May 25, 2007

Uranium from coal flyash waste

A company Wildhorse is going to study extracting Uranium from coal flyash. From the 50 million tons/year of flyash that is generated in Europe, there is 100 to 300 ppm uranium. This would be 5,000 to 15000 tons of Uranium that could be recovered.

The US generates over 100 million tons of flyash each year

China military will naturally be big, modern and global

A bunch of articles in the regular press are like this one from the International Herald Tribune. They talk about US defence concerns about China's military spending and modernization

I have already laid out a reasonable, plausible and I think likely scenario where China becomes the number one world economy on an exchange rate basis by 2020.

China economic trajectory naturally lets it accumulate friendships with country and hanger on countries.

All kinds of countries and companies are tying themselves to China's rising economic star. (ASEAN etc...) China also seeks out places (Iran, Nigeria) for resources (oil)

A 25% increase in currency valuation looks like a super slam dunk over the next 3 years. The potential of the trade surplus going to 400 billion will force China to revalue the Yuan more quickly to offset the speculative pressure and prevent harm to their own economy.

If my predictions on China's economic size are right then China and the US would become : like Japan-US (China being a distant number 2, initially a co-number 2 with Japan) from 2008-2013; then more like EU - US (roughly the same size) from 2015-2024; then if it continues where the US is half the size of China it becomes like Japan-US with the roles reversed and the US as the junior partner.

The pre-emptive strategy and force projection talk looks like it is coming from US defence and intelligence interests and think tanks. I see it all as posturing and ensuring that their own [US] budgets are larger.

If China expands to 70-100% of the size of the US in straight currency in 2015-2020.
then Military spending proportionally increases and modernization (buy new military toys) also happens.

Current defence budget is estimated at $45-100 billion for China.
25% currency bump (3 years) pushes those numbers to $60-125 billion.
Plus a three year economic growth of about 30%.
Same proportion would put spending at $78-165 billion.

The EU had an extra 65% runup in military spending when compared in US$ over the last seven years. It is what happens when your currency turns to crap.

I am projecting China in 2015 to have a 11.1 trillion economy including Hong Kong.
A proportional military spend would have China at about $200-300 billion.

The US will be about 17 trillion.
Military spending could be at $500-700 billion for the USA.

In 2020, China would be at 21 trillion and the US at 20 trillion.
Military spending would be about $400-500 billion for China and the US at $600-900 billion. China's technology is also catching up to the US. China will have three petaflop class supercomputers and a supercomputer grid in 2010 This will be comparable to what the US will have at that time.

From 2015 through 2020, then China would naturally have a pretty spiffy military and have force projection capabilities of global reach. However, why would either side start a war ? The US and China would be each others biggest trading partner. China would hold trillions in US assets. Owning 10-20% of so of the US would not be inconceivable. Why fight to take it over if the other guy is selling it to you at bargain prices ? There will be tense moments when the two are in competition for scarce resources like two neighbors in a mall at Christmas time jostling over a toy.

Taiwan, as indicated (in the previous article) looks headed to becoming a common market partner with China in 2008-2012. (Check and see if KMT Ma wins next year).

India would also be projected to catch up in 2030-2040 timeframe.
Post 2015-2025 could be different because of the changes in technology that I am projecting from technologies like molecular nanotechnology.

The US can defer this scenario by getting its financial house in order. The US can stop falling back by strengthening its currency. The US can no longer be sloppy and expect to stay on top or eventually near the top. (Although population wise the US could head to 500-600 million with loose immigration basically absorbing 20-40% of Mexico and a higher birthrate. 33-45% of China's population)

Losing economic strength will translate over a decade or so into lost military dominance. The USSR showed that a place can overachieve military status relative to economic strength for 4 decades or so against a 3 to 1 economic size disadvantage. But doing that just screws you up long term. Again there would be no point if neither side would gain anything in a fight. Plus the translation time for economic status to military status could be shorter with a transitioning technology scenario (see all of the molecular nanotechnology and other technology tracked and projected on this site).

A China economy that is nearly equal or greater than the USA will mean that China will have a military that is nearly as big or bigger than the USA. It will be modern because they will have bought or built everything new. It will have global reach because why would a country about the same size as the USA not have global reach. For that matter, even interplanetary reach with China's space program

The US needs to have more competent leadership, spending discipline, financial discipline if it wants to stay at number one or near number one. 2015-2025 real competition for world number one. Fortunately a likely economic and technology only competition.

