and unknown (engineered) molecules. This program will develop novel nanomaterials for exquisitely precise purification of materials, enabling such diverse applications as oxygen generation and desalination, ultra-high sensitivity magnetic sensors, and correlated electron effects such as superconductivity. This program will compare the phenomenology of various biological, physical and social systems and abstract the common features that are responsible for their properties of self-organization, emergent behavior, and physical intelligence.

This looks like they are trying to investigate the science of cold fusion / low energy nuclear reactions

July 11, 2012

Sabre spaceplane engine technology on track and funding looks promising for final design phase

BBC News - Reaction Engines is showcasing its revolutionary Sabre engine technology at the Farnborough air show. They are two-thirds of the way through an important test campaign at its Culham base.

Sabre would burn hydrogen and oxygen to provide thrust - but in the lower atmosphere this oxygen would be taken from the atmosphere.

At high speeds, the engine is required to cope with 1,000-degree gases entering its intake. These have to be cooled prior to being compressed and burnt with the hydrogen.

REL's solution is a module containing arrays of extremely fine piping that can extract the heat and plunge the intake gases to minus 140C in just 1/100th of a second.

Ordinarily, the moisture in the air would be expected to freeze out rapidly, covering the pre-cooler's pipes in a blanket of frost and dislocating their operation.

But the company's engineers have also devised a means to stop this happening, permitting Sabre to run in jet mode for as long as is needed before making the transition to full rocket mode to take Skylon into orbit.

It is the critical "pre-cooler" technology with its innovative helium cooling loop that REL is validating currently on an experimental rig at Culham.

1. Pre-cooler
During flight air enters the pre-cooler. In 1/100th of a second a network of fine piping inside the pre-cooler drops the air's temperature by well over 100C. Very cold helium in the piping makes this possible.

2. Jet engine
Oxygen chilled in the pre-cooler by the helium is compressed and used to fuel the aircraft. In the test run, a jet engine is used to draw air into the pre-cooler, so the technology can be demonstrated.

3. The silencer
The helium must be kept chilled. So, it is pumped through a nitrogen boiler. For the test, water is used to dampen the noise from the exhaust gases. Clouds of steam are produced as the water is vaporized.

Optically Switchable Chiral Terahertz Metamolecules

A multi-institutional team of researchers that included scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has created the first artificial molecules whose chirality can be rapidly switched from a right-handed to a left-handed orientation with a beam of light. This holds potentially important possibilities for the application of terahertz technologies across a wide range of fields, including reduced energy use for data-processing, homeland security and ultrahigh-speed communications.

Chirality is the distinct left/right orientation or “handedness” of some types of molecules, meaning the molecule can take one of two mirror image forms. The right-handed and left-handed forms of such molecules, called “enantiomers,” can exhibit strikingly different properties. For example, one enantiomer of the chiral molecule limonene smells of lemon, the other smells of orange. The ability to observe or even switch the chirality of molecules using terahertz (trillion-cycles-per-second) electromagnetic radiation is a much coveted asset in the world of high technology.

(Top) Scanning electron microscopy image of optically switchable chiral THz metamolecules, (Bottom) The purple, blue and tan colors represent the gold meta-atom structures at different layers, with the two silicon pads shown in green. (courtesy of Zhang, et. al)

SpaceX's Reusable Grasshopper Rocket will start having test flights within two months

SpaceFlightNow - SpaceX's Grasshopper testbed for a reusable rocket booster could fly soon from the company's Texas test facility on a short hop designed to demonstrate its ability to take off and land under thrust on a launch pad.

The Grasshopper test vehicle stands 106 feet tall, and its initial flights will reach 240 feet and last about 45 seconds to check the design of the rocket's landing system.

SpaceX technicians added four steel landing legs and a support structure to a qualified Falcon 9 rocket first stage. The Grasshopper program is the first step in achieving SpaceX's goal of developing a reusable booster, which would require the rocket's first stage to fly back to a landing pad at or near the launch site.

SpaceX's Grasshopper vehicle in McGregor, Texas. Credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now

Update on DARPA Tip based nanofabrication and nanoscale metamaterials

DARPA 2013 budget justification is out and it updates progress on DARPA projects.

The two projects below were covered last year. $4.6 million in funding for the Tip-based nanofabrication project was cancelled for 2012. However, it appears that the 2012 goals were achieved in 2011.

1. Tip-Based Nanofabrication (TBN)

Funding of $11.618 million for 2011, no funding for 2012 and 2013

The Tip-Based Nanofabrication (TBN) program developed the capability to controllably manufacture, for selected defense applications, nano-scale structures such as nanowires, nanotubes, and quantum dots with nanometer-scale control over the size, orientation, and position of each nanostructure, using Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) cantilevers and tips. The selected defense applications included optical and biological sensors, diode lasers, light emitting diodes, infrared sensors, high density interconnects, and quantum computing. In addition to tip-based approaches, other methods for controlled nano-manufacturing were considered, including optical and bio-inspired approaches.

