May 31, 2016

Volvo Trucks’ concept truck cuts fuel consumption by more than 30 %

Almost one-third lower fuel consumption. Volvo Trucks’ new concept vehicle shows how it is possible to drastically boost productivity in long-haul operations. Among the secrets behind these remarkable fuel savings are aerodynamic design and lower kerb weight.

With support from the Swedish Energy Agency, Volvo Trucks has developed a new concept vehicle, the Volvo Concept Truck. It is the result of a five year long research project aimed at creating more energy-efficient vehicles. The new concept truck cuts fuel consumption by more than 30 %.

One of the key factors behind the low fuel consumption is the massive 40 % improvement in aerodynamic efficiency that has benefited both the tractor and trailer.

"We've modified the entire rig and optimised it for improved aerodynamics as much as possible. For instance, we use cameras instead of rear-view mirrors. This cuts air resistance, so less energy is needed to propel the truck," explains Åke Othzen, Chief Project Manager at Volvo Trucks.

In addition to the aerodynamic improvements, the concept vehicle is fitted with newly developed tyres with lower rolling resistance. The trailer weighs two tonnes less than the reference trailer, which translates into either lower fuel consumption or the possibility of higher payload. The project also includes an improved driveline. The rig was test driven on Swedish roads in autumn 2015.

Work on the Volvo Concept Truck has been in progress since 2011. The aim is to improve the efficiency for long-haul truck transportation by 50 %

The aerodynamic improvements

  • Optimised aerodynamic trailer and tractor.
  • In order to reduce air resistance, the conventional rear-view mirrors have been replaced by cameras, which have the added advantage of offering better visibility and increased safety.
  • Aerodynamically optimised chassis side-skirts cover the rear wheels on the tractor and all the trailer wheels.
  • Aerodynamic spoilers extend the trailer and cut air resistance.
  • Optimised air flow for the engine's cooling system
  • Minimised air resistance at the front of the tractor, the wheel housings and entry steps.

Dutch company trains Eagles to take down drones like flying security dogs

Dutch company, Guard from Above, intercept bad drones using of birds of prey.

Not every location has the same threat of drones. A drone doesn’t have be a threat at all. Is a drone carrying a HD-camera? This could be a threat but doesn’t always have to pose a threat.

The first step is always to do a Threat analysis.
The next step is to select the best combination of contra drone solutions. Detection and classification and of course neutralisation (interception).
After a drone incident it is important to investigate the background of the incident and to share the incident data.

They are working on a Database with global drone incidents and future threats (also Red teaming).

Guard from Above (GFA) trained birds and GFA-trained Birdhandlers are stationed at High Risk Locations. Their services are like security dog handler services. They also train staff of Police, Defense forces and Security companies to handle GFA-trained birds.

Their training program is based on -over 25 years’ specialist experience in working with birds of prey combined with experience in international consulting.

Currently the available anti-drone options fall into two camps: “shoot it” or “jam its sensors.” In the former case, you might miss (and hit something else), and even if you hit you’re left with a heavy drone falling to earth, potentially onto someone’s head. In the latter, you end up canceling out GPS or radio signals for everyone in the area, which isn’t practical as a preventative measure.

Compact spherical tokamak would be 100 times smaller than ITER and has a chance to start operating decades earlier

Startup company Tokamak Energy has published three papers showing size is not an important factor in fusion reactors and proving that a compact spherical tokamak reactor can produce high power. This turns the pursuit of fusion into a series of engineering challenges. The Tokamak Energy plan will overcome these challenges, such as the development of magnets made from high temperature superconductors, delivering a fusion power gain within five years, first electricity within ten years and a 100 MWe power plant within 15 years.

The best-performing tokamak in the world is JET, producing 16 MW of fusion power with 24 MW input in 1997 - i.e. 65% as much energy out as was put in. It holds the world record for total fusion power produced and for getting closest to breakeven. To reach this point, fusion research followed a Moore's law-like path. The temperature, density and energy confinement time, which indicates fusion performance, was increasing at a faster and faster rate up until the JET experiments.

But since then it seems that progress has stalled. There have still been experiments built and much learned, but progress towards energy breakeven has slowed. We still haven't actually reached energy breakeven almost 20 years after we nearly got there.

