May 24, 2016

China to help Sudan develop East Africa's first nuclear plant

China and Sudan have signed a framework agreement for the construction of the east African country's first nuclear power plant.

Sudan - one of China's main suppliers of oil - was on the list of priorities for Chinese reactor sales in a State Council (cabinet) Energy Development Strategic Action Plan 2014-2020.

Sudan's Ministry of Energy and Mines initiated a nuclear power program in 2007, and in 2010 the country started considering the feasibility of a nuclear power plant. At that time, Sudan was envisaging a nuclear plant with four 300-600 MWe units operating by 2030.

The country's Atomic Energy Commission has been consulting the International Atomic Energy Agency on introducing nuclear energy.

In July 2015, the government's Geological Research Authority said that uranium exploration was a high priority and that any mining would be undertaken by Russian companies.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed last September, China General Nuclear and the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board are to discuss CGN's Hualong 1 technology, and carry out comprehensive cooperation in nuclear power development and capacity building in neighbouring Kenya. This will include research and development, construction, operation, fuel supply, nuclear safety, nuclear security, radioactive waste management and decommissioning.

Researchers microwave a graphene composite to toughen wellbore oil and gas well walls

Wellbores drilled to extract oil and gas can be dramatically reinforced with a small amount of modified graphene nanoribbons added to a polymer and microwaved, according to Rice University researchers.

The Rice labs of chemist James Tour and civil and environmental engineer Rouzbeh Shahsavari combined the nanoribbons with an oil-based thermoset polymer intended to make wells more stable and cut production costs. When cured in place with low-power microwaves emanating from the drill assembly, the composite would plug the microscopic fractures that allow drilling fluid to seep through and destabilize the walls.

ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces - Microwave Heating of Functionalized Graphene Nanoribbons in Thermoset Polymers for Wellbore Reinforcement

pCell being trialed by Nokia and VenueNext at large traffic indoor venues like stadiums

Nokia is testing Artemis™ pCell™ wireless technology in 2016 with wireless operators, initially in large indoor venues and other high density areas. pCell has the potential to enhance the capacity of conventional 4G TD-LTE networks in certain use cases, while remaining compatible with unmodified devices.

pCell uses data centers to calculate the shaping of wireless transmissions to target individual antennas of target users.

Early in 2015, pCell pioneer Artemis Networks is achieving 35X the spectral efficiency of conventional LTE networks.

LTE networks today achieve a spectral efficiency (SE) of 1.7 bps/Hz. Practical pCell systems today achieve average spectral efficiency of 59 bps/Hz, a 35X leapfrog with unmodified standard LTE devices, such as iPhone 6/6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and Android devices, as well as Wi-Fi devices. pCell’s spectral efficiency scales indefinitely, while remaining compatible with legacy devices.

VenueNext, the mobile services provider for Levi’s Stadium, and other venues throughout the world, is trialing pCell in high-density, high-traffic venues, to enable concurrent usage by 10s of thousands of fans of HD video-rich services and high-bandwidth upstreaming of images and HD video

pCell technology accomplishes this through an entirely new approach to wireless: rather than avoiding interference like cellular or Wi-Fi systems, pCell embraces interference, utilizing interfering transmissions to synthesize a tiny personal cell, a “pCell”, around each individual user device, enabling every user to utilize the full capacity of the spectrum at once. Instead of many users sharing the limited capacity of one cell, resulting in steadily declining data rates as new subscribers join the network, with pCell technology, each user gets a personal cell

Shipping containers full of capacitors will enable flexible railgun designs for shipboard and fixed or mobile land based railguns

The US Navy will be taking its futuristic Railgun out of the lab where it has been tested for to past eight years. Over the next two years, railguns will be tested in open firing ranges and eventually at sea, where the futuristic electromagnetic gun will be able to demonstrate its full capacity to fire projectiles at targets 50-100 nautical miles (92 – 185 kilometers) away.

The Navy is evaluating two electromagnetic railgun models. A 32-megajoule prototype built by BAE Systems and the 32 megajoule Blitzer developed by General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS). The company has also developed a 3-megajoule railgun variant. In the future, the Navy plans to deploy railguns rated to 64-megajoule.