FY 2011 Accomplishments:
- Demonstrated operation of multi-tip arrays for use in manufacturing complex components.
- Demonstrated precision and control of the process and functionality for specific device designs.
- Demonstrated a low cost and scalable tip-based array of nano-patterning elements (over 20,000 elements) that allows for high throughput nano-fabrication and high resolution (less than 50 nanometers) over large areas.
- Demonstrated the fabrication of semiconducting nanowires, graphene ribbons, quantum dots, Kane q-bits, carbon nanotubes and other structures using tips-based nano-manufacturing (TBN) for specific device applications.

New 'self-calibrating MEMS' bringing accuracy to nanotech

Researchers have demonstrated tiny machines that could make possible super-accurate sensors and motors, with far-reaching applications from computer storage to altimeters, detecting petroleum deposits to measuring DNA-binding forces.

The machines are called self-calibratable micro-electromechanical systems, or MEMS. Although MEMS are in commercial use, the new device is the first of its kind capable of self-calibration, a step critical for applications requiring high performance and accuracy.

* a $15 chip is able to measure MEMS displacements better than a $500,000 electron microscope

* 30 percent of MEMS manufacturing costs are related to calibration

* Conventional gravity meters can cost over $200,000 and could be replaced with a small chip. They are used to find oil deposits.

* new self-calibration will improve the accuracy of atomic force microscopes

This picture shows a new device called a self-calibratable MEMS. Purdue researchers have demonstrated the tiny machines, which could make possible super-accurate sensors and motors with far-reaching applications. (Purdue University Birck Nanotechnology Center image/Jason Vaughn Clark)

Thinfilm of Norway Making printed printed wireless transmitters, printed logic, memory, sensor, and battery for Internet of Things

Thin Film Electronics ASA (“Thinfilm”) has 15 years of experience in the field of non-volatile memories using functional polymers. Thinfilm’s unique all-printed re-writable products are ideal for use in standalone consumer applications, including personalized toys and online-enabled games. They can also be integrated with logic elements, sensors, batteries, and displays for mass market applications such as all-printed RFID tags. The proven high volume roll-to-roll production of Thinfilm printed memories provides the platform for its Memory Everywhere™ vision.

Thinfilm has previously announced technology partnerships to develop an inexpensive, integrated time-temperature sensor for use in monitoring perishable goods and pharmaceuticals.

Thinfilm and Bemis Company Inc. (Bemis), a Fortune 500 supplier of flexible packaging and pressure sensitive materials, announced an agreement to develop a flexible sensing platform for the packaging market. The result will be a new category of packaging that can collect and wirelessly communicate sensor information, for use by leading food, consumer products, and healthcare companies worldwide.

The flexible packaging market for North America alone is estimated by PCI Films Consulting Ltd. to be $18.3 Billion. Printed Electronics is a new, emerging industry that takes advantage of printing technologies to manufacture electronics with a wider variety of form factors, including thin, flexible substrates. Through the use of proprietary printing techniques, these electronic circuits can be manufactured at high efficiency and very high volumes as compared to traditional electronics. This enables electronic functionality in a whole new family of products such as medical and consumer disposables, cards, labels, RFID tags, toys and games. The independent research and analyst firm IDTechEx, estimate that the overall market for printed and potentially printed electronics will rise from $2 billion in 2009 to over $50 billion by 2019.

Technology Review - Thinfilm is putting printed wireless transmitters together with existing printed logic, memory, sensor, and battery systems on product packaging. This will be commercialized in 2014 with Bemis. Bemis, a Wisconsin packaging company, makes 200 billion packages a year for meat, cheese, medical devices, and personal care products.

Solving Exascale Power problems will mean gigascale power for toys and megascale for heart monitors

1. EETimes - By about 2018, engineers are expected to create an exascale supercomputer—capable of a 1,000-fold performance improvement compared with today's state-of-the-art petaflop systems.

If engineers can use new technology to create an exascale system that consumes only 20 MW of power, the same technology can also be used to dramatically lower the power consumption of lower performance systems, to the point where giga-scale systems consuming only 20 milliwatts of power can be used in small toys and mega-scale systems that consume only 20 microwatts could be used in heart monitors.

World's first 300mm fab-compatible Directed Self-Assembly (DSA) process line part of Accelerated Commercialization Effort

Imec and Tokyo Electron (TEL) announce that they will accelerate their Directed Self-Assembly (DSA) activities at imec’s recent 300mm fab-compatible DSA process line. Over the past two years, both companies have been actively engaged in DSA development. Based on promising results achieved on imec’s 300mm DSA process line, imec and TEL will now expand their focus to explore DSA as a cost-effective and manufacturing viable patterning technique for 2x (20 to 29 nanometer) and beyond technologies.

