October 26, 2013

Carnival of Space 325

1. Universe Today - The privately developed Cygnus cargo vehicle undocked from the International Space Station on its historic maiden flight and successfully completed a highly productive month long stay during its demonstration mission.

On the morning of Oct 22. the privately developed Cygnus cargo vehicle undocked from the International Space Station on its historic maiden flight and successfully completed a highly productive month long stay during its demonstration mission – mostly amidst the US government shutdown.

The Cygnus commercial resupply craft built by Orbital Sciences Corp. departed the ISS to complete its maiden voyage after being released from Canadarm2 by station astronauts. Credit: NASA TV

Self driving car benefits and barriers

The ENO center for transportation has a study of what needs to be done to prepare for a nation of self driving cars.

Some day in the near future, cars will drive themselves. Traffic jams and deadly accidents will become obsolete.

37% of people would probably or definitely buy a self driving car if the costs were the same as a regular car. 20% would probably or definitely buy if the costs were $3000 more.

Barriers to self driving cars are costs and legal and insurance issues

Self driving cars that use cameras and off the shelf computing can already only add $7700 to the cost of a car and this could be brought down to $150.

Nanoscale engineering boosts performance of quantum dot light emitting diodes

Dramatic advances in the field of quantum dot light emitting diodes (QD-LEDs) could come from recent work by the Nanotechnology and Advanced Spectroscopy team at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Quantum dots are nano-sized semiconductor particles whose emission color can be tuned by simply changing their dimensions. They feature near-unity emission quantum yields and narrow emission bands, which result in excellent color purity. The new research aims to improve QD-LEDs by using a new generation of engineered quantum dots tailored specifically to have reduced wasteful charge-carrier interactions that compete with the production of light.

“QD-LEDs can potentially provide many advantages over standard lighting technologies, such as incandescent bulbs, especially in the areas of efficiency, operating lifetime and the color quality of the emitted light,” said Victor Klimov of Los Alamos.

China, OPEC and Europe aim for de-Americanized world

HSBC predicts that the Chinese currency will be the third-largest unit used for trade by 2015 and fully convertible within the next five years as the People’s Bank of China gradually liberalises policy.

There are various driving factors
* China's is the largest trading country and this will increase
* China will buy most of the world's commodities
* The US is producing more oil and natural gas domestically and will buy less from OPEC and elsewhere
* Europe will trade more directly with China.
* There are financial, economic and political advantages for China, Europe and OPEC to internationalize the yuan

OPEC wants a shift from US dollars as China imports more oil than the USA

Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which controls a third of the world’s supply of crude, members such as Iran – constrained by sanctions – are already agitating for a shift away from pricing in US dollars. China’s oil imports set a record last month, with official figures showing that 6.47 million barrels a day of crude flowed into the country.

The US imported 7.6 million bpd in crude oil but exported 1.7 million bpd in refined oil products. The net imports were less than 6 million bpd.

The US is importing less than 2 million bpd from OPEC

Light oil extracting by fracking and horizontal drilling is continuing to boom in the USA. The US is on track to add 3 million bpd in oil from Texas and 600,000 bpd in oil in North Dakota by 2020. The net imports of crude oil is heading to about 2-3 million bpd and that can all be supplied by Canada and Mexico.

US dollars buying foreign oil has already been halved from 12-13 million bpd and will shrink even more.

The scale of China’s existing and forecast demand for resources almost makes any attempt by the US to maintain the dollar’s status as the world’s primary trading currency for resources entirely nugatory. Wood Mackenzie estimates that China will account for 52pc of base metals demand by 2017, compared with 46pc of the 96m-tonne global market this year.

The Edinburgh-based company forecasts that the world’s second-largest economy, will be consuming more base metals than the rest of the world combined by 2017 as the process of urbanisation that started at the beginning of the last decade continues.

Atomic layer deposition will eliminate two major defects stopping LEDs and solar PV from reaching higher efficiency

Researchers have revealed the fundamental aspect of a new approach to growing InGaN crystals for diodes, which promises to move photovoltaic solar cell technology toward record-breaking efficiencies.

Solar energy crystallizes

The InGaN crystals are grown as layers in a sandwich-like arrangement on sapphire substrates. Typically, researchers have found that the atomic separation of the layers varies; a condition that can lead to high levels of strain, breakdowns in growth and fluctuations in the alloy’s chemical composition.

Pulses of molecules were introduced to achieve the desired alloy composition. The method, developed by Doolittle, is called metal-modulated epitaxy. “This technique allows an atomic, layer-by-layer growth of the material,” says Ponce.

The elimination of two seemingly insurmountable defects (non-uniform composition and mismatched lattice alignment) ultimately means that LEDs and solar photovoltaic products can now be developed that have much higher, efficient performance.

he atomic arrangement at a relaxed InGaN/GaN interface. Research at ASU and Georgia Tech show layer-by-layer crystal growth may lead to record-breaking efficiencies in photovoltaic solar cell technology.
Photo by: Arizona State University

Magnetoshell could be developed more quickly for use with the Mars free return mission

In 2018, the planets will align, offering a unique orbit opportunity to travel to Mars and back to Earth in only 501 days. Inspiration Mars needs to launch date on 5 January 2018. This quick, free-return orbit opportunity occurs twice every 15 years. After 2018, the next opportunity will not occur again until 2031.