A railgun can deliver muzzle velocities greater than twice those of conventional guns. Using electromagnetic power, where magnetic fields created by strong electrical currents accelerate a sliding metal conductor between two rails, the railgun achieves muzzle speeds of more than Mach 7.5 without the use of chemical propellant.

The railgun hyper-velocity projectiles (HVP) rely on kinetic energy for maximum effect and reduces the number of high explosives and propellant carried on ships. Against specific threats, the cost per engagement is orders of magnitude less expensive than comparable missile engagements. It also minimizes the dangers of unexploded ordnance remaining on the battlefield. BAE Systems is developing the HVP under a separate contract awarded by the Office of Naval Research. The new low drag, guided projectile will provide lethality and performance enhancements to current and future gun systems, including Navy 5-Inch; Navy, Marine Corps, and Army 155-mm systems and railguns. The HVP’s low-drag aerodynamic design enables high-velocity, maneuverability, and decreased time-to-target. HVP will have a range of more than 50 nm (93 km) from Mk 45 Mod 4 guns, and exceed 100 nm (185 km) from EM Railgun.

The first step toward mobilization of the new weapon was the delivery of the ‘Pulse Power Containers’ (PPC) – huge banks of capacitors or rechargeable batteries packed inside standard ISO containers. Each container packs enough energy to discharge 18 kilowatts for each shot. To enable the railgun to fire ten such shots per minute the PPC must recharge from the host ship in seconds and be able to store and discharge the energy in very short time while managing the thermal load generated by the process.

GE-AMS has already delivered a prototype of PPC for its weapon. Raytheon announced today the shipping of the first PPC units to the Navy. L-3 Applied Technologies is also expected to complete working on another version of PPC within a year.

Raytheon has completed the first examples of containerized pulse power packs designed to support field tests of the electromagnetic rail gun. Photo: Raytheon.

Navy officials are recommending to install the new rail gun on the third Zumwalt-class destroyer Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) where it will be used operationally.

Each of the three Zumwalt-class destroyers has two Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) mounting the BAE Systems 155/62 gun. The first two of the class, DDG 1000 and DDG 1001 will use the standard AGS but the last ship in this class, DDG 1002 could have the AGS in the first battery and the railgun in the second (rear). Both guns will be able to fire the hypervelocity projectiles designed for the rail gun, but the AGS will also be able to fire the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) – a guided munition developed by Lockheed Martin, as well as standard 155mm projectiles.

Pulsed power capacitors in shipping containers will allow modular scaling of railguns for 3 megajoules to 64 megajoules

The PPC power source could become a critical factor in a land-based deployment of the railgun, as it enables fixed system to expand both railgun energy level and shot sequence, allowing for larger systems resulting in greater effective range. In such land-based installations, it would be used in fixed installation that will provide affordable, high capacity defense against massive threat raids of ballistic and cruise missiles. As such it will be used to reinforce tiered missile defense, providing terminal defense of key fixed assets.

The footprint of a land-based fixed railgun system has greater expandability than a shipboard or mobile application, allowing for larger systems resulting in greater effective range. A land-based fixed railgun system, integrated with other national assets, provides added capability in a layered defense architecture. Illustration: General Atomics.

10 megajoule mobile land based railgun design

Wafer scale carbon nanotube films

A simple filtration process helped Rice University researchers create flexible, wafer-scale films of highly aligned and closely packed carbon nanotubes.

Scientists at Rice, with support from Los Alamos National Laboratory, have made inch-wide films of densely packed, chirality-enriched single-walled carbon nanotubes

In the right solution of nanotubes and under the right conditions, the tubes assemble themselves by the millions into long rows that are aligned better than once thought possible, the researchers reported.

The thin films offer possibilities for making flexible electronic and photonic (light-manipulating) devices, said Rice physicist Junichiro Kono, whose lab led the study. Think of a bendable computer chip, rather than a brittle silicon one, and the potential becomes clear, he said.

“Once we have centimeter-sized crystals consisting of single-chirality nanotubes, that’s it,” Kono said. “That’s the holy grail for this field. For the last 20 years, people have been looking for this.”