Solid-state terahertz devices could scan for cancer

Cornell researchers have developed a new method of generating terahertz signals on an inexpensive silicon chip, offering possible applications in medical imaging, security scanning and wireless data transfer.

Terahertz radiation, the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and infrared light, penetrates cloth and leather and just a few millimeters into the skin, but without the potentially damaging effects of X-rays. Terahertz scanning can identify skin cancers too small to see with the naked eye. Many of the complex organic chemicals used in explosives absorb terahertz radiation at particular frequencies, creating a "signature" that detectors can read. And because higher frequencies can carry more bandwidth, terahertz signals could make a sort of super-Bluetooth that could transfer an entire high-definition movie wirelessly in a few seconds.

Current methods of generating terahertz radiation involve lasers, vacuum tubes and special circuits cooled near absolute zero, often in room-sized apparatus costing thousands of dollars. Ehsan Afshari, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, has developed a new method using the familiar and inexpensive CMOS chip technology, generating power levels high enough for some medical applications. With further research, higher power will be possible, Afshari said, enabling such devices as handheld scanners for law enforcement.

Provided/Ehsan Afshari. Electron microscope image of a prototype chip using a ring of coupled oscillators to generate terahertz radiation. Silicon cannot oscillate in the terahertz range, but the design focuses most of the energy in a high harmonic. The signal radiates on the axis of the ring and can be aimed.

Cella Energy Researching Commercially Viable Microbeads for Revolutionary Hydrogen Storage

Hydrogen storage start-up Cella Energy’s US subsidiary has signed a contract with NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for the further research, development and potential production of its micro-bead, polymer-encapsulated chemical hydride technology.

Although suitable for proof-of-concept work and potentially for initial demonstrator projects, the current microbeads are not commercially viable, Cella says. They are expensive to make and cannot be easily re-hydrided.

Cella is working on other hydride materials with slightly lower hydrogen contents but with the ability to cycle them into the hydride phase many hundreds of times. These are being encapsulated in hydrogen- permeable high-temperature polymers based on polyimide.

L2 Aerospace is partnering with Cella Energy, a company with patented technology in safe, low-cost hydrogen storage materials to produce longer duration unmanned systems (UAVs). The initial goal is to triple the duration that would be possible using lithium ion batteries.

Cella Energy is seeking to develop and to commercialize a way to nanostructure and encapsulate complex chemical hydride materials to improve their performance, in terms of temperature of operation, adsorption and desorption kinetics, and to render them safe to handle in air.

The final product is either a fine micro-fibrous polymer mat that resembles white tissue paper, or a fine polymer powder, micro-bead diameter ~ 0.5 - 5 μm, with the hydride material entrained in ~50 - 200nm pores within the polymer.

Although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe it does not occur naturally on our planet. Storing hydrogen up to now has required either high pressure storage cylinders at up to 700 times atmospheric pressure (700bar or 10,000psi) or super-cooled liquids at -253°C (-423°F). Neither is practical on a large scale as these hydrogen storage methods both require large amounts of energy to either pressurise or cool the hydrogen, and present significant safety risks.

Packaged in a regular shaped fuel tank or container

The Cella Energy hydrogen storage materials are stored at ambient temperatures and pressures, this means that the Cella Energy hydrogen storage materials can be packaged in a regular shaped fuel tank. They do not require the large heavy cylinders designed to withstand high pressures normally associated with hydrogen storage.

High hydrogen content – exceed DoE targets of 4.5%

Cella's materials are already performing at 6wt% weight percentage of hydrogen, but Cella is now working with complex hydrides that store hydrogen at up to 20wt%. These exceed the revised 2009 Department of Energy targets to produce hydrogen storage materials that would compete with gasoline

Virgin Galactic will Launch Small Satellites including Planetary Resources Telescopes

Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, announced today an agreement with Virgin Galactic, LLC that will enable multiple launch opportunities for its series of spacecraft, including the Arkyd-100 low-Earth orbit (LEO) space telescopes.

Continuous, low-cost launch services for small spacecraft to LEO assists in accelerating Planetary Resources’ vision to make valuable space resources from Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) available to humanity. “While the Arkyd spacecraft line itself radically reduces the traditional cost of exploring the NEAs, the less expensive the cost to launch an Arkyd spacecraft to LEO, the more spacecraft the company will launch. The more spacecraft that the company launches, the faster it will create a future where access to asteroid resources results in a vast network of propellant depots throughout space and a future where once precious and rare materials are abundant for all.

Of the nearly 10,000 known NEAs, there are more than 1,500 that are energetically as easy to reach as the Moon. In the next few years, constellations of Arkyd-100 Series space telescopes will help fulfill the company’s early objective of identifying additional energetically-optimal, highly-valuable NEAs which will then be added to the detailed list of the company’s prospecting targets and pursued for future potential resource extraction.