Ultra Short Pulse Lasers

Business Week has an interesting article about the applications and potential of ultra-short pulse lasers (USP)

USP lasers switch on and off at impossibly high rates--as quickly as once every femtosecond, or a billionth of a millionth of a second. Those concentrated blasts can obliterate any material by literally knocking electrons out of an atom's neighborhood. That means the lasers can do their job a few atoms at a time if need be, without heating up surrounding material. Since the zapped material is ablated into oblivion, there's nothing to heat up or melt.

Raydiance is one of a half-dozen companies, including IMRA America and Fianium, that have brought USP products down to the size of window air conditioners. Raydiance has developed software to make it easier for all kinds of companies to apply the technology to their businesses, even if their tech team isn't populated with optical engineering PhDs. "It's the difference between operating a mainframe and a Macintosh," says Goldblatt, who has since left the Pentagon and joined Raydiance's board.

Raydiance, a startup, has cranked its lasers up to 200 watts, more than 40 times the power of current USP models. If it pulls off its plan to hit 1000 watts or more, a Raydiance box on a piloted plane or drone cruising at 10,000 feet could scan the sides of a road to detect concealed bombs, says Les Lyles, a retired four-star general who once oversaw the Air Force's Star Wars missile defense efforts. Because its rays are invisible and generate no heat, such a laser could be programmed to identify the bits of sub-atomic detritus it ablates from a target to determine its composition, "and no one would know," says Lyle, who is an investor in Raydiance. Ultimately, it's possible the lasers could be dialed up to higher power levels to serve as "photon missiles," to fry the electronic trigger in the roadside bomb, he adds.

The first machine Raydiance built was shipped to the Food & Drug Administration, whose researchers are trying to further improve LASIK eye surgery. Heat generated from the use of conventional lasers sometimes causes harmful deformations in a patient's cornea--a less likely side-effect with USP lasers. Raydiance is also working with Silicon Valley startup EpiRay, which hopes to use USP lasers to remove unwanted tattoos. After all, there are some 10 million Gen Y-ers who might someday be candidates.

The FDA and others are exploring various cancer therapies, and Southwestern Medical Center at the University of Texas is studying whether Raydiance's technology could be used to treat burn victims, says professor of surgery Ahamed Idris. The idea is to ablate the scorched tissue to inhibit toxic cell secretions that amplify a burn victim's pain and that can trigger organ failure, Idris' team believes. He has applied for grants with the U.S. Army to find ways to treat soldiers at MASH units quickly and painlessly before sending them to hospitals. "We're often reluctant to give general anesthesia" to badly burned people, he says. With this approach "we might be able to get away with intravenous pain medicine."

Clinton proposes preventive medicine focused plan

China looking at a population growth rebound

Rate of Urbanization has been underestimated in China

In 2004, it was estimated that China would be 58 to 60 percent urban 2020, and the urban population would hit 800 to 900 million. The urbanization rate was 37.7 percent in 2002. More recent figures suggest urbanization is at 42% in 2004, so urbanization is happening faster. A more recent university study indicates that China will be 50% urban in 2007. At a total population of 1.33 billion that means 665 million urban dwellers. 36-40 million people have been moving to the cities every year since 2002.

By 2015, at the rate of 35 million people per year moving to the cities, China would have 900 to 950 million in the cities and towns and 65-68% urbanization.

I believe the faster than expected rate of urbanization is also driving the growth of China's economy at faster than expected rate.

The small towns will accommodate 200 to 300 million, and the other 600 million will go to cities. To accommodate the 600 million people, 200 big cities, each holding over 300 million, or 300 cities each supporting 200 million are needed," predicts Lian Yuming, Director of the Beijing International Institute for City Development at the Beijing Summit of China City Forum.

The law of city development in the world indicates that urbanization process will start to accelerate in a country when its per capita GDP exceeds US$ 1,000; as the per capita GDP exceeds US $ 3,000, the development will rise rapidly.

More recent statistics show that small town populations increased 27.5% from 2000 to 2005

China is expecting 24 million new job seekers in cities and towns this year However, only 60% of the population is employed. So the young people moving to the cities and towns could find a job and then a fraction of them could move non-employed family over. Again consistent with about 30-35 million people moving to the cities and towns each year.