The Rice lab is closing in, he said, but the films reported in the current paper are “chirality-enriched” rather than single-chirality. A carbon nanotube is a cylinder of graphene, with its atoms arranged in hexagons. How the hexagons are turned sets the tube’s chirality, and that determines its electronic properties. Some are semiconducting like silicon, and others are metallic conductors.

A film of perfectly aligned, single-chirality nanotubes would have specific electronic properties. Controlling the chirality would allow for tunable films, Kono said, but nanotubes grow in batches of random types.

For now, the Rice researchers use a simple process developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to separate nanotubes by chirality. While not perfect, it was good enough to let the researchers make enriched films with nanotubes of different types and diameters and then make terahertz polarizers and electronic transistors.

Fabrication and characterization of wafer-scale monodomain films of aligned CNT

Nature Nanotechnology - Wafer-scale monodomain films of spontaneously aligned single-walled carbon nanotubes

Australia and DARPA making separate advances in vastly lower cost night vision technology

A breakthrough by an Australian collaboration of researchers could make infra-red technology easy-to-use and cheap, potentially saving millions of dollars in defence and other areas using sensing devices, and boosting applications of technology to a host of new areas, such as agriculture.

Infra-red devices are used for improved vision through fog and for night vision and for observations not possible with visible light; high-quality detectors cost approximately $100,000 (including the device at the University of Sydney) some require cooling to -200°C.

Now, research spearheaded by researchers at the University of Sydney has demonstrated a dramatic increase in the absorption efficiency of light in a layer of semiconductor that is only a few hundred atoms thick - to almost 99 percent light absorption from the current inefficient 7.7 percent.

When light falls on a very thin, uniform layer almost all of it is reflected (right-hand arrows). By etching thin grooves in the film, the light is directed sideways and almost all of it is absorbed (left-hand arrows) even though the amount of material is very small. Insets show electron micrographs of the structuring. The absorbing layer is only 0.041 μm thick. CREDIT Dr Thomas P. White, Australian National University.

Optica Journal - Total absorption of visible light in ultrathin weakly absorbing semiconductor gratings

DARPA has a few programs to revolutionizing the cost of night vision

Defense Department scientists are working on a new, digital night vision and thermal device that’s smaller and lighter than the Army’s latest Enhanced Night Vision Goggle.

The analog night vision goggles (NVG) used by our troops to identify adversaries are limited to a single band of light. As NVGs also become available to adversaries as a commercial off-the-shelf product, the advantage in low- and no-light operation conditions is diminished. Current multi-band cameras, which may be used in a variety of environmental conditions, are too large and expensive for individual warfighters to carry.

DARPA’s PIXNET program aims to develop a low size, weight and power (SWaP); inexpensive; Soldier-portable digital infrared (IR) camera that will render real-time single and multiple-band imagery in both the thermal and reflective bands. The camera sought by DARPA would provide single band and multiple band fused imagery on demand, and afford troops with an enhanced situational understanding. A camera with these features would eliminate limitations posed by current assets to identify targets in multiple conditions: low-light, no-light, cluttered environment, etc.

PIXNET seeks significant reductions in SWaP, as well as low-cost manufacturing of IR sensors and coolers that may enable portability and wide deployment to all warfighters. The emphasis on a small form-factor naturally enables new applications, such as surveillance with small UAVs, rifle sights with multiple bands, and handheld surveillance systems.

PIXNET is a helmet-mounted camera that digitizes infrared capabilities. That saves a ton of weight; while an Enhanced Night Vision Goggle weighs around two pounds, the PIXNET camera weighs a fraction of a pound. It also would offer more settings, and be set up with a transmitter that could someday connect its signal to any of a series of devices, from a goggle to Family of Weapon Sights to a broader information technology platform like Nett Warrior.

The Low Cost Thermal Imager - Manufacturing (LCTI-M) program seeks to enable widespread use of infrared imaging technology by individual warfighters and insertion in small systems. The general use of infrared technology, at the individual warfighter level, may open possibilities for the implementation of new tactical procedures where a common view of the battlefield is essential for success. Infrared imaging has the capability to image through obscurants, providing valuable information even in environments with severely degraded visibility. Low cost infrared cameras will empower each warfighter with this essential capability. In addition, these cameras will enable the capture and transmission of electronic images for intelligence analysis and other critical situations.