Nanobubbles can clean lakes and might make wonder drugs

Nwe Scientist - Nanobubbles can revive polluted lakes, clean computer chips and might even make wonder drugs. Not bad considering they shouldn't exist.
Pan Gang and his team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing are attempting to revive the lake Tai using nanobubbles. In 2006, a silver tea urn like container was connected via hoses to the oars of boat, which are themselves sprayer arms dousing the lake's surface with a frothy slurry of nanobubbles. Since his first tests in 2006, his quaint boat with the stripy awning has been replaced by a sleeker, modern version that sprays clay out of deck-mounted water cannons.

Pan's patented mechanism for solving this problem involves putting a suspension of lakeside clay in chilled water and saturating it with oxygen bubbles. All but the smallest bubbles float away, but microscopic imaging confirms the presence of oxygen bubbles just 10 nanometres in diameter in the clay. Spraying the resulting slurry on the lake's surface pushes the polluting cyanobacterial blooms to the lake bottom within minutes. The chilled water warms up in the body of the lake, allowing larger oxygen bubbles to form at the interface between the clay and water. These bubbles break free and break down the algae, re-oxygenating the water. The process is energy efficient and non-polluting, involving only native soils from the lake's own edge.

The results seem impressive. Experiments in a 50,000-square-metre area of the lake cleared the whole centimetre-thick algal bloom in half an hour. The following day, concentrations of ammonia, nitrates and phosphorus compounds in the lake water - products of the cyanobacterial metabolism and the source of the foul smell - had fallen dramatically. Four months later, underwater vegetation was growing prodigiously and plankton populations were thriving again (Ecological Engineering, vol 37, p 302). Pan says that researchers given the job of restoring lakes left behind after tar sand extraction in Canada have come calling, as have people looking to improve water quality in the Baltic Sea and the UK's Lake District.

Hubble Discovers a Fifth Moon Orbiting Pluto

A team of astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is reporting the discovery of another moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto.

The moon is estimated to be irregular in shape and 6 to 15 miles across. It is in a 58,000-mile-diameter circular orbit around Pluto that is assumed to be co-planar with the other satellites in the system.

This image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows five moons orbiting the distant, icy dwarf planet Pluto. The green circle marks the newly discovered moon, designated P5, as photographed by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on July 7. The observations will help scientists in their planning for the July 2015 flyby of Pluto by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. P4 was uncovered in Hubble imagery in 2011. (Credit: NASA; ESA; M. Showalter, SETI Institute)

China's One Child Policy and Forced Abortions Faces a Populist Uprising

Telegraph UK - Three academics from the Development Research Centre of the State Council, an influential think-tank that advises China's cabinet, called on authorities to consider "adjustments" to the law and the introduction of a two-child policy "as soon as possible".

A policy change was needed in order to avert an impending labour shortage and to address issues that might arise from a rapidly ageing population, Ge Yanfeng, Yu Dong and Zhang Bingzi, argued in an article in the China Economic Times. "The longer we wait, the more vulnerable we will be."

The policy came under renewed scrutiny last month after 22-year-old Feng Jianmei was forced to abort a seven-month fetus by local officials who claimed she had violated family-planning rules. She posted a photo of the aborted fetus that went viral.

Mr Liang, a demographer from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said he believed that growing discontent over issues such as forced abortion was a more urgent problem for Chinese authorities than the country's ageing population.

The Economist magazine described the Feng Jianmai abortion.

In the photographs the young mother lies on a clinic bed, her hair obscuring her face. She appears as inert as the baby lying beside her. But 23-year-old Feng Jianmei is still alive, whereas her baby girl is not. The baby was killed while still in the womb by an injection arranged by local family-planning officials. They restrained Ms Feng, who was seven months pregnant, and then induced her to give birth to the dead baby.

Even three years ago, Ms Feng’s suffering might have gone unnoticed outside the remote village in the north-western province of Shaanxi where she lives—just another statistic in China’s family-planning programme. But her relatives uploaded the graphic pictures onto the internet, and soon microblogs had flashed them to millions of people across the country. Chinese citizens expressed their outrage online. It is not just the treatment of Ms Feng that they deplore. It is the one-child policy itself.

Mass Production Solar Thermal Concentrators Enhanced with Telescope Mirror Technology

With $1.5 million from the Department of Energy, University of Arizona researchers are continuing to improve groundbreaking technology to produce solar electricity at a price competitive with non-renewable energy sources. The "tracker" consists of a steel frame that ultimately will support eight mirrors (each measuring 10 feet by 10 feet), together generating enough electricity to power about four to five homes. The system can also power industrial furnaces that can melt glass.

The Department of Energy recently granted $1.5 million to Angel's research group to extend the mirror-making process to the so-called thermal method for making solar electricity. The mirror-making process will be optimized for cost-efficient mass production. The group has already patented its method for making dish-shaped glass mirrors.

The tracker, as the structure is called, supports two curved, highly reflective glass mirrors, each measuring 10 feet by 10 feet. The tracker is "on sun," converting the hot Arizona summer sun into electrical power.