Traditional designs have moved to larger dimensions, culminating in the ITER experiment currently under construction in the south of France. This will be over 30m tall and weigh about 23,000 tonnes. The demonstration reactor that follows, dubbed DEMO, will likely be slightly bigger again. When ITER was being designed in the 1990s, it was believed that the only feasible way to increase fusion power was to increase machine size. But the size and complexity of ITER has led to very slow progress in the fusion program, with first fusion set for the mid 2020s. Tired of waiting so long and recognising the inherent difficulties of such a big project, some have been questioning the possibility of a smaller way to fusion.

Fusion reactor development could proceed much more rapidly by scaling down the size of reactors being developed, potentially helping the first compact fusion pilot plants to be ready to produce electricity for the first time within the next decade.

Theoretical calculations show that a Spherical Tokamak using high fields produced by HTS magnets could be significantly smaller than other fusion machines currently proposed. For example, a compact ST power plant would have a volume up to 100 times smaller than ITER – the successor to JET currently being built in France at a cost of €15bn – so would be approximately room-sized rather than aircraft-hangar-sized.

DEMO (DEMOnstration Power Station) is a proposed nuclear fusion power station that is intended to build upon the ITER experimental nuclear fusion reactor. The objectives of DEMO are usually understood to lie somewhere between those of ITER and a "first of a kind" commercial station. While there is no clear international consensus on exact parameters or scope, the following parameters are often used as a baseline for design studies: DEMO should produce at least 2 gigawatts of fusion power on a continuous basis, and it should produce 25 times as much power as required for breakeven. DEMO's design of 2 to 4 gigawatts of thermal output will be on the scale of a modern electric power station.

To achieve its goals, DEMO must have linear dimensions about 15% larger than ITER, and a plasma density about 30% greater than ITER. As a prototype commercial fusion reactor, DEMO could make fusion energy available some 15 years after ITER. ITER schedule is slipping. DEMO will not start tests before 2035. It is estimated that subsequent commercial fusion reactors could be built for about a quarter of the cost of DEMO

PROTO is a beyond-DEMO experiment, part of European Commission long-term strategy for research of fusion energy. PROTO would act as a prototype power station, taking in any remaining technology refinements, and demonstrating electricity generation on a commercial basis. It is only expected after DEMO, beyond 2050, and may or may not be a second part of DEMO/PROTO experiment.

Navy Lasers, Railgun and Hypervelocity Projectile are each game changers but combined will be a revolution

The Navy is currently developing three potential new weapons that could improve the ability of its surface ships to defend themselves against enemy missiles—solid state lasers (SSLs), the electromagnetic railgun (EMRG), and the hypervelocity projectile (HVP). Any one of these new weapon technologies, if successfully developed and deployed, might be regarded as a “game changer” for defending Navy surface ships against enemy missiles. If two or three of them are successfully developed and deployed, the result might be considered not just a game changer, but a revolution. Rarely has the Navy had so many potential new types of surfaceship missile-defense weapons simultaneously available for development and potential deployment.

Although Navy surface ships have a number of means for defending themselves against anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) and anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), some observers are concerned about the survivability of Navy surface ships in potential combat situations against adversaries, such as China, that are armed with advanced ASCMs and with ASBMs. Concern about this issue has led some observers to conclude that the Navy’s surface fleet in coming years might need to avoid operating in waters that are within range of these weapons, or that the Navy might need to move toward a different fleet architecture that relies less on larger surface ships and more on smaller surface ships and submarines.

Two key limitations that Navy surface ships currently have in defending themselves against ASCMs and ASBMs are limited depth of magazine and unfavorable cost exchange ratios. Limited depth of magazine refers to the fact that Navy surface ships can use surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and their Close-in Weapon System (CIWS) Gatling guns to shoot down only a certain number of enemy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and anti-ship missiles before running out of SAMs and CIWS ammunition—a situation (sometimes called “going Winchester”), that can require a ship to withdraw from battle, spend time travelling to a safe reloading location (which can be hundreds of miles away), and then spend more time traveling back to the battle area.