The PIXNET camera is designed to provide small combat units with a helmet-mounted shortwave and longwave infrared blended imager with wireless networking capability. Photo: Matthew Cox,

Full scale Straddle bus is being built and will undergo testing in July and August

A Beijing-based company Transit Explore Bus is currently building a life-size model of the Straddle bus in Changzhou and they plan to test it in July or August.

Different versions will carry up to 1,200 passengers, with the larger versions being articulated to facilitate going around curves.

The bus will run along a fixed route, and its passenger compartment spans the width of two traffic lanes. Its undercarriage rides along the edges of the two lanes it straddles and the overall height is 4 to 4.5 m (13.1 to 14.8 ft). Vehicles lower than 2 m (6.6 ft) high will be able to pass underneath the bus, reducing the number of traffic jams caused by ordinary buses loading and unloading at bus stops.

Passengers on board the bus are expected to experience a ride comparable to riding in the upper level of a double decker bus. They will board and alight at stations at the side of the road with platforms at the bus floor height similar to stations of an elevated railway, or via stairs descending through the roof of the bus from a station similar to a pedestrian overpass. The bus will be electrically powered using overhead lines or other roof electrical contact systems designed for it, supplemented with photovoltaic panels, batteries or supercapacitors on board. It will travel at up to 60 km/h (37 mph)

The 3D Express Coach (straddling bus, straddle bus, or tunnel bus) was a proposed new bus designed by Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Company back in 2010. It was recognized by Time magazine as the innovation of the year in 2010.

A proposed trial project was to cost about 500 million yuan (~US$74.5 million) to build the bus with a 40 km (25 mi) guideway. This is claimed to be at 10% of the cost of building an equivalent subway, and is estimated to reduce traffic congestion by 20–30%. The Chairman of the company has said that it would only take a year for one to be built. 115 mi (185 km) of track was set for construction in the Mentougou District of Beijing for late 2010. The cities of Shijiazhuang, in Hebei Province, and Wuhu, in Anhui Province, were applying for financing.

There was a video in 2013 with refinements to the engineering. The video is by China TBS limited (which is a large shipping company).

The bus will have alarms to warn cars traveling too close to it, and signals to warn other vehicles when it is about to turn. It would have inflatable evacuation slides similar to those of an aircraft. Optional features could include sensors to keep it from colliding with a person or object (such as an overheight vehicle in front), warning lights and safety curtains at the rear to keep drivers of overheight vehicles from going underneath, repeater traffic signals underneath to relay the indications of traffic signals up ahead, and animated light displays to simulate stationary objects to prevent disorientation of drivers underneath.

Youzhou Song, the bus’s designer, estimates that it could replace up to 40 conventional buses, potentially saving 860 tons of fuel and avoiding 2,640 tons of carbon emissions that those 40 buses would produce in a yea

May 23, 2016

ORNL laser method could dramatically reduce cost of carbon fiber polymer composites for lightweight and more energy efficient cars

Joining carbon fiber composites and aluminum for lightweight cars and other multi-material high-end products could become less expensive and the joints more robust because of a new method that harnesses a laser’s power and precision.

The process, developed by a team led by Adrian Sabau of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, would replace the practice of preparing the surface of the materials by hand using abrasive pads, grit blasting and environmentally harmful solvents. Using a laser to remove layers of material from surfaces prior to bonding improves the performance of the joints and provides a path toward automation for high-volume use.

“Our technique is vastly superior to the conventional surface preparation methods,” Sabau said. “Combined with the potentially dramatic reduction in the cost of carbon fiber polymer composites, this represents an important step toward increasing the use of this lightweight high-strength material in automobiles, which could reduce the weight of cars and trucks by 750 pounds.”