Regents' Professor Roger Angel has pioneered a new way to make glass mirrors to concentrate sunlight to make electricity (Photo: Patrick McArdle/UAnews)

Gold and Mineral Rush on the Ocean Floor

Nautilus Minerals (ocean floor mining company) has an agreement with Tongling Nonferrous Metal Group for 1.1 million tonnes per annum (subject to +/- 20% variation) of Solwara 1 material for a period of three years on a take or pay basis, commencing upon the first delivery of product from Solwara 1, targeted in Q4 2013. The agreement is equal to 5% of the world's copper production.

* They are developing the ability to extract high grade material on one deposit and move to the next deposit 100kms away and extract ore in a matter of days

* they will be able to extract ore with minimal overburden, stripping and waste

* They are using robots to drill one mile below the ocean surface

* some of their deposits have over 30% copper

* They have been able to discover a new mineralized system every three days

* Production plan for Solwara project off of Papua New Guinea- 1.3 million tons/year containing 80,000 tonnes Cu and approx 150,000 – 200,000oz gold

Nautilus plans to start mining next year but also cites possible delays. It is building robots up to 25 feet tall that are to collect sulfides and pump them to the surface. Barges are then to carry the seabed minerals to Rabaul, a Papua New Guinea port some 30 miles away.

July 10, 2012

In this Information Age, What will happen when China triples the US in University Graduates in 2020 ?

BBC News - The forecasts for the shape of the "global talent pool" in 2020 show China as rapidly expanding its graduate numbers - set to account for 29% of the world's graduates aged between 25 and 34.

The biggest faller is going to be the United States - down to 11% - and for the first time pushed into third place, behind India. Africa and South America are losing out in this new scramble for digital power.

In 2000, there were 51 million 25-34 year-olds with higher education (tertiary) degrees in OECD countries, and 39 million in non-OECD G20 countries. Over the past decade, however, this gap has nearly closed, in large part because of the remarkable expansion of higher education in this latter group of countries. For example, in 2010 there were an estimated 66 million 25-34 year-olds with a tertiary degree in OECD countries, compared to 64 million in non-OECD G20 countries. If this trend continues, the number of 25-34 year-olds from Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa with a higher education degree will be almost 40% higher than the number from all OECD countries by the year 2020.

Memristor Memory Technology will be Ready Late 2013 but will not sell until 2014

TheRegister - HP memristor-meister Stan Williams has revealed a product launch delay – saying commercial kit would be available by 2014 at the earliest – and said processor chips would eventually use nanoscale light networking.

Previously he has said that HP and fab partner Hynix would launch a memristor product in the summer of 2013. At the Kavli do, Williams said: "In terms of commercialisation, we'll have something technologically viable by the end of next year."

But that doesn't mean a commercial product launch, and Hynix's concerns about memristor device effect on flash are relevant: "Our partner, Hynix, is a major producer of flash memory, and memristors will cannibalise its existing business by replacing some flash memory with a different technology. So the way we time the introduction of memristors turns out to be important. There's a lot more money being spent on understanding and modeling the market than on any of the research," said Williams.

ZDnet criticizes the decision to delay the groundbreaking memristor memory technology

Switching from Coal to Natural Gas reduces Greenhouse gases by 40%

No matter how you drill it, using natural gas as an energy source is a smart move in the battle against global climate change and a good transition step on the road toward low-carbon energy from wind, solar and nuclear power. This is from a new study by Cornell Professor Lawrence M. Cathles, published in the most recent edition of the peer-reviewed journal Geochemistry, Geophysics and Geosystems.

From a greenhouse point of view, it would be better to replace coal electrical facilities with nuclear plants, wind farms and solar panels, but replacing them with natural gas stations will be faster, cheaper and achieve 40 percent of the low-carbon-fast benefit.

There has been a shift about 10% of US energy generation from coal to natural gas

Carnival of Space 257

The Carnival of Space 257 is up at Dear Astronomer

Kentucky Space - Do you think outside the atmosphere? This small arduino-compatible prototyping platform puts a complete space-related development environment in the hands of makers and coders. Mike has the FireFly available for presale for $159.

Arduino compantible space development controller board

Discovery Space News - A boson that resembles the Higgs has been detected by two Large Hadron Collider experiments.

North Dakota Oil Production at 639,277 barrels per day in May

North Dakota's May oil production daily average was 639,277 barrels. 19,817,591 barrels of oil produced in May.

In April, 2012, there were 18.3 million barrels of crude oil pumped out of 7,025 wells. Daily production averaged 609,373 barrels. There was nearly a 30,000 bpd increase from April, which follows a 34,000 bpd increase from March.

The above state forecast is conservative. Continental Resources believes that recoverable oil could be triple the high end of estimate in the chart of 14 billion to 27-45 billion barrels

North Dakota could double its oil production by 2015 to more than 1 million barrels daily, putting it on par with Texas "if everything goes our way," the state's top oil regulator, Lynn Helms said.

