April 15, 2014

Toyota has Atkinson cycle engines that get 78 mpg that will be in 14 car models in 2015

Toyota has launched two new small-displacement, Atkinson cycle engines that get 78 mpg.

Built to power the Japanese-automaker’s Aygo commuter and the 2015 Lexus RC F, respectively, the new Atkinson-cycle engines will come in 1.0 and 1.3L versions. While neither engine will generate frame-crunching torque, their higher compression ratios, improved combustion chamber design, weight reduction and reduced frictional energy loses will mean major gas savings for drivers.

Toyota plans to use the engine in at least 14 car models in 2015 and this is the first time the Atkinson design will be a stand-alone power plant. The Atkinson engine is used in the Toyota Prius.

The Atkinson engine will have 30% better fuel efficiency than the Toyota engine it replaces.

Google X tried to design a Space Elevator

Rich DeVaul, head of Google X's Rapid Evaluation team, has confirmed for the first time ever that Google's research and development lab actually tried to design a space elevator.

"It would be a massive capital investment," he said in this month's issue of Fast Company. But once this hypothetical machine was built, "it could take you from ground to orbit with a net of basically zero energy. It drives down the space-access costs, operationally, to being incredibly low."

NBF - This is not quite correct. The energy is still the electricity to create the change in potential energy.

Space elevator economics are discussed here and here.

Current proposals envision payload prices starting as low as $220 per kilogram ($100 per pound), similar to the $5–$300/kg estimates of the Launch loop, but higher than the $310/ton to 500 km orbit quoted to Dr. Jerry Pournelle for an orbital airship system.

If SpaceX is successful in developing the reusable technology, it is expected to significantly reduce the cost of access to space, and change the increasingly competitive market in space launch services. The Falcon 9 has a published cost of US$56.5 million per launch to low Earth orbit, "Falcon 9 rockets are already the cheapest in the industry. Reusable Falcon 9s could drop the price by an order of magnitude, sparking more space-based enterprise, which in turn would drop the cost of access to space still further through economies of scale. Space industry analyst Ajay Kothari has noted that SpaceX reusable technology could do for space transport "what jet engines did for air transportation sixty years ago when people never imagined that more than 500 million passengers would travel by airplanes every year and that the cost could be reduced to the level it is—all because of passenger volume and reliable reusability." SpaceX has said that if they are successful in developing the reusable technology, launch prices of around US$5 to 7 million for a reusable Falcon 9 are possible. Spacex could even bring the cost down to US$1 million by reusing a rocket hundreds of times like a commercial jetplane.

One use Falcon 9 rocket launch cost $1,862/lb
One use Falcon Heavy launch cost $1000/lb
First stage reusable Falcon 9 launch cost $1200/lb
First stage reusable Falcon Heavy launch cost $600/lb
Reusable (about fifteen times) Falcon 9 rocket launch cost all stages reusable $100/lb

April 14, 2014

Future Capitalism would be saved if there is robust 4-5% or higher growth from Technological Progress

Nextbigfuture has summarized the work of Thomas Piketty on a historical analysis of income and wealth and wealth distribution. Thomas Piketty feels that Capitalism faces a big future problem where capital returns (r) are at 4-5% per year.

The end of convergence [rise of China, India and other countries after they catch up]implies that all advanced countries will grow at the rate of technological progress which, Piketty believes, is around 1- 1.5% per year. Add to it 1% population growth and g cannot exceed 2.5% per year. If r remains, as Piketty thinks, at its historical rate of 4-5%p.a., all the negative developments from the 19th century will be repeated.

NBF - Therefore if technological progress enables more economic growth at say 5% or higher then growth keeps pace with the return on assets.

Financial Impact and Opportunity of Silex Laser Enrichment and Terrestrial Energy's Integral Molten Salt Reactor

Levis Kochin writes at SeekingAlpha. Levis is an investor in Silex and Terrestrial Energy. Nextbigfuture has covered the Silex process for laser uranium enrichment and Terrestrial Energy's Integral Molten Salt Reactor.