Nextbigfuture covered the technical details of the 18 page feasibility study.

Improved Heat Shield is a big technical problem

One of them is getting the crew safely home through Earth’s atmosphere. Apollo astronauts flying back from the moon hit speeds of 25,000 mph in Earth’s atmosphere, which required extensive shielding. With the Mars flight, speeds will near 32,000 mph, and the difference is not linear, MacCallum said. Which means shielding is going to be an especially difficult problem.

NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts Magnetoshell could slow the Mars free return mission

It would make the mission lower cost and allow the returning capsule to be slowed without straining any heat shield past previously proven limits. An orbital demo of a magnetoshell is planned for 2017. Slightly increased funding to bring Magnetoshell testing into 2015-2016 and in time for the 2018 Mars mission

A Magnetoshell doesn’t deflect gas like an aeroshell or plasma like a magnetic decelerator. It captures the hypersonic neutral gas through collisional processes. The momentum of the charge-exchanged gas is absorbed by the magnetic structure.

1. A spacecraft deploys Magnetoshell hardware on a 50 meter tether
2. A 500 Gauss magnetic dipole field is formed
3. A low-temperature, magnetized plasma is injected into that field
4. Plasma shell captures atmospheric neutrals through charge-exchange
5. As the captured particles equilibrate, they decelerate the spacecraft
6. Plasma is fueled and heated from captured planetary neutrals
7. Aerobraking drag can be turned off at any time (or increased)

October 25, 2013

11.75 tesla MRI being built for 100 micron resolution every tenth of second and should be working in 2015

A new MRI with superconducting magnets designed to produce a field of 11.75 teslas will be the world’s most powerful whole-body scanner. Most standard hospital MRIs produce 1.5 or 3 T. A few institutions, including the University of Illinois at Chicago and Maastricht University, in the Netherlands, have recently installed human scanners that can reach 9.4 T. Superconducting magnets used in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which last year was used in the discovery of the Higgs boson, produce a field of 8.4 T. The LHC also will be upgraded to 11-13 tesla magnets.

The development of the scanner, known as INUMAC (for Imaging of Neuro disease Using high-field MR And Contrastophores), has been in progress since 2006 and is expected to cost €200 million, or about US $270 million. The project reached a key milestone this summer with delivery of more than 200 kilometers of superconducting cable, which is now being wound into coils that will produce the scanner’s magnetic field.

Large Hadron Collider will be upgraded from 8.4 tesla magnets to 11 to 13 tesla

Oxford Instruments will work with CERN for the next generation upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to high luminosity. The proposed HiLumi upgrade will enable a significant increase in the proton collision rate and extend the physics reach of the LHC. This requires the deployment of high field 11-13 Tesla magnets constructed with Nb3Sn superconducting technology.

Oxford Instruments is the world leading supplier of wire and research magnets using Nb3Sn. It will apply its deep manufacturing experience to the collaboration with CERN on the prototyping and industrialization of the HiLumi accelerator magnets, in particular the 11T dipoles essential to create the space required for new beam collimation systems.

All graphene computer chip designed in a research paper

In a research paper, titled “Proposal for all-graphene monolithic logic circuits,” the UCSB researchers say that “devices and interconnects can be built using the ‘same starting material’ — graphene,” and, perhaps more excitingly, “all-graphene circuits can surpass the static performances of the 22nm complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor devices.” To build an all-graphene IC, the researchers propose using one of graphene’s interesting qualities, that depending on its thickness it behaves in different ways. Narrow ribbons of graphene are semiconducting, ideal for making transistors — while wider ribbons are metallic, ideal for gates and interconnects.

Bikes are outselling cars in almost every country in Europe

Bicycle sales outpaced new-car sales last year in every one of the european countries, except Belgium and Luxembourg. Car sales reached a earlier this year. Recent data shows car sales were recovering. The Millenial generation is more interested in bikes than in cars.

The top five countries by bicycle sales can be seen in the top chart.

The most popular articles of Nextbigfuture

Nextbigfuture will be reaching 35 million pageviews at the end of this month and will shortly reach 14000 articles.

Nextbigfuture has had 14,500 comments in the last 3 months.

The All-time most popular Nextbigfuture articles are

1. Technical hurdles have been overcome for the first human head transplant. [343,000 pageviews, 6100 facebook shares, 346 tweets, 243 google plus]

The technical hurdles have now been cleared thanks to cell engineering. As described in his paper, the keystone to successful spinal cord linkage is the possibility to fuse the severed axons in the cord by exploiting the power of membrane fusogens/sealants. Agents exist that can reconstitute the membranes of a cut axon and animal data have accrued since 1999 that restoration of axonal function is possible. One such molecule is poly-ethylene glycol (PEG), a widely used molecule with many applications from industrial manufacturing to medicine, including as an excipient in many pharmaceutical products. Another is chitosan, a polysaccharide used in medicine and other fields.