Adrian Sabau and Jian Chen work with a laser to prepare the surface of carbon fiber composites and aluminum to create superior bonds that can absorb 200 percent more energy than conventional bonds

ARPA-E seeks Enabling Technologies for Ultra-Safe and Secure Modular Nuclear Energy Systems

ARPA-E is looking to fund projects that will enable accelerated development and regulatory acceptance of modular1 nuclear energy options involving either Gen III+ or Gen IV design features.

If made technically and economically viable, modular nuclear reactor technologies can augment large-scale reactors in providing clean, safe, secure, carbon-free electricity as well as heat energy for various non-electrical applications (e.g., industrial processes, mining activities, hydrogen production, and seawater desalination). ARPA-E is particularly interested in innovations that enable reactor designs to be:

1) inherently safe (beyond passive safety) with multiple safety mechanisms to prevent core melting in case of a loss of coolant accident (LOCA);
2) extremely secure without exposure of radioactive nuclides in case of LOCA or an enclosure breach with a zero or near zero emergency planning zone (EPZ);
3) quickly responsive to external load variations with control mechanisms that can also add safety beyond passive cool down;
4) long-lasting with operational durations of 10 to 20 years without refueling;
5) substantially autonomous in operations with minimal operator intervention; and
6) proliferation resistant.

Consistent with the agency’s mission, ARPA-E is seeking information on disruptive, novel technologies, relatively early in the R and D cycle, and not integration strategies for existing technologies

Paramount and CBS will drop the lawsuit against high quality fan film Star Trek Axanar thanks to J.J. Abrams and Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin

Just before 2016 began, the producers of a crowdfunded Star Trek fan film called Axanar received some bad news in the form of a lawsuit from Paramount Pictures.

Thanks to new franchise producer J.J. Abrams and Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin, and the Star Trak Axanar lawsuit will be dropped very soon.

Abrams noted that Star Trek Beyond’s director, Justin Lin, was outraged at the legal situation that had arisen:

“A few months back there was a fan film, Axonar, that was getting made and there was this lawsuit that happened between the studio and these fans and Justin, I’ll tell the story because he probably wouldn’t, was sort of outraged by this as a long time fan. We started talking about it and realized this was not an appropriate way to deal with the fans.

The fans should be celebrating this thing. Fans of Star Trek are part of this world. So he went to the studio and pushed them to stop this lawsuit and now, within the next few weeks, it will be announced this is going away, and that fans would be able to continue working on their project”

Axanar is a feature film, but will be broken down into four episodes following the four acts of the script. With an overall budget of approximately $960,000, that means each episode will cost approximately $240,000. Add to that a portion of the ongoing studio costs, and the cost of Indiegogo, payment processing, and perks (see below), and we are setting a goal of $330,000 per episode, or $1,320,000.

We can make Axanar one act at a time, if needed (although we'd prefer to make it all at once!). So, we are setting our first goal at $330,000. There will be stretch goals at $660,000, $990,000 and $1,320,000, with each stretch goal meaning another episode will get made. If we raise the entire $1,320,000, then we will have what we need to make all of Axanar.

Ananar productions is talking with top Intellectual Property law firms in the US today discussing taking on Axanar Productions on a pro-bono basis. I can say they were quite interested in representing us as they knew about the law suit and had already decided that this was going to be a very high profile case that could shape intellectual property law for the entertainment industry.

Large-scale technique to produce quantum dots at ten times lower cost

A method to produce significant amounts of semiconducting nanoparticles for light-emitting displays, sensors, solar panels and biomedical applications has gained momentum with a demonstration by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

While zinc sulfide nanoparticles – a type of quantum dot that is a semiconductor – have many potential applications, high cost and limited availability have been obstacles to their widespread use. That could change, however, because of a scalable ORNL technique.

Unlike conventional inorganic approaches that use expensive precursors, toxic chemicals, high temperatures and high pressures, a team led by ORNL’s Ji-Won Moon used bacteria fed by inexpensive sugar at a temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit in 25- and 250-gallon reactors. Ultimately, the team produced about three-fourths of a pound of zinc sulfide nanoparticles – without process optimization, leaving room for even higher yields.