Here is a discussion on how to invest to benefit from China's development and urbanization

China's urban workers had a 17.8% wage gain over 2006

April 2007 statistics for China

A discussion of world urbanization is here at open the future

May 24, 2007

Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries could make better Hybrids

Lithium Technology Corporation (OTC: LTHU.PK) claims that they have created the largest lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery cells.

The 7 kWh battery comprised of 63 of LTC’s iron phosphate cells has achieved 125+ MPG. LTC’s large format technology allows for more reliable battery systems with a significantly lower number of cells. The battery management system (BMS) is more precise monitoring fewer cells, keeping them in balance for best performance and preventing damage to the battery due to over voltage, under voltage, over temperature and short circuit

Batteries made of LTC's cells can provide 3000 charging cycles, which would be able to do 150,000 miles to 80% capacity for a 100 km or 60 mile all electric range plug in hybrid, which no other technology can claim," said Dr. Andrew Frank, Professor, Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at the University of California, Davis . "The new cells from LTC provide improved safety with the iron phosphate chemistry while delivering the impeccable performance they are known for, which is what the auto makers have been in search of; this is a Company that is seriously committed to making hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles an affordable reality for the consumer."

China's economy could pass USA in 2020 on exchange basis

Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch say the yuan will gain 9.6 per cent to about 7 per US dollar within 13 months. China's economy in 2008 would then be US$3.7 trillion. This does not include Hong Kong and Macau which would increase the size of the economy to $3.9 trillion.

Various economists say that the Yuan is undervalued by 40%

The big mac index (Purchasing power parity) indicates that the Yuan should be 3.42. The World Bank had calculated 1.8.

A steady 7.5% strengthening of the Yuan versus the dollar seems likely as China would gradually shift its currency to allow time for its companies to adjust Heading to 3 Yuan (RMB) exchange to the US dollar also seems reasonable for 2020.

In trillions of dollars:

YearGDP(yuan)Yuan per USDChina GDPUS GDP

Following that trajectory for another decade would have the Chinese economy at about twice the size of the US economy in 2030. In the projection above China's growth slows to 6% per year and US growth is steady at 3% throughout. China's economic size passes Japan's economy in 2010 or 2011.

This is also a recognition of the weakness of the US dollar which has fallen 65% against the Euro over the last seven years.

China has indicated that they will stop accumulating US dollars

This means that the Yuan will grow as a reserve currency, because China with the largest reserves will be investing a significant chunk of reserves in Yuan assets.

Others such as the Center for Economic and Policy Research have noted the imminent passing of China's economy over the USA on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis The PPP parity passing of China past the USA is in 2010.

The passing of the US economy on both those basis and the squandering of political capital and financial strength by the US is accelerating the shift to a truly multipolar world.

China's Anti-satellite capabilities and credible nuclear deterrent means that military conflict between the major powers is off the table.

I believe that the Taiwan situation will be resolved peacefully.

Former KMT Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou has stated that Taiwan should form a common market with China and establish direct transportation links. A 5/10/2007 poll released by the United Daily News shows Ma's lead over Hsieh (DPP) at 43% to 28%. I believe that Ma will win and establish that common market by 2012. Taiwan is a $355 billion economy (2006).

The DPP candidate (current ruling party) is Frank Hsieh As premier, Hsieh sought engagement with China and a gradual opening of economic links. So even if Hsieh wins, Taiwan and China seem on a path to EU style union.

An interesting scenario is if China and Taiwan go beyond that to a NATO style military cooperation. China would get access to 160 F16s and Patriot missiles among other assets. In the longer term this is not really relevant because China's larger economy and advancing technology means that they will be perfectly capable of developing technologically competitive systems on their own.

A 2003 report by Goldman Sachs has been used as the basis of many future scenarios. They projected China overtaking the US economy in 2040. They projected a lower growth rate for China for 2005-2010 of 7.2%. China grew 10.2% in 2005, 10.7% in 2006 and is on track for 10.9% in 2007. Projections vary for 2008 but 9-11% seems likely. The 17% underassessment of China's economy before the 2004 census was not available. Goldman projected 268% currency appreciation over 47 years. The Goldman projections looks like it will be underestimating China's GDP by 50% in 2010.