HEAVEN capitalizes on a minimally traumatic cut of the spinal cord using an ultra-sharp blade (very different from what occurs in the setting of clinical spinal cord injury, where gross, extensive damage and scarring is observed) followed within minutes by chemofusion (GEMINI). The surgery is performed under conditions of deep hypothermia for maximal protection of the neural tissue. Moreover, and equally important, the motoneuronal pools contained in the cord grey matter remain largely untouched and can be engaged by spinal cord stimulation, a technique that has recently shown itself capable of restoring at least some motor control in spinal injured subjects.

October 24, 2013

Energy harvester based on quantum wells can reach 1.8 kw per square meter for a temperature difference of 1 K more power than from sunlight per square meter

Researchers analyze a heat engine based on a hot cavity connected via quantum wells to electronic reservoirs. They find that the device delivers a large power of about 0.18 W cm^−2 (1800 watts per square meter) for a temperature difference of 1 K, nearly doubling the power that can be extracted from a similar heat engine based on quantum dots. At the same time, the heat engine also has good efficiency albeit reduced from the quantum dot case. Due to the large level spacings that can be achieved in quantum wells, our proposal opens a route toward room-temperature applications of nanoscale heat engines.

It has 12 % of the Carnot efficiency. The large level spacings of narrow quantum wells pave the way for room-temperature applications. Furthermore, we find our device to be robust with respect to unavoidable well-width fluctuations.

Sunlight in space at the top of Earth's atmosphere at a power of 1366 watts/m2 is composed (by total energy) of about 50% infrared light, 40% visible light, and 10% ultraviolet light. At ground level this decreases to about 1120–1000 watts/m2, and by energy fractions to 44% visible light, 3% ultraviolet (with the Sun at the zenith, but less at other angles), and the remainder infrared. Thus, sunlight's composition at ground level, per square meter, with the sun at the zenith, is about 527 watts of infrared radiation, 445 watts of visible light, and 32 watts of ultraviolet radiation

China's aging population will trim about 3.25% from annual GDP growth from now to 2030

According to two Citigroup economists, Nathan Sheets and Robert A. Sockin, China’s “deteriorating demographics” are likely to trim 3.25 percentage points off China’s annual growth rate between 2012 and 2030, compared to its double-digit growth of past decades.

They estimate China’s growth ceiling over the coming two decades is 6.9% annually, “and to the extent that urbanization, industrialization and convergence dynamics play through (as is likely) actual growth will be substantially lower.”

There are measures China could take to ease the problem, the economists say: Have people work longer and use more automation.

China will also be lifting the one child policy over the next few years.

Pro-baby policies could add 9 million or more babies per year from the current 16 million babies per year.

Energy Storage with zinc air batteries for electric cars with longer range and competitive grid storage

EOS Energy Storage makes nickel air batteries and has a presentation on energy storage

Military and SWAT Exoskeletons of 2015-2018 compared to military and SWAT robotic systems of today

There have been a few exoskeletons tested by the US military and the Lockheed HULC lowerbody exoskeleton was probably field tested in Afghanistan on a very limited basis (2012).

The Ripsaw is a developmental unmanned light tank designed and built by Howe and Howe Technologies for evaluation by the United States Army. It is able to accelerate to 60 mph in about 4 seconds.

They introduced it at a Dallas vehicle show in 2001, where it caught the interest of the U.S. Army. In 2001, the U.S. Military ordered a prototype MS-1 to be made and shipped to Iraq.

Multiple prototype variants of the Ripsaw exist:

* Ripsaw UGV (non-militarized unmanned ground vehicle) prototype could accelerate to 65 mph in about 3.5 seconds, since it was lighter, but it wasn’t as strong/rugged.

* Ripsaw MS1 tactical UGV (4.5 tons) utilizes a powerful oversized and customized 650-horsepower Duramax 6.6L V8 diesel engine that delivers 900 ft-lbs (~ 1,220 Nm) of torque (top speed 95 Mph)

Batteries could capture trillion dollar market over the next decade

Elon Musk has called fuel cell electric cars as bulls*t.

Fuel cells broke the $1 billion market mark in 2012. There were sales of fuel cell system shipments of 124 MW, up 40 MW from 2011. The global fuel cell technology market revenue is estimated to reach $2.5 billion by 2018.

The global market for motive batteries used to power electric vehicles (EV) and other conveyances is set to rise to $47 billion in 2017, up more than 50% from $31 billion in 2013 (“Motive Batteries – World -2013” from IMS Research).

Lithium ion batteries will jump sixfold to $12.84 billion in 2019, up from $2.13 billion in 2012.

EOS Energy Storage has low cost zinc air batteries ($160/kWh) Lithium Sulfur batteries could scale to $65/kwh.

The global electricity market is a $2 trillion business. The energy storage market is $400-600 billion and will grow at 45-55% per year. Most grid scale energy storage is pumped hydro (125GW) with about 2GW split mostly sodium sulfur batteries and compressed air storage. Batteries seem to be poised to capture a lot more of the grid scale energy storage and have huge growth with electric cars and hybrid cars.