At the current rate of increase, North Dakota could get to 850,000 barrels per day by the end of the year. This would require good weather to maintain drilling rates in the winter.

World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2012

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2012 reveals that the sector produced a record 128 million tonnes of fish for human food - an average of 18.4 kg per person - providing more than 4.3 billion people with about 15 percent of their animal protein intake. Fisheries and aquaculture are also a source of income for 55 million people.

Aquaculture (fish farming), which is projected to reach about 79 million tonnes, rising by 33 percent over the period 2012–2021 compared with the 3 percent growth of capture fisheries. This projected increase is not based on much genetically modified fish adoption.

Increases projected to 2021
* 33% more from aquaculture
* 15% more for fish overall
* 80% boost from chicken (70 million to 126 million tons)
* 40% boost from pork (90 million tons to 126 million tons)

Capture fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 148 million tonnes of fish in 2010 valued at US$217.5 billion.

Production growth from aquaculture keeps outpacing population growth, and it is one of the fastest-growing animal food-producing sectors - trends that are set to continue.

Fish and fishery products are among the most-traded food commodities worldwide. Following a drop in 2009, world trade in fish and fishery products has resumed its upward trend driven by sustained demand, trade liberalization policies, globalization of food systems and technological innovations. Global trade reached a record US$109 billion in 2010 and 2011 points to another high estimated at US$125 billion.

Output from fisheries and aquaculture is expected to soar 33% over the next decade, reaching 172 million tons in 2021. Last year, 90.4 million tons of fish were caught while 63.6 million tons were raised – about 600 species bred in 190 countries. But the share of farm-bred fish is expected to pass the halfway mark around 2018 and reach 52% by 2021.
Chicken, Fish and Pork are projected to increase through 2021

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2012 (230 pages)

Towards Spintronic Logic Devices and 1 million times computing efficiency

Eurekalert - Northwestern University researchers are making progress to an entirely new logic circuit family based on magnetic semiconductor devices. The advance could lead to logic circuits up to 1 million times more power-efficient than today's.
Unlike traditional integrated circuits, which consist of a collection of miniature transistors operating on a single piece of semiconductor, the so-called "spin logic circuits" utilize the quantum physics phenomenon of spin, a fundamental property of the electron.

"What we've developed is a device that can be configured in a logic circuit that is capable of performing all the necessary Boolean logic and can be cascaded to develop sophisticated function units," said Bruce W. Wessels, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and one of the paper's authors. "We are using 'spintronic' logic devices to successfully perform the same operations as a conventional CMOS circuits but with fewer devices and more computing power."

The spin-logic circuits are created with magnetoresistive bipolar spin-transistors, recently patented by the researchers.

A paper describing the findings, "Emitter-Coupled Spin-Transistor Logic," was presented July 5 at the International Symposium on Nanoscale Architectures held in the Netherlands.

450 mm wafers in 2017 and EUV in 2014 through 2018

The transition to 450 mm (18 inch) wafers and EUV (extreme ultraviolet) lithography have been anticipated for many years. It appears the transitions could finally be in sight.

1. EETimes - The first production semiconductor fabs to use 450-mm wafers are projected to commence operation in 2017, according to Christian Dieseldorff, a senior analyst with the fab tool vendor trade group SEMI's industry research and statistics group.

In a presentation at the Semicon West tradeshow here Monday (July 9), Dieseldorff predicted that three 450-mm fabs would commence operation in 2017. By that time, the total number of IC production fabs will have declined to 441, down from 464 this year, according to Dieseldorf.

Wingsuit Landing Problems and Solutions for Batman and in Real life

The movie Batman Begins shows the character of Batman gliding using a rigid form of his cape.

Given his current cape design, Batman could glide to a distance of about 350 meters if he were to jump from a building about 150 meters high, a group of four University of Leicester physics students found.

"The problem with the glide lies in his velocity as he reaches ground level," they wrote in the university's Journal of Special Physics Topics.

The velocity rises rapidly to a maximum of a little over 110km/hr before steadying
to a constant speed of around 80km/hr.

Batman's wingspan, at 4.7 meters, is about half that of a hang glider. The scientists conclude that the crusader get a bigger cape, pack a parachute, or use propulsion jets to keep himself aloft.

In the movie, Batman had special material that would become rigid with an electrical current. So packing a bigger cape glider could be possible with thinner cape material.

In reality, the most compact designs would involve inflatable wings, but they have to be made more compact and need replacements for the metal struts.

Reaction Engines successfully tests breakthrough heat exchanger and pre-cooler that will enable hypersonic Skylon space plane

Reaction Engines Ltd. , a UK based company, has successfully completed another series of tests of the key component for a new engine, SABRE, that will enable aircraft to fly anywhere on Earth in under 4 hours, or directly into space and back to deliver satellites and other cargo. The new technology is the heat exchanger and pre-cooler. Everything would be proven technology.