Unfavorable cost exchange ratios refer to the fact that a SAM used to shoot down a UAV or antiship missile can cost the Navy more (perhaps much more) to procure than it cost the adversary to build or acquire the UAV or anti-ship missile. In the FY2016 defense budget, procurement costs for Navy SAMs range from about $900,000 per missile to several million dollars per missile, depending on the type

SSLs, EMRG, and HVP offer a potential for dramatically improving depth of magazine and the cost exchange ratio:

  • Depth of magazine. SSLs are electrically powered, drawing their power from the ship’s overall electrical supply, and can be fired over and over, indefinitely, as long as the SSL continues to work and the ship has fuel to generate electricity. The EMRG’s projectile and the HVP (which are one and the same—see next section) can be stored by the hundreds in a Navy surface ship’s weapon magazine.
  • Cost exchange ratio. An SSL can be fired for a marginal cost of less than one dollar per shot (which is the cost of the fuel needed to generate the electricity used in the shot), while the EMRG’s projectile / HVP has an estimated unit procurement cost of about $25,000

Will the kinds of surface ships that the Navy plans to procure in coming years have sufficient space, weight, electrical power, and cooling capability to take full advantage of SSLs (particularly those solid state lasers with beam powers above 200 kW) and EMRG (electromagnetic railguns) ? What changes, if any, would need to be made in Navy plans for procuring large surface combatants (i.e., destroyers and cruisers) or other Navy ships to take full advantage of SSLs and EMRG ?

Berkeley Lab research on how lithium-rich cathodes work is leading to 50% higher capacity lithium ion batteries

In the quest for a radically better lithium-ion battery, a promising direction is the so-called “lithium-rich” cathode, in which the cathode contains a higher proportion of lithium than normal. While it has the potential to have far higher energy density, scientists have lacked a clear picture of the chemical processes, especially the role of oxygen.

Now researchers at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) report a major advance in understanding how oxygen oxidation creates extra capacity in such cathodes, opening the door to batteries with far higher energy density, meaning your phone or electric vehicle will be able to run for much longer between charges.

“The specific nature of our findings shows a clear and exciting path forward to create the next-generation cathode materials with substantially higher energy density then current cathode materials

Berkeley Lab researchers uncovered the role of oxygen oxidation in Lithium-excess cathodes of various types. (Credit: Ceder Group/Berkeley Lab)

Nature Chemistry - The structural and chemical origin of the oxygen redox activity in layered and cation-disordered Li-excess cathode materials

DARPA $6.4M contract supports malaria research aimed at enhancing resilience

Investigators believe learning why malaria causes acute, potentially lethal disease in some humans and animals, while others are much more resilient or tolerant, could lead them to better intervention strategies for malaria and other diseases, including new and better drugs.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) are supporting the research through a $6.4 million contract. The research partnership is part of DARPA’s THoR (Technologies for Host Resilience) program and is termed the HAMMER (Host Acute Models of Malaria to study Experimental Resilience) project.

HAMMER is one of a few projects in the THoR program, established for a three-year period, covering a variety of diverse host-pathogen model systems. The HAMMER project uniquely focuses on malaria and its effects on human and non-human primate hosts.

Malaria, which is transmitted through mosquito bites, is the most widespread human parasitic disease and is endemic in approximately 100 countries. It causes fever, pain and other acute responses, and in severe cases it can become deadly within days of the onset of symptoms.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease caused by a parasitic microorganism called Plasmodium.

May 30, 2016

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 311

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 311 is up at Neutron Bytes

ANS Nuclear Cafe - Watts Bar II Attains Criticality on Start Up

On May 26, 2016 at precisely 2:16 a.m., what will probably be the final large unit in the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) nuclear fleet – Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, Unit 2 – achieved its initial criticality. This event opens the final chapter of the extended construction history of this unit, and paves way for another gigawatt of generating capacity (in nameplate rating) to be added to TVA’s generating portfolio

Rod Adams – - Variable Annual License Fees For Smaller Reactors – If They’re Light Water

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a final rule creating a variable fee structure for small modular reactors (SMR). It creates a new term called a “bundled unit” and then bases the annual fee on the thermal power output of the bundled unit. It is a three part structure with a minimum fee, a variable fee computed as a function of thermal power, and a maximum fee for a range of output power.

Unfortunately, the agency saw fit to invent a new definition of SMR that restricts the intentionally broad term to describing only light water reactors.