The Economist Intelligence Unit predicted China surpassing the US on an exchange rate basis in 2026 Changing the currency appreciation to 7.5% instead of 5% accelerates the date of overtaking from 2026 to 2020. They must also predict a slower growth rate of about 6-7% per year.

Higher growth rates combined with currency appreciation would mean a pass as early as 2019. The growth rate would have to be 9.5% (combined with 7.5% currency appreciation) to move it to 2018.

The 2.9 RMB to 1 USD combined with relatively strong growth would have the Chinese economy passing the US (assuming about 3% growth for the US in the 2018-2025 timeframe.)

If the growth rate is between 7.5-9.5% and the currency appreciation between 5.5%-7.5% per year and the US grows at 3% per year then China passes the USA beteen 2019 and 2022.

A 2005 internet discussion on possibilities and timeframes for China overtaking the US economy

Optical Microscope with 1-2 nanometer resolution

RESOLFT (reversible saturable optical fluorescent transitions) technology is breaking the century-old diffraction resolution barrier in conventional microscopy and allows for resolution of the size order of a dye molecule, i.e. a sharpness of one or two nanometers.

RESOLFT (reversible saturable optical fluorescent transitions) technology, a method providing molecular scale resolution with visible light and regular lenses for use in microscopy. While a number of technologies such as electron microscopy exist to visualize virus particles, subcellular structures and macromolecules, RESOLFT fluorescence microscopy for the first time enables researchers to observe these structures inside of living cells without destroying them.

a team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen led by Prof Dr Stefan Hell invented a method to overcome this barrier. The trick is done by using fluorescence marker molecules and two different light sources.

Fluorescence markers can be excited by light to send out fluorescent light, but light also can be used to extinguish ("quench") the fluorescence. In RESOLFT (reversible saturable optical fluorescent transitions) microscopy this principle is applied by illuminating a spot and subsequently quenching the fluorescence sent out by this spot in a way that the fluorescing area is reduced. This can be accomplished by over-saturating the quenching intensity.

As an example, the principle is applied in STED (Stimulated Emission Depletion) microscopy: A spot exciting fluorescence markers in a probe is superimposed by a doughnut-shaped quenching beam. As a result, the fluorescence is quenched everywhere in the focal spot except in the doughnut hole. By increasing the intensity of the doughnut-shaped beam, the fluorescent spot can be progressively narrowed down, in theory, even to the size of a molecule. For imaging, a probe is scanned by the ultra-sharp spot and the fluorescence intensities are then assembled by software.

Physorg discussed this work in 2005

Xirrus shows Wifi with speeds up to 4.8 Gbps

Xirrus, maker of high capacity long range Wi-Fi access points, is showing a new, faster array that uses 802.11n to provide gigabit throughput.

The new access point modules for 11n require an upgrade to Xirrus' ArrayOS platform software. When upgraded, each radio in the array will be able to handle speeds up to 300M bps. Each array can handle up to 16 radios.

The array includes a switching fabric designed to handle the 11n speeds with the software upgrade. The fabric will handle up to 2G bps, and the array includes two Gigabit Ethernet ports for access to the wired network.

Xirrus also announced two related developments. One is a power over Gigabit Ethernet solution that makes installation of the Xirrus arrays easier because it eliminates a separate power run to the device.

Carbon nanotube body armor

The New Scientist reports that Nanocomp, a start-up based in New Hampshire, has made carbon nanotube into light weight body armor.

Nanocomp graphic of target applications



"The trick is that our nanotubes are much longer than usual - millimetres in length rather than micrometres," says Peter Antoinette, who heads the company.

Antoinette says that using longer nanotubes allows them to bind together more effectively. Although Nanocomp has not revealed precise details of its manufacturing process, it has disclosed that the tubes are made through chemical vapour deposition, which involves condensing carbon out of a gas.

The resulting nanotubes form a kind of unwoven matting, which is treated chemically so that the tubes are aligned, giving the material has extra strength in the direction of alignment.

The company's prototype production method can make sheets roughly 1 metre by 3 metres, but it hopes to be able to make bigger sheets within a year or so. The company can also make nanotube thread by spinning nanotubes during chemical vapour deposition, instead of simply letting them settle.

David Lashmore, the company's co-founder and chief technical officer, says the textile is seven times stronger than steel of the same weight.