The SABRE engine is capable of operating as a jet engine and a rocket engine, powering aircraft at up to five times the speed of sound within the atmosphere or directly into Earth orbit at twenty-five times the speed of sound. Its ground-breaking technology – an air pre-cooler - is designed to cool continuously the incoming airstream from over 1,000⁰C to minus 150⁰C in less than 1/100th of a second (six times faster than the blink of an eye), effectively doubling the current technical limits of jet engine speeds.

Developed by Reaction Engines over the last 22 years, SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) is a new engine class that can operate in both air-breathing and rocket modes. This advanced combined cycle air-breathing SABRE rocket engine enables aircraft to operate easily at speeds of up to five times the speed of sound or fly directly into Earth orbit. With the pre-cooler heat exchanger and other SABRE engine advanced technology development programmes nearly completed, the next stage of the SABRE programme will include a full engine demonstrator.

SABRE-powered reusable space planes like SKYLON will dramatically cut the cost of launching satellites by as much as 100 times. The global space market is worth £180 billion annually – £7.5 billion to the UK alone. This means the development of these vehicles offers major economic opportunities to the UK. It is estimated that the development stage for SABRE and the SKYLON satellite launcher alone will see investment of £7.5 billion, creating 70,000 jobs.

Reaction Engines heat exchangers are 100 times lighter than current technology allowing them to be used in weight-critical aerospace applications. This is achieved through the use of extremely thin walls to separate the hot and cold fluids within the heat exchangers, coupled with advanced manufacturing techniques needed to bond these fine structures whilst maintaining their strength, durability and low weight.

For example, REL has made the tube walls for its Pre-cooler as thin as possible - in our most recent demonstration the tube walls were only 27 microns thick but are bonded together to resist pressures greater than 150 bar - that's 150 times greater than atmospheric pressure at temperatures ranging from over 1,000°C to less than minus 150°C .

July 09, 2012

Getting to one Femtojoule per calculation

IEEE Spectrum - A new book called Chips 2020 was edited by this retired electrical engineer named Bernd Hoefflinge. Many experts came together to write a whole bunch of chapters on interesting new technologies that could emerge by 2020.

If we can get the energy of a very simple multiplier down from 1 picojoule—where it is right now—to about a femtojoule, we’ll be able to reach the energy efficiency we need to make the expectations for the coming decade. He likes to put that energy in terms of biology:

Bernd Hoefflinger: One femtojoule is 10 times lower than the firing energy of a synapse, be it cat or mouse or human.

Gene regulation delivered via commercial moisturizers for skin disease

Northwestern - A team led by a physician-scientist and a chemist -- from the fields of dermatology and nanotechnology -- is the first to demonstrate the use of commercial moisturizers to deliver gene regulation technology that has great potential for life-saving therapies for skin cancers.
The topical delivery of gene regulation technology to cells deep in the skin is extremely difficult because of the formidable defenses skin provides for the body. The Northwestern approach takes advantage of drugs consisting of novel spherical arrangements of nucleic acids. These structures, each about 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, have the unique ability to recruit and bind to natural proteins that allow them to traverse the skin and enter cells.

PNAS - Topical delivery of siRNA-based spherical nucleic acid nanoparticle conjugates for gene regulation

Stabilization of vaccines and antibiotics in silk

New Scientist - Silkworms may provide a novel way to store vaccines. Preventable infections kill millions of children in poor countries, partly because reliable refrigeration for vaccines isn't always available.

Fibroin, a protein in silk, forms stable sheets that contain tiny pockets lined with molecules that repel water. You can trap a biological molecule within these pockets by dissolving it with fibroin in water, then drying it to form a film. Tucked away in a pocket, the molecule is protected.

David Kaplan and colleagues at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, made such films with the live measles, mumps and rubella viruses in the MMR vaccine. The films kept the viruses undamaged for six months, even powdered and at temperatures of 45 °C, when regular freeze-dried vaccines degraded rapidly.

PNAS - Stabilization of vaccines and antibiotics in silk and eliminating the cold chain

Abstract Sensitive biological compounds, such as vaccines and antibiotics, traditionally require a time-dependent “cold chain” to maximize therapeutic activity. This flawed process results in billions of dollars worth of viable drug loss during shipping and storage, and severely limits distribution to developing nations with limited infrastructure. To address these major limitations, we demonstrate self-standing silk protein biomaterial matrices capable of stabilizing labile vaccines and antibiotics, even at temperatures up to 60 °C over more than 6 months. Initial insight into the mechanistic basis for these findings is provided. Importantly, these findings suggest a transformative approach to the cold chain to revolutionize the way many labile therapeutic drugs are stored and utilized throughout the world.

China Beige Book Shows Economic Pickup Unseen in Official Data

Business Week - China’s official statistics may be lagging behind independent data that show a pickup in the world’s second-biggest economy last quarter, according to a new private survey modeled on the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Beige Book.