Jim Conca – Forbes - Batteries Or Train-Pumped Energy For Grid-Scale Power Storage

Today, 250 of the world’s leading energy storage experts have gathered at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to discuss the latest battery technologies, from large liquid and sodium sulfur batteries to new poly-ionics. But to store enough energy to power a city for a day, you need a train filled with a million pounds of rock. Going up and down a hill like Sisyphus, Advanced Rail Energy Storage (ARES) converts excess renewable energy into gravitational potential energy then back into electricity when needed. With no water and no turbines.

Russia To Modernize Its Lone Aircraft Carrier Next Year, New Carrier Program Could Start in 2025

Modernization of Russia’s heavy aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is planned to be launched in the first quarter of 2017, the corresponding contract will be signed in the short run, a source in the defense industry complex told TASS on Wednesday.

"The works on the vessel will begin after she returns from a long-distance voyage in the Mediterranean in the first quarter of 2017 and will last for two-three years," the source said.

"The Defense Ministry’s contract with the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) on the aircraft carrier’s repair with modernization worth several billion rubles under the technical design of the Nevskoye Design Bureau is ready, it will be signed in June," he added. The source said that the service contract on the Admiral Kuznetsov with the Northern Fleet command has already been concluded.

It is unknown where the upgrade will be carried out. According to the source, the Sevmash shipyard and Zvezdochka Ship Repair Center are among the bidders. "The modernization will focus on the aircraft carrier’s flight deck, including replacement of the deck covering, tailhooks, aircraft arresting gear and other elements of the take-off system," he said.

The 55,000-ton Admiral Kuznetsov will enter the two to three-year upgrade availability at an unknown Russian yard sometime next year to undergo upgrades to allow the carrier to improve launching and recovering aircraft.

A planet 1,200 light-years away is a good prospect for a habitable world

A distant planet known as Kepler-62f could be habitable, a team of astronomers reports.

The planet, which is about 1,200 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Lyra, is approximately 40 percent larger than Earth. At that size, Kepler-62f is within the range of planets that are likely to be rocky and possibly could have oceans, said Aomawa Shields, the study's lead author and a National Science Foundation astronomy and astrophysics postdoctoral fellow in UCLA's department of physics and astronomy.

An artist's conception of Kepler-62f, a planet in the 'habitable zone' of a star located about 1,200 light-years from Earth. CREDIT NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

Diabetes discovery could lead to more effective drugs

The formation of type 2 diabetes is directly related to how our muscles convert sugar, a landmark new study has found.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne’s Medical School at the Austin Hospital have used elegant gene splicing technology to prove this popular theory about the biological cause of Type 2 diabetes.

This is the first strong evidence that when muscles fail to convert glucose into a substance called glycogen, it leads to the hallmarks of type 2 diabetes.

They hope the research will lead to development of a drug to that could convert glucose into glycogen when muscle metabolism fails.


•Muscle-specific gys1 knockdown in adult mice results in 70% reduction in skeletal muscle glycogen levels.
•Muscle-specific gys1 knockdown leads to glucose intolerance and peripheral insulin resistance.
•Muscle glycogen depletion caused impaired performance, as well as fatigue development during exercise.


Thus, muscle-specific gys1 deletion in adult mice results in glucose intolerance due to insulin resistance and reduced muscle glucose uptake as well as impaired exercise and endurance capacity.

Molecular Metabolism - Impaired glucose metabolism and exercise capacity with muscle-specific glycogen synthase 1 (gys1) deletion in adult mice

Cost benefit of intelligence enhancement via embryo selection

There is a cost benefit analysis of embryo selection for intelligence based upon 2016 state of the art.

The case of human intelligence using SNP-based genetic prediction, finding:

  • a meta-analysis of GCTA results indicates that SNPs can explain  and over 33% of variance in current intelligence scores, and over 44% with better-quality phenotype testing
  • this sets an upper bound on the effectiveness of selection: a gain of 9 IQ points when selecting the top embryo out of 10
  • the best 2015 polygenic score could achieve a gain of less than 4.5 IQ points when selecting out of 10
  • the cost of embryo selection is modest, at $1500 + $200 per embryo, with the sequencing cost projected to drop rapidly
  • embryo selection is currently unprofitable (mean: -$673) in the USA under the lowest estimate of the value of an IQ point, but profitable under the highest (mean: $4763). The main constraints on selection profitability is the polygenic score; under the highest value, the NPV EVPI of a perfect SNP predictor is $27b and the EVSI per education/SNP sample is $71k
  • selection can be made much more profitable by selecting on multiple phenotype traits; selection scales near-linearly with equally-valuable traits, and considering an example using 7 traits (IQ / height / BMI / diabetes / ADHD / bipolar / schizophrenia), there is a gain of 2.8x over IQ alone ($4977 to about $14130)
The maximum amount of IQ gain if screening allowed for optimal selection