The US Army's Natick Soldier Center in Massachusetts, US, which part-funds Nanocomp, hopes to use the textile to reduce the weight of bulletproof armour and make it better at resisting heat. Antoinette also suggests that aerospace companies might reduce the weight of aircraft by replacing conventional wiring with nanotube threads.

This is still fourteen times weaker than the 100 times stronger than steel potential of carbon nanotubes.

Superthread fibers may be far closer to full strength carbon nanotubes Others are also working on carbon nanotube textiles such as Rice University.

Ray Baughman, director of the Nanotech Institute at the University of Texas at Dallas, has been a leader in nanoyarn


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May 23, 2007

Beyond the Three Gorges Dam more Hydro projects in China

According to official chinese government figures, total national hydro generating capacity will reach 270GW by 2020 China’s total hydroelectric generating capacity stood at 115GW in 2006, before the first phase of the Three Gorges hydro power plant was completed. The 155GW of hydro power to be added between 2006-2020 is the equivalent of adding 1.2 Three Gorges dam every two years. Once the entire project is completed, probably in 2008, it will have generating capacity of 18.2GW, far higher than any other hydro venture. The 26 power generating units, which each have generating capacity of 700MW, are designed to produce a total of 84.7BkWh/year. Electricity produced by the Three Gorges hydro power plant goes on stream at a price of 0.25 yuan per kWh.

China rivers

The Yellow River Hydroelectric Development Corporation’s scheme on the Yellow river will become the world’s second biggest hydro scheme with capacity of 15.8GW. Centred on a 250m high dam in Qinghai Province, which will be finished in 2010, the venture will generate 10BkWh of electricity a year.

Construction work on the 12.6GW Xiluodu project on the Jianshajiang river began in December 2005. The scheme has been developed to increase electricity supplies to Yunnan and Sichuan provinces in the west of the country, although new transmission links are planned that will enable surplus electricity to be marketed in the more industrialised east. Development costs are put at 50.34B yuan (US$6.2B), with the first turbine due to be installed by June 2012 and the entire project completed by 2015.

The Jianshajiang, which is a tributary of the Yangtze and which is also known as the Jinsha, will also host another major hydro project. The 6GW Xiangjiaba venture in the southwest of the country was originally proposed in 1957 and work was scheduled to begin at the end of 2005 but construction did not commence until November 2006. Investment costs are estimated at US$3.68B and around 89,000 people will have to move, as villages and farmland will be lost to make way for the project’s reservoir. Xiangjiaba, which is also being developed by CTGPC, is scheduled for completion in 2015 and production is expected to reach 31BkWh a year.

Wei Xikan, the deputy director of CTGPC’s planning and development department, has revealed that apart from the Xiangjiaba and Xiluodu projects, twelve other hydro schemes are planned for the middle and upper reaches of the Jianshajiang before 2020, including the Wudongde and Baihetan projects. Total additional generating capacity from the twelve is estimated at 58GW. Indeed, Chinese media sources insist that 100 new hydro schemes will be built on the upper reaches of the Yangtze and its tributaries in the long term. If these various ventures are actually put in place, they will make the river one of the most heavily developed in the world

The Renewable Energy Law, which came into force in January 2006, sets a target of producing 10% of all electricity by renewable means by 2020, but even if that is achieved the hydro sector will continue to account for far more low emission capacity than all solar, wind and biomass projects combined.

Nuclear is projected to account for 4% of electricity at about 40GW in 2020.

CapGemini projects that China will have 1230GW of electrical power by 2020. Up from about 600GW in 2006

According to Capgemini, China’s electricity market will require an investment of $590 billion to deliver a total installed capacity of 1230 GW by 2020.

While utility sector investment may present some barriers, opportunities for equipment suppliers are plenty. The need for 48 GW of new capacity each year means that China will continue to be a key market.

By 2020 the country aims to have installed 30 GW of wind power, but this, says Capgemini, is unrealistic, requiring an annual growth rate of over 25 per cent.

There is also potential for the development of natural gas fired capacity in China, says Capgemini, which believes that the exploitation and transportation of gas in China will have moved on by 2020, allowing the capacity of gas fired power plants to have risen to 85 GW, or 6.9 per cent of total installed capacity.