The China Beige Book, through interviews of about 2,000 company executives and bankers, found retail sales and manufacturing strengthened while property sales increased and shortages of unskilled labor failed to abate. CBB International LLC, the New York-based researcher that conducted the survey, provided a summary to Bloomberg News via e-mail yesterday.

The report said four of every five retailers see higher sales in six months, a bigger proportion than in the first quarter, contrasting with government data showing the weakest non-holiday sales growth since 2006 in May. Bankers foresee growing availability of loans and 46 percent of companies intend to borrow, “suggesting a fairly stable rise in credit demand.”

Carnival of Nuclear energy 112

The Carnival of Nuclear energy 112 is up at Atomic Insights

Nuke Power talk discussed the Fukushima Accident report

Ultrasonics bending and breaking of Carbon Nanotubes

A new study by Rice University scientists details exactly how carbon nanotubes snap when subjected to ultrasonic vibrations in a liquid.

Carbon nanotubes — hollow tubes of pure carbon about as wide as a strand of DNA — are one of the most-studied materials in nanotechnology. For well over a decade, scientists have used ultrasonic vibrations to separate and prepare nanotubes in the lab. In the new study, Pasquali and colleagues show how this process works — and why it’s a detriment to long nanotubes. That’s important for researchers who want to make and study long nanotubes.

“We found that long and short nanotubes behave very differently when they are sonicated,” said Pasquali, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of chemistry at Rice. “Shorter nanotubes get stretched while longer nanotubes bend. Both mechanisms can lead to breaking.”

Discovered more than 20 years ago, carbon nanotubes are one of the original wonder materials of nanotechnology. They are close cousins of the buckyball, the particle whose 1985 discovery at Rice helped kick off the nanotechnology revolution.

Nanotubes can be used in paintable batteries and sensors, to diagnose and treat disease, and for next-generation power cables in electrical grids. Many of the optical and material properties of nanotubes were discovered at Rice’s Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, and the first large-scale production method for making single-wall nanotubes was discovered at Rice by the institute’s namesake, the late Richard Smalley.

UCLA researchers devise scalable method for fabricating high-quality graphene transistors

UCLA researchers have developed a successful, scalable method for fabricating self-aligned graphene transistors with transferred gate stacks.

By performing the conventional lithography, deposition and etching steps on a sacrificial substrate before integrating with large-area graphene through a physical transferring process, the new approach addresses and overcomes the challenges of conventional fabrication. With a damage-free transfer process and a self-aligned device structure, this method has enabled self-aligned graphene transistors with the highest cutoff frequency to date — greater than 400 GHz.

Self-aligned graphene transistor

PNAS - High-frequency self-aligned graphene transistors with transferred gate stacks

July 08, 2012

Conservation is only a small part of a viable and realistic energy plan

World Energy Consumption changes from 1990 to 2008. Total energy consumption increased over 19 years 20% in the USA and 39% in the World and even 7% in Europe. It increased 146% in China.

All of the conservation and efficiency improvement efforts of the past years has slowed the growth in energy usage. The energy per capita in the US did decrease by 2% and increased by 1% in Europe but about 15% of the energy per capita was a shift of energy intensive manufacturing to China. There was improvement of GDP per kwh of about 1% per year.

The world economy will grow by about 70-80% by 2025. An increase of $50 trillion. 4-5% GDP growth per year needs to be in a viable and realistic plan.


Here is a list of 27 most effective actions to achieve energy conservation and savings from an environmental magazine. The list is from 2008. What is the adoption rate of these actions ? How much does it cost each household to adopt them ? What is the payback time for the energy saved from a more efficient refrigerator to pay for the energy to make the refrigerator ?

Moth-eye inspired materials could reduce X-ray dosages by three times

The Engineer - Moths’ eyes have inspired the development of nanoscale materials that could reduce radiation dosages received by patients being X-rayed and improve the resolution of the resulting images.

In lab experiments, Yi and colleagues found that adding the thin film to the scintillator of an X-ray mammographic unit increased the intensity of the emitted light by as much as 175 per cent compared with that produced using a traditional scintillator.

It consists of a 500nm thin film made of cerium-doped lutetium oxyorthosilicate. These crystals were encrusted with pyramid-shaped bumps or protuberances made of silicon nitride. Each protuberance, or corneal nipple, is modelled after the structures in a moth’s eye and is designed to extract more light from the film.

Between 100,000 and 200,000 of the protuberances fit within a 100 x 100μm square. The researchers then made the sidewalls of the device rougher, improving its ability to scatter light and enhance the efficiency of the scintillator.

Source: Optics Letters. (a) The self-assembly of SiO2 nanoparticles on the top of high index light extraction layer Si3N4, which is deposited on Lu2SiO5:Ce thin film. (b) The scanning electron microscope image of the improved bio-inspired moth-eye nanostructures with certain degree roughness on the sidewall, which shows interesting nano-on-nano features