Lunar laser communication record at 622 Megabits per second and Gbps system should launch in 2017

Laser communication demonstrated to space based systems will enable broadband communication to facilities on the moon and in high orbit around the Earth. The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will demonstrate optical communications relay services between GEO and Earth over an extended period, and thereby gain the knowledge and experience base that will enable NASA to design, procure, and operate cost-effective future optical communications systems and relay networks.

NASA's Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) set record using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data between moon and Earth over a distance of 239,000 miles at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps).

NASA's LLCD, aboard $280-million- lunar mission LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer), uses laser instead of radio waves. LLCD also showed an error-free data upload rate of 20 Mbps sent from the primary ground station located in Mexico to the spacecraft LADEE that is currently orbiting around the moon 380,000 kilometers away.

SCaN has made a considerable investment in the 10 cm optical module design being used on both the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) and the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD)
In the optical module there are minor differences between the two
The major difference is in the modem (DPSK at 1.244 Gbps for LCRD and PPM at 622 Mbps for LLCD)

SCaN would like to re-use that design as much as possible:
Future Low Earth Orbit (LEO) compatible terminal
Future lunar missions (far side exploration)
Next Generation TDRS (perhaps with an upgraded higher rate modem)

For missions deeper in the solar system, SCaN has made a limited investment in the Deep Space Optical Terminal (DOT) concept being worked on at JPL

Spraberry/Wolfcamp shale oil in Texas has over 50 billion recoverable barrels making it the second largest in the world

Pioneer Natural Resources ($29 billion company and largest player in the Spraberry/Wolfcamp formation) has detailed information on this oil formation. Spraberry/Wolfcamp is often categorized with the Permian oil basin.

It is now producing 500,000 bpd and is projected to reach 2 million bpd by 2023 and then increase to 2.5 million bpd in 2033.

October 23, 2013

Free return trip to and from Mars pushing ahead to Jan 5th 2018 launch date

In 2018, the planets will align, offering a unique orbit opportunity to travel to Mars and back to Earth in only 501 days. Inspiration Mars intends to send a two-person American crew—a man and a woman—on a journey to within 100 miles of Mars and return them to Earth safely.

The mission's target launch date is 5 January 2018. This quick, free-return orbit opportunity occurs twice every 15 years. After 2018, the next opportunity will not occur again until 2031.

Nextbigfuture had coverage back in February, 2013 when this was first announced.

Nextbigfuture covered the technical details of the 18 page feasibility study.

Taber MacCallum, program manager, Inspiration Mars has provided some details on recent and upcoming activities.

The project has been busy figuring out what spacecraft components, such as the capsule and life support systems, will be optimal for the 501-day round-trip mission. They’ve been negotiating with companies under non-disclosure agreements. MacCallum said he expected to be able to discuss the architecture of the mission in detail by the end of 2013.

Operating systems for PCs and Laptops now free just like Tablets and Smartphones

Apple will not charge for the latest big operating system upgrade, Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks, breaking from a tradition that goes back 16 years and shining a light on a long-unfolding reversal in how tech profits are made. Eighteen years ago, the tech industry’s dominant company made nearly half its revenue selling OS licenses. Now, as Apple just confirmed, the prices of OS licenses are headed towards zilch.

Prices of Apple’s Mac OS X have long been on the wane. After four releases that cost $129, Apple dropped the operating system’s upgrade price to $29 with 2009’s OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and then to $19 with last year’s OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Just last week, Microsoft announced that, much like Apple, it would not charge consumers who upgrade their machines to the latest version of Windows, version 8.1.

US daily Crude oil production nears 8 million bpd and total US oil production over 12.5 million bpd as the tight oil boom continues

US daily crude oil production is at 7.896 million bpd and total crude oil production is at 12.525 million bpd.

Google Glass is making a life changing difference for the disabled

Researchers are working hard to harness the hands-free nature of Google Glass to improve the lives of those with compromised mobility, vision and hearing.

Glass has an expected on-sale date sometime in 2014. As a product still in its infancy, it recalls the iPhone's early days as a smartphone with promise and woefully few apps. But while Glass' full potential will be determined down the road, it already has distinguished itself as a potentially life-changing tool for the disabled.

Researchers in a range of disciplines are looking into ways to leverage Glass' inherent advantage over the smartphone — its hands-free nature — to help those who navigate life with compromised mobility, vision and hearing. There's even work being done to assist those with autism, using facial recognition software to help identify the emotions of others.

Perhaps not since the invention of text-to-voice and other speech-recognition software has a tech invention had such potential to help the disabled.

Both China and the US have income inequality at levels where there is high risk of potential social unrest

China and the United States have nearly the same income inequality according to the measurement of the GINI coefficient. The Gini coefficient (also known as the Gini index or Gini ratio) is a measure of statistical dispersion intended to represent the income distribution of a nation's residents.

China               46-48 (both the CIA and World Bank measure about the same levels of income inequality)
United States       45-47

Some analysts consider any number higher than 40 as a warning sign of potential unrest.

The Global post has a special report on global income inequality.