Chickens have become physically larger because of breeding and farming methods

China’s one-child policy relaxed sees fertility clinics rush as predicted here

Beijing’s decision to allow all married couples to have two children is driving a surge in demand for fertility treatment among older women, putting heavy pressure on clinics and breaking down past sensitivities, and even shame, about the issue.

The rise in in-vitro fertilization points to the deferred dreams of many parents who long wanted a second child, but were prevented by a strict population control policy in place for more than 30 years.

Dr Liu Jiaen, who runs a private hospital in Beijing treating infertility through IVF, in which an egg and sperm are combined in a laboratory dish and the resulting embryo transferred to a woman’s uterus.

Liu estimated that the numbers of women coming to him for IVF had risen by 20 per cent since the relaxation of the policy, which came into effect at the start of the year. Before, the average age of his patients was about 35. Now most of them were older than 40 and some of the women were fast approaching 50, he said.

In 2014, Nextbigfuture predicted that China's One child policy would be lifted. Women in China who are now older were banned from having babies but now will be allowed to have children. Many chinese woman would not be able to conceive naturally and would use IVF. In 2014, NBF saw IVF going to 2-8 million per year over the next 10 years.

Over the past two decades, IVF technology has developed rapidly in China, where about 10 per cent of couples are estimated to need the procedure to conceive. In 2014, 700,000 women had IVF treatments, according to the health commission’s Women’s and Children’s Department, which said in a statement that demand for all types of fertility treatment had risen following the policy relaxation, including the use of traditional Chinese medicine.

The second part of the NBF prediction is that women in China using IVF would begin to use embryo selection. Embryo selection based upon intelligence for invitro fertilized (IVF) babies is becoming possible and we are on the cusp of genetic engineering. IVF babies are more easily embryo selected and accessible for genetic modification. This would provide an economic boost to China in 20-30 years and the beginnings of a significant societal shift.

The maximum amount of IQ gain if screening allowed for optimal selection

May 29, 2016

US Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans from now to 2046

The US Navy’s proposed FY2017 budget requests funding for the procurement of seven new battle force ships (i.e., ships that count against the Navy’s goal for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 308 ships). The seven ships include two Virginia-class attack submarines, two DDG-51 class Aegis destroyers, two Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs), and one LHA-type amphibious assault ship.

The Navy’s proposed FY2017-FY2021 five-year shipbuilding plan includes a total of 38 new ships, compared to 48 new ships in the Navy’s FY2016-FY2020 five-year shipbuilding plan. Most of the 10-ship reduction in the FY2017-FY2021 plan compared to the FY2016-FY2020 plan is due to a reduction in the annual procurement rate for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)/Frigate program that was directed by the Secretary of Defense in December 2015.

The Navy’s current force-structure goal, presented to Congress in 2015, is to achieve and maintain a future fleet of 308 ships of various kinds. Navy officials in early 2016 have testified that in light of recent changes in the international security environment, the Navy has launched a new analysis of its future force structure needs. Such analyses are called Force Structure Assessments (FSAs). The Navy states that it hopes to complete the new FSA by summer 2016.

Some observers believe this new FSA will result in an increase in the Navy’s force-level goal to a figure higher than 308 ships, in part because it will call for an increased Navy forward-deployed presence in the Mediterranean, a region that was deemphasized as a Navy forward-deployed operating area during the post-Cold War era.

The Navy’s report on its FY2016 30-year shipbuilding plan estimates that the plan would cost an average of about $16.5 billion per year in constant FY2015 dollars to implement, including an average of about $16.9 billion per year during the first 10 years of the plan, an average of about $17.2 billion per year during the middle 10 years of the plan, and an average of about $15.2 billion per year during the final 10 years of the plan.

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