Some of the Nextbigfuture coverage of Silex and Terrestrial Energy

Costs and economics of Terrestrial Energy's Integral Molten Salt Reactor [nextbigfuture]

Terrestrial Energy Video update [nextbigfuture]

Terrestrial Energy successfully closed its final seed round of financing [nextbigfuture]

Laser Uranium Enrichment has completed first test loop [nextbigfuture]

GE SILEX laser uranium enrichment [nextbigfuture]

The Financial Impact Analysis of Levis Kochin

Levis Kochin is an associate Professor of Economics at the University of Washington, Seattle Campus. He earned my Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago in 1975. Lester Telser and Milton Friedman were his advisors. He have taught at the University of Washington since 1973. He has also worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the Bank of Israel, and the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

* Silex will cut the cost of nuclear fuel, a minor cost of nuclear power. Terrestrial Energy will cut the capital cost of nuclear plants- the major cost of nuclear power.

* Eighty percent of the cost of nuclear power is the capital cost of the power plant. The fuel is less than ten percent.

* Integral Molten Salt Reactor powered electricity give promise of being cheaper and safer cheaper than coal or conventional nuclear powered electricity.

Silex - a public company - is an attractive investment opportunity. Its technology for laser enrichment of uranium is markedly lower cost than the centrifuge enrichment technology of its competitors. Its licensee Global Laser Enrichment will over time take over the Uranium enrichment market and Silex is likely to receive royalties which are a multiple of the cap value of Silex. But the disruptive effect of laser enrichment is narrow. The prospects of nuclear power are only marginally affected because uranium enrichment is a small portion of nuclear power costs. Terrestrial Energy is attacking the main costs of nuclear power- capital costs, safety and waste disposal. If Terrestrial Energy succeeds, a substantial number of important public companies in nuclear reactor construction and coal will lose much of their capital value. The value of companies exploiting the oil sands will, on the other hand, be substantially enhanced.

Enrichment represents about 30% of the cost of nuclear fuel. But nuclear fuel represents only 10% of the total cost of nuclear power. The total value of nuclear electricity in the world at wholesale is about $200 Billion per year. The total value of nuclear fuel is about $20 Billion per year. (All valuations in this article are stated in U.S. dollars.)The world enrichment market is worth about $7 billion per year. Two manufacturers of centrifuges, one Russian (Rosatom) and one West European (Enrichment Technology Company) both manufacturing centrifuges designed by Gernot Zippe while a prisoner in the Soviet Union, have over 90% of the uranium enrichment centrifuge market.

Carnival of Space 349

The Carnival of Space 349 is up at Universe Today

Universe Today - You may have heard that CERN announced the discovery of a strange particle known as Z(4430). The new particle is about 4 times more massive than a proton, has a negative charge, and appears to be a theoretical particle known as a tetraquark. The results are still young, but if this discovery holds up it could have implications for our understanding of neutron stars.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 204

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 204 is up at ANS Nuclear Cafe

NEI Nuclear Notes - Why DOE Should Back SMR Development

NEI Nuclear Notes - Popular Mechanics just published an expose on Joe Mangano. Are reporters listening?

Capitalism is not working - analysis of 200 years of data shows worsening inequality is an inevitable outcome of free market capitalism

What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard to find for lack of adequate data and clear guiding theories. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty analyzes a unique collection of data from twenty countries, ranging as far back as the eighteenth century, to uncover key economic and social patterns. His findings will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality.

UPDATE : A look at the reviews of other economists to the Piketty work and a look a central Piketty prediction that global growth will collapse from 2020-2100.

Piketty shows that modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have allowed us to avoid inequalities on the apocalyptic scale predicted by Karl Marx. But we have not modified the deep structures of capital and inequality as much as we thought in the optimistic decades following World War II. The main driver of inequality--the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth--today threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. But economic trends are not acts of God. Political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past, Piketty says, and may do so again.

A work of extraordinary ambition, originality, and rigor, Capital in the Twenty-First Century reorients our understanding of economic history and confronts us with sobering lessons for today.

The book draws on reams of data from the United States and numerous other countries. Most of the data comes from income tax records and estate tax/inheritance records. The sheer quantity of data that underlies Piketty's conclusions is unprecedented, and as a result his work deserves a great deal of credibility.

While the book is quite long, the major conclusion can be summarized very briefly: Piketty has found that, over the long run, the return on capital is higher than the growth rate of the overall economy. In other words, accumulated and inherited wealth becomes a larger fraction of the economic pie over time. This happens more or less automatically, and there is no reason to believe this trend will change or reverse course.

Piketty argues that the reduction in inequality in developed countries after World War II was a "one-off" that was driven entirely by political choices and policies. It did not happen automatically. Those policies have now been largely reversed, especially in the United States. As a result the drive toward increased inequality is likely to be relentless.

Piketty's solution is a global wealth tax. While this seems politically unfeasible, he argues that it is the only thing likely to work.