New iPad mini and iPad Air have the same features except the mini is more compact and costs $100 less

The new iPad mini and the iPad Air have the same features in terms of

* screen resolution
* memory
* cameras
* processors

October 22, 2013

Seafloor mining robots and equipment nearing completion to mine for gold, silver and copper

The Canadian company Nautilus Minerals is the leader in marine mineral exploration. Nautilus Minerals has developed robotic technology for deep-sea mining in collaboration with the French company Technip. The company is planning to open the first deep-water mine in 2015. The Solwara 1 mine will be located 1600 metres below sea level. The company has found large deposits of copper and gold there. Solwara 1 is located in the Pacific Ocean, north of Australia, in Papua New Guinea.

Blue Origin's suborbital reusable vertical takeoff and landing rocket is almost ready

Blue Origin is very close to making sub-orbital flights. Blue Origin will let researchers and other companies take a payload up into space—topping out at 100 kilometers—for about three to four minutes. The hope is that Blue Origin will be able to do this at a moment’s notice and do it often. Blue Origin is funded by multi-billionaire Jeff Bezos.

Blue Origin, LLC is developing technologies to enable human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability. This is a long-term effort, which we’re pursuing incrementally, step by step. We’re currently focused on developing reusable launch vehicles utilizing rocket-powered Vertical Take-off and Vertical Landing (VTVL) technology.

A picture from a launch made in 2012

Hydrogel implant enables light activated genetically modified cells that can treat diabetes and other diseases

Light can now be used to heal diabetes in mice. By implanting a transparent gel that contains genetically modified light-sensitive cells, researchers have demonstrated a new type of implant that could one day be used to treat disease and monitor toxins in people.

"Light is a great tool to interface with biological systems, but there is a fundamental problem. It gets scattered when it hits tissue, and at depths much thinner than our skin," says lead author Myunghwan Choi of Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Choi and his colleagues designed an implantable gel that could get around this, by guiding light under the mouse's skin. In experiments, the team impregnated the gel with different types of genetically modified cells before implanting it.

To control diabetes, the team shone light into the mouse and at the implanted gel using a fibre optic cable attached to its head. The light triggered cells in the gel to produce a compound that stimulated the secretion of insulin and stabilised blood glucose levels. Separately, the team also showed they could monitor for cadmium poisoning using cells that fluoresced when the mouse was under stress from the toxin.

Nature Photonics - Light-guiding hydrogels for cell-based sensing and optogenetic synthesis in vivo

The use of light to communicate with cells has been restricted by its limited ability to pass through tissues. Now researchers at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a way to deliver a light signal to specific tissues deep within the body.

Light passing through an optical fiber (left) can either carry in a signal that stimulates the activity of cells embedded in the hydrogel implant or bring back a signal generated by cells responding to something in their environment. Credit: (Harvard Bio-Optics Lab/Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Mass. General Hospital)

Aluminium studs can make all solar panels 22% more efficient

Scientists have demonstrated that the efficiency of all solar panel designs could be improved by up to 22 per cent by covering their surface with aluminium studs that bend and trap light inside the absorbing layer.

At the microscopic level, the studs make the surface of the solar panels look similar to the interlocking building bricks played with by children across the world.

Dr Hylton and his colleagues attached rows of aluminium cylinders just 100 nanometres across to the top of the solar panel, where they interact with passing light, causing individual light rays to change course. More energy is extracted from the light as the rays become effectively trapped inside the solar panel and travel for longer distances through its absorbing layer.

Nature Scientific Reports - Loss mitigation in plasmonic solar cells: aluminium nanoparticles for broadband photocurrent enhancements in GaAs photodiodes

A123 partners with SolidEnergy to bring 800 Wh/kg solid polymer lithium batteries to market

A123 Venture Technologies, a Massachusetts technology incubator, announced today its collaboration with MIT startup SolidEnergy. This strategic partnership leverages SolidEnergy’s transformative solid electrolyte technology enabling the safe and practical use of lithium metal anodes for high energy density batteries in a wide range of applications. It is also the first publicly announced agreement under A123’s expanded R and D model introduced earlier this year.

SolidEnergy technology can potentially deliver energy densities of up to 800 Wh/kg—twice the energy density of state-of-the-art batteries and four times the energy density compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries.

The SolidEnergy prototype battery combines a Li(NiMnCo)O2 (NMC) cathode; the novel electrolyte; and a solid-polymer-coated lithium metal anode. The electrolyte combines ionic liquid and liquid polymer to provide both the safety and wide temperature capability required for advanced batteries, while the solid-polymer-coated lithium anode significantly boosts energy density and cycle life.

Electrode-Electrolyte Interfaces in Solid Polymer Lithium Batteries

HP Moonshot servers with Calxeda and Intel Atom Chips could feasably scale to exaflop level using 30 MW of power

In April, 2013 Hewlett Packard announced the release of their Moonshot servers: small, low power servers based on compact server-on-a-chip technology from Calxeda, and Intel Atoms. These small devices can pack 3200 processors into a 42U rack that that draws less than 20kW.