The ORNL biomanufacturing technique is based on a platform technology that can also produce nanometer-size semiconducting materials as well as magnetic, photovoltaic, catalytic and phosphor materials. Unlike most biological synthesis technologies that occur inside the cell, ORNL’s biomanufactured quantum dot synthesis occurs outside of the cells. As a result, the nanomaterials are produced as loose particles that are easy to separate through simple washing and centrifuging.

The results are encouraging, according to Moon, who also noted that the ORNL approach reduces production costs by approximately 90 percent compared to other methods.

Using this 250-gallon reactor, ORNL researchers produced three-fourths of a pound of zinc sulfide quantum dots, shown in the inset

Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology - Manufacturing demonstration of microbially mediated zinc sulfide nanoparticles in pilot-plant scale reactors

Transparent and flexible high-performance supercapacitors based on single-walled carbon nanotube films

supercapacitors can store several times more charge in a given volume or mass than traditional capacitors, have faster charge and discharge rates, and are very stable. Over the past few years, researchers have begun working on making supercapacitors that are transparent and flexible due to their potential use in a wide variety of applications.

"Potential applications can be roughly divided into two categories: high-aesthetic-value products, such as activity bands and smart clothes, and inherently transparent end-uses, such as displays and windows," coauthor Tanja Kallio, an associate professor at Aalto University who is currently a visiting professor at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology. "The latter include, for example, such future applications as smart windows for automobiles and aerospace vehicles, self-powered rolled-up displays, self-powered wearable optoelectronics, and electronic skin.

The type of supercapacitor developed here, called an electrochemical double-layer capacitor, is based on high-surface-area carbon. One prime candidate for this material is single-walled carbon nanotubes due to their combination of many appealing properties, including a large surface area, high strength, high elasticity, and the ability to withstand extremely high currents, which is essential for fast charging and discharging.

Transparent and flexible energy storage devices have garnered great interest due to their suitability for display, sensor and photovoltaic applications. In this paper, researchers report the application of aerosol synthesized and dry deposited single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) thin films as electrodes for an electrochemical double-layer capacitor (EDLC). SWCNT films exhibit extremely large specific capacitance (178 F g−1 or 552 μF cm−2), high optical transparency (92%) and stability for 10 000 charge/discharge cycles. A transparent and flexible EDLC prototype is constructed with a polyethylene casing and a gel electrolyte.

The researchers are currently working on a new type of stretchable and transparent single-walled carbon nanotube supercapacitor. They are confident that one can create prototypes based on carbon nanotubes that might withstand 100% elongation with no performance degradation

Discovery of new catalyst materials for lithium-air batteries could enable batteries with five times the energy density of lithium ion batteries

A UT Dallas researcher has made a discovery that could open the door to cellphone and car batteries that last five times longer than current ones.

Dr. Kyeongjae Cho, professor of materials science and engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, has discovered new catalyst materials for lithium-air batteries that jumpstart efforts at expanding battery capacity.

“There’s huge promise in lithium-air batteries. However, despite the aggressive research being done by groups all over the world, those promises are not being delivered in real life,” Cho said. “So this is very exciting progress. (UT Dallas graduate student) Yongping Zheng and our collaboration team have demonstrated that this problem can be solved. Hopefully, this discovery will revitalize research in this area and create momentum for further development.”

The lithium-air battery, Li-air for short, is a metal-air battery chemistry that uses oxidation of lithium at the anode and reduction of oxygen at the cathode to induce a current flow. The theoretical specific energy of a non-aqueous Li-air battery (in the charged state with Li2O2 product and excluding the oxygen mass) is ~12 kWh per kg. This is comparable with the theoretical specific energy of gasoline (~13 kWh per kg). In practice, the Li-air batteries with a specific energy of ~1.7 kWh per kg at the cell level have been developed, which is about 5 times greater than that of commercial lithium-ion batteries, and which is sufficient to run a Fully Electric Vehicle (FEV) for 500 km (311 miles) on a single charge

Research by Cho and Yongping Zheng (pictured) focuses on the electrolyte catalysts inside the battery, which, when combined with oxygen, create chemical reactions that create battery capacity

Nature Energy - Rational design of redox mediators for advanced Li–O2 batteries

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