To achieve its stated objective of 40 GW of nuclear capacity by 2020, China requires an investment of $49 billion. More than 25 sites are planned for the next 15 years, with each site consisting of 4-6 units, each above 1000 GW.

China would have about 35% power from non-fossil fuel sources in 2020. 270GW Hydro, 40GW nuclear, 123GW from renewables if targets are reached. 42% of power would be from non-coal sources if natural gas usage is increased as projected.

Projected spending in China on power by source until 2020 in billions of USD

The Jinshajiang River is a main sand producer in the Yingtze River. So the dam there is projected to reduce by 34% sand buildup in the Three Gorges area

China also has a goal of increasing river shipping from 10 million tons per year to 50 million on the Yangtze

River shipping cheaper and more efficient (544-1290 ton miles per gallon) than rail (400-500 ton miles) and can be over 10 times cheaper than trucks (60-80 ton miles)

China Economy until 2015 and beyond

China may allow the yuan to appreciate at 7.5% per year which would be faster than the 5.5% rate allowed since September, 2006 The yuan has moved from 8.27 to 7.6 since it was floated in July 2005.

China GDP stood at 20.94 trillion yuan (USD2.7 trillion) at the end of 2006.

Color coded view of the current economy of China's provinces. richer provinces are darker green, poorer are lighter green and transition to yellow.

Projected China's economy with a 7.5% annual strengthening of the yuan. With the current 11% growth rate easing to 8%.

YearGDP(yuan)Yuan per USDGDP trillionUSD

Guangdong, a southern chinese province near Hong Kong, is projected to have a 4 trillion yuan economy in 2011 This would be USD722 billion at the projected exchange rate of 5.5. This is in the range of the current size of the Australian or Mexican economies.

The Energy Information Adminstration (EIA) has to project economic growth in order to project future energy usage. They have scenarios which project China to grow as follows (PPP is in trillions of USD) The World Bank has the PPP equivalent of 1.8 Yuan equal to one USD in 2003. The 7.5% appreciation rate would have the Yuan converge to that PPP rate in 2027-2029. According to the EIA projection China will have a larger economy (PPP) than North America (USA, Canada and Mexico) in 2015. A slight extrapolation of the EIA numbers shows China's economy exceeding the USA + OECD Europe in 2035. China would be larger than India and the USA combined in 2030.

YearLow PPP ChinaLow USHigh PPP ChinaHigh USHigh World

Current GDP per capita of China's provinces. The darker the red the higher the GDP per capita.

China would be moving up to 22,000 to 30,000 per capita PPP by 2030. The US would be at 50,000 to 60,000 per capita PPP. The Japanese yen appreciated from 360 yen to the USD in 1971 up to 83 yen to the USD in 1995. More than a 400% increase and an almost solid appreciation before floating between 90 and 140 yen to the USD.

China will be the largest trading nation and will move up to 25% of the world economy in 2030. The Yuan will be on par with the Euro and the USD as reserve currencies.

I think Taiwan will cut an economically prudent deal within 8 years with China. I think it is in both of their best interests. A slightly tighter coupling than the European Union arrangement makes sense.

Current and recent space launch costs

Here is pdf that reports on the status, activity and prices of the commercial space launch industry

Long March 3A, 3B and 4B rocket launches had $50 million prices for the vehicle.
The Long March 3B can get 11.2 tons to LEO A $2030/lb price to LEO.
The Long March 5 will be able to launch 25 tons into LEO.

Proton M rocket price is listed at $70 million.

A Proton M can launch 3 to 3.2 tonnes (6600 to 7050 lbm) into geostationary orbit or 5.5 tonnes (12,100 lbm) into a geostationary transfer orbit. It can place up to 22 tonnes (48,500 lbm) in low Earth orbit with a 51.6-degree inclination.
The price to LEO is $1443/lb.

Proton rockets seem to cost about 70 million per launch

Proton SL-12 is listed at $72.5 million and can launch about 20 tons to LEO.

Soyuz 2 is listed at $40 million

Ariane 5 ECA is listed at a price of $140 million. It can lift 21,000kg to LEO. This is a price of $3,030/lb to LEO.