HP can see making a special version for supercomputers that combines processors, memory, and photonic interfaces on a card, the combination of which makes a 10 TFLOPS device. Combining 256 of these nodes into a 42U rack yields 2.5 petaFLOPS of compute per rack, with an estimated 50-75kW of power required.

To make an exascale computer, one would design a building that could hold 400 of these superRacks. The combination provides around 100,000 nodes, and consumes a total of 25-30MW, well within the design limits of today’s hyperscale and larger enterprise computing centers.

Dwave systems will make 128 quantum computing chips on each Cypress Semiconductor Wafer

Cypress Semiconductor Corp. and D-Wave Systems Inc., the world's first commercial quantum computing company, today announced that D-Wave has successfully transferred its proprietary process technology for building quantum computing microprocessors to Cypress’s Wafer Foundry. D-Wave selected Cypress as its foundry and started the site change in January of 2013, and Cypress delivered first silicon on June 26. Results from this lot indicate better yields than D-Wave has achieved in the past, validating the quality of Cypress’s production-scale environment.

NASA Ames, Lockheed and Google have both bought D-Wave Quantum computing machines.

“We can make 120 quantum chips at a time, on an eight-inch wafer,” Colin Williams director of partnerships at D-Wave told TechWeekEurope. Williams joined D-Wave from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) which built earlier chips for D-Wave. The newer generations are now built by Cypress Semiconductor's silicon fab in Minnesota.

Apple iPad Air is 20% thinner and 28% lighter

The iPad Air is only 7.5 millimeters thick, which is 20 percent thinner than the previous full-size iPad. The bezel around the display is 43 percent thinner. The new iPad is also extremely light — it weighs only 1 pound, which is a significant reduction compared to the 1.4-pound weight of the previous version. The iPad Air will be available on November 1 around the world, starting at starts at $499 (or $629 with cellular data).

The fifth-generation iPad houses a 64-bit A7 processor, the same chip found in the new iPhone 5s. It’s a 64-bit chip with one billion transistors, and users should see twice the performance of the previous generation iPads. The tablet is designed specifically to run iOS 7, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. Another first on this iPad: dual Wi-Fi antennas and MIMO technology, which should see significant wireless data improvements. Apple claims the iPad Air gets the same 10-hour battery life as previous generations.

* up to 2X the CPU power
* up to 2X the graphics power
* 10 hour battery
* up to twice the wifi performance and more LTE bands

Medical and Scientific devices in Smartphones

A finger-sized device can be integrated into smartphones and tablets to bring medical testing to the bedside. New devices like highly efficient cell sorting can create new capabilities in cancer detection that go beyond what is possible today.

IMECs roadmap to 5 nanometer features

IMEC has a roadmap to 5 nanometer features on chips.

Two and half years after construction was completed India connects the Kudankulam nuclear reactor to the Grid

The first unit of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu was connected to the electricity grid today. It becomes India's 21st operating power reactor.

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) said that the unit was synchronized to the grid at 2.45am today and is now generating 160 MWe. The company noted that output from the reactor would be raised in stages - to 500 MWe, then 750 MWe before reaching full capacity of 1000 MWe.

The unit is one of two VVER-1000 pressurized water reactors built as part of a bilateral agreement between India and Russia signed back in 1988. Construction began in 2002 and the unit was completed in March 2011. However, its commissioning has been delayed by over two years due to protests and legal action following the accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The second 1000 MWe Kudankulam unit is expected to begin commercial operation in June 2014.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 179

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 179 is up at ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Atomic Insights - First hand report from trained US Navy radiation worker about experience associated with Fukushima

Rod Adams found two first hand reports from nuclear trained US Navy sailors stationed in Yokosuka, Japan on the USS George Washington in March 2011. They describe their efforts to monitor their ship and shipmates for radioactive material fallout and explain why high level Navy decision makers made politically correct decisions to overreact when low levels of radiation were detected.

USB Power delivery will provide smart direct current power up to 100 watts

Most phones and other small gadgets can charge from a simple USB cable plugged into a computer or an adaptor. Some 10 billion of them are already in use. Hotel rooms, aircraft seats, cars and new buildings increasingly come with USB sockets as a standard electrical fitting. From 2014, a USB cable will be able to provide power to bigger electronic devices. In the long term this could change the way homes and offices use electricity, cutting costs and improving efficiency.

The big change next year will be a new USB PD (Power Delivery) standard, which brings much more flexibility and ten times as much oomph: up to 100 watts.

A prototype USB PD socket powers a laptop and LED office lighting, monitors, printers and desktops. Mains power is only for power-thirsty microwaves, kettles and the like.

October 21, 2013

Integration of two atomically thin materials – molybdenum disulfide and carbon nanotubes into nanoscale electronics

Northwestern University researchers have now taken a significant step toward fabricating complex nanoscale electronics. By integrating two atomically thin materials – molybdenum disulfide and carbon nanotubes—they have created a p-n heterojunction diode, an interface between two types of semiconducting materials.

Among the most widely used electronic structures, the p-n junction diode forms the basis of a number of technologies, including solar cells, light-emitting diodes, photodetectors, computers, and lasers.

In addition to its novel electronic functionality, the p-n heterojunction diode is also highly sensitive to light. This attribute has allowed the authors to fabricate and demonstrate an ultrafast photodetector with an electronically tunable wavelength response.

PNAS - Gate-tunable carbon nanotube–MoS2 heterojunction p-n diode

A thin coating tricks infrared cameras and other effects can be nanoengineered

Active camouflage has taken a step forward at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), with a new coating that intrinsically conceals its own temperature to thermal cameras.

In a laboratory test, a team of applied physicists placed the device on a hot plate and watched it through an infrared camera as the temperature rose. Initially, it behaved as expected, giving off more infrared light as the sample was heated: at 60 degrees Celsius it appeared blue-green to the camera; by 70 degrees it was red and yellow. At 74 degrees it turned a deep red—and then something strange happened. The thermal radiation plummeted. At 80 degrees it looked blue, as if it could be 60 degrees, and at 85 it looked even colder. Moreover, the effect was reversible and repeatable, many times over.

A new coating intrinsically conceals its own temperature to thermal cameras. (Image courtesy of Mikhail Kats.)

Physical Review X - Vanadium Dioxide as a Natural Disordered Metamaterial: Perfect Thermal Emission and Large Broadband Negative Differential Thermal Emittance

Transition to Renmembi as the world’s reserve currency on track for sometime in the 2020s

In Arvind Subramanian book, Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance, Arvind Subramanian argued that the renminbi could overtake the dollar as the world’s premier reserve currency sometime during the next decade. His prediction was based on an econometric analysis of the fundamental economic determinants of a reserve currency (chapter 3) and applying the lessons from the sterling-dollar transition.

At the time, his prediction elicited three criticisms:

1) It took nearly 60 years after the US economy overtook the UK economy for the sterling-dollar transition to occur. This was said to imply that even if the fundamentals were moving in China’s favor, the renminbi’s ascendancy was some long way off.

2) deep and liquid financial markets, and especially an open capital account were essential for maintaining a reserve currency, and China did not fulfill these requirements.

3) Perhaps most important, even if China fulfilled them, reserve currency status for the renminbi was nowhere close to imminence because that status is fundamentally based on trust—and not just any trust, but the trust of foreign investors and traders that China would not misbehave, especially in hard times, by expropriating or defaulting on its obligations to foreigners

Reinventing education for the 21st century, Let kids study what they want and have full access to the internet for research

In the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s, Sugata Mitra (a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University in the UK) conducted experiments in which he gave children in India access to computers. Without any instruction, they were able to teach themselves a surprising variety of things, from DNA replication to English.

Wired describes how Juárez Correa (a teacher in Mexico) aplied Sugata Mitra's methods. Juárez Correa happened on an emerging educational philosophy, one that applies the logic of the digital age to the classroom. That logic is inexorable: Access to a world of infinite information has changed how we communicate, process information, and think. Decentralized systems have proven to be more productive and agile than rigid, top-down ones. Innovation, creativity, and independent thinking are increasingly crucial to the global economy.

In 1970 the top three skills required by the Fortune 500 were the three Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic. In 1999 the top three skills in demand were teamwork, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. We need schools that are developing these skills.

Onstage at TED2013, Sugata Mitra makes his bold TED Prize wish: Help me design the School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India, where children can explore and learn from each other -- using resources and mentoring from the cloud. Hear his inspiring vision for Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE), and learn more at

Progress to a Baldness Cure with a treatment that has the potential to actually grow new follicles using a patient's own cells

A joint UK and US team was able to create new human hairs from tissue samples.

This approach has the potential to transform the medical treatment of hair loss.

Current hair-loss medications tend to slow the loss of hair follicles or potentially stimulate the growth of existing hairs, but they do not create new hair follicles.

This method, in contrast, has the potential to actually grow new follicles using a patient's own cells.

PNAS - Microenvironmental reprogramming by three-dimensional culture enables dermal papilla cells to induce de novo human hair-follicle growth

Carnival of Space 324

The Carnival of Space is up at Universe Today

What do the remains lying in your fireplace have to do with diamond rain on Jupiter and Saturn? Quite a lot actually. Take a quick look at the story and physics behind what scientists speculate goes on in the clouds of gas giants. Scientists have found that there is a chance that it rains diamonds on Jupiter, Saturn and possibly on Uranus and Neptune.

Putin Trying to build and secure rail link through North Korea for moving goods between Asia and Europe three times faster than through Suez Canal

Vladimir Putin is inching closer to his goal of turning Russia into a major transit route for trade between eastern Asia and Europe by prying open North Korea, a nuclear-capable dictatorship isolated for half a century.

Russia last month completed the first land link that North Korea’s Stalinist regime has allowed to the outside world since 2003. Running between Khasan in Russia’s southeastern corner and North Korea’s rebuilt port of Rajin, the 54-kilometer rail link is part of a project President Putin is pushing that would reunite the railway systems of the two Koreas and tie them to the Trans-Siberian Railway.

That would give Putin partial control over links to European train networks 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) away. The route is as much as three times faster than shipping via Egypt’s Suez Canal, which handles 17,000 ships a year, accounts for about 8 percent of maritime trade -- and is increasingly beset by pirates and political instability in Egypt and Syria.

Shipments to and from western Europe and Rajin will be delivered in just 14 days, compared with 45 days by ship

DARPA will have create robots to scavenge and reuse parts from other satellites

DARPA has a project to reuse satellite antennas, apertures, and other components from decommissioned satellites. They seek to use still-good components from dead satellites parked in high-Earth orbit for building new satellites robotically while in orbit to reduce the costs of replacing failed satellites.

Phoenix seeks to demonstrate around-the-clock, globally persistent communication capability for warfighters more economically by robotically removing and re-using GEO-based space apertures and antennas from de-commissioned satellites in the graveyard or disposal orbit.

DARPA is asking NovaWurks to develop an integrated proximity awareness system (IPAS), rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) technology suite, synergistic number of degrees of freedom (N-DOF) test facility support, virtual ground station operations, and payload orbital delivery system (PODS)-hosted launch.

The Phoenix program envisions developing a new class of very small ‘satlets,’ similar to nano satellites, which could be sent to the GEO region more economically as a “ride along” on a commercial satellite launch, and then attached to the antenna of a non-functional cooperating satellite robotically, essentially creating a new space system. A payload orbital delivery system, or PODS, will also be designed to safely house the satlets for transport aboard a commercial satellite launch. A separate on-orbit ‘tender,’ or satellite servicing satellite is also expected to be built and launched into GEO. Once the tender arrives on orbit, the PODS would then be released from its ride-along host and link up with the tender to become part of the satellite servicing station’s ‘tool belt.’ The tender plans to be equipped with grasping mechanical arms for removing the satlets and components from the PODS using unique space tools to be developed in the program.

UK approves next generation nuclear reactors to be built by France and China

The UK government has given the go-ahead for the UK's first new nuclear station in a generation.

France's EDF Energy will lead a consortium, which includes Chinese investors, to build the Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset.

Ministers say the deal will help take the UK towards low-carbon power and lower generating costs in future.

Critics warn guaranteeing the group a price for electricity at twice the current level will raise bills. But any new energy for the UK would be more expensive.

The government estimates that with new nuclear power - including Hinkley - the average energy bill in 2030 will be £77 lower than it would have been without the new plants.

All new energy for the UK would be expensive

October 20, 2013

Commercial and Technical feasibility of Superconducting engines for passenger electric planes

There was a design of vertical takeoff and vertical passenger electric planes. Also, Elon Musk has talked about creating a supersonic certical takeoff and vertical landing electric passenger plane. This would enable airports without runways to be in cities. The design was based upon batteries that had 1000 wh/kg and superconducting engines that had 7-8 kw/kg.

Before 2020 it would seem we are on track for volume production of lithium sulfur, lithium seawater and other forms of high energy density batteries (600 wh/kg to 1500 wh/kg).

The superconducting engines seem to be farther away but appear to be feasible. Superconducting wire will be scaling up production and getting to lower cost over the next few years and continuing to improve in production volume and costs over the next decades. In 20 years, the superconducting engines with 7-8 kw/kg or better could be achieved.

The commercial status of superconductors for various applications was reviewed for a 2013 conference in Spain.

A Masters thesis reviewed the state of the art for superconducting motors for helicopters, but the technology of today is not ready. Getting the operating temperature down to 20K instead of 65K while still have lightweight cryocooling could boost the power and torque to the required levels.

Beginning to Commercialize Lithium Sulfur Batteries which have the potential to have several times the energy density of lithium ion while also being three times cheaper

OXIS is the first company to commercialize lithium sulfur batteries. OXIS has been achieving 20-percent year-over-year improvements for cells that are presently delivering 200 Wh/kg at the pouch cell level, 350 Wh/kg at the coin cell level, and with promise of a doubling or more in the next 2-3 years.

Li-S battery manufacturing can use existing, excess battery manufacturing facilities with minimal modifications. Li-S batteries could scale to over batteries for over 100,000 electric vehicles and get costs down to $65/kwh.

This is not a whole lot better than li-ion, but Li-S offers other benefits not least of which is major upside potential.
The theoretical energy density of lithium-sulfur is actually 2,700 Wh/kg, or five times that of lithium-ion.

IBM has said lithium-air will be practical some time in the early 2020s – how it can have 2020 vision a decade into the future is a good critical question, but we digress. In any case, OXIS’ statements are of what it has in its hands now. OXIS does concede Li-Air is the next step beyond Li-S, but Crittenden says he doesn’t think Li-Air will be ready until after 2030.

Despite the U.S. government demanding more for Li-S before using it for electric car batteries, other government entities – particularly the military – see reason to get started now.

Crittenden says energy storage systems using metallic lithium offer the highest specific energy, and OXIS has also received support for UK Ministry of Defense battery packs to be carried by NATO soldiers. Soldiers must carry 8 kg or so, and if this can be cut in half, that is a huge tactical advantage in the eyes of commanders.

The first cars to receive Li-S batteries appear to be the INDUCT Modulgo Urban Car and driverless Navia.