Here is a chart of prices from 2001 to get to LEO

Information on the Delta IV rocket

Here is a one page pdf that shows that the Delta IV heavy can be expanded to 100 tons to LEO

Here is a discussion of possible SpaceX plans for heavy lifters

Some other rocket musings from the ambivalent engineer blog

Norway plans Thorium nuclear reactors

UK plans ten new nuclear reactors

The United Kingdom turns around from plan to phase out nuclear power and will build ten new generation reactors for a cost of £1.2 billion ($2.4 bn) each.

Electricity grid connections make Hinkley Point and Sizewell the two sites best suited to accommodate either a 1600-megawatt single reactor, or a 3200-MW twin-reactor station. Seven other coastal sites are also given the green light for single reactors: Bradwell, Dungeness, Hartlepool and Heysham in England, Hunterston and Torness in Scotland, and Wylfa in Wales.

Previous projections in May for 266 reactors does not include any in the UK and counts at least ten fewer plants than India plans to build by 2020 It seems that about 50 new reactors are being planned every 3 months in 2007. It will be interesting to see how the numbers actually work out for projects to be built and completed by 2020 and 2030. I think a doubling of the current 437 reactors by 2020 is possible.

May 22, 2007

Canada nuclear oilsands update

Royal Dutch Shell PLC is looking at nuclear power to support its experimental oil sands ambitions, on which it has already placed a bet of more than half a billion dollars.

Note: This looks like a done deal. Shell is the customer. The local town does not oppose it. The provincial and federal government on board. The 60 billion barrels in this one area is close to the level of Venezuela's oil reserves. Four times bigger than Qatar's 15 billion barrels

Theoildrum has posted my article on Canada's nuclear oilsands

This is further follow up to a study of how many nuclear reactors will be needed by the oilsands

The company, through a secretive Calgary-based subsidiary called Sure Northern Energy Ltd., is working to unlock an estimated 60 billion barrels of raw bitumen - more than 100 kilometres west of the oil sands epicentre around Fort McMurray in northeastern Alberta.

The prize Royal Dutch is chasing is bitumen trapped in hard-rock limestone, rather than the conventional oil sands around Fort McMurray where bitumen is mixed with dirt and sandstone.

Royal Dutch is working on electric heaters below ground to loosen up the gooey bitumen to draw it to the surface through wells.

The firm is trying to commercialize what it calls a "novel thermal recovery process" invented by Shell's technology arm.

Husky Energy Inc., which has publicly expressed an interest in harnessing nuclear power, is the other major player in the area, and has said it wants to partner with Royal Dutch, which is leading the new technology.

Royal Dutch's Sure Northern unit didn't return several calls seeking comment. It is the only company actively working on bitumen in limestone. Other firms in the conventional oil sands, such as Total SA of France, have expressed interest in nuclear power.

One unnamed company is looking to take 70 per cent of the output from Energy Alberta's proposed $6.2-billion twin nuclear reactor that would start producing 2,200 megawatts in 2016. The reactor design exists only on a drawing board and the amount of power is equal to about a fifth of Alberta's electricity supply.

Industry players have wondered about those locations, given their distance from Fort McMurray, but both sites are relatively close to Royal Dutch's limestone ambitions.

Last week, Energy Alberta held a public meeting on the proposed plant in Whitecourt, drawing about 300 people, with less than five dissenters among the crowd, according to Mr. Henuset. A nuclear reactor promises construction jobs for about 2,000 people with as many as 1,000 permanent, high-tech jobs.

India and China's nuclear power

30 Gigawatts by 2020 is considered achievable (supply chain constraints) but 40 gigawatts by 2020 is the target India and Brazil have 80% of the known Thorium reserves and Thorium nuclear fission is India's long term energy strategy.

Funding projects would not be a problem as NPCIL is currently sitting on cash reserve of Rs 10,000-11,000 crore. We are earning four-figure net profit (Rs 1,571 crore for the year ended March 2007) and we are confident we will continue this way till 2020.

If India is able to achieve the 30 GW target that would exceed the current projections that the world Nuclear Association (WNA) has for India of about 21GW The WNA projections are for 266 reactors that are being built (30), planned (74) or proposed (162).

Those May, 2007 projections are an increase from february, 2007 of 3 being built, 12 planned and 32 proposed. A 21% increase from February. 266 reactors versus 219 reactors are now in the development pipeline.

China will invest US$50 billion in nuclear power until 2020 to achieve the goal of nuclear power supplying 4% of China's electrical energy needs China is close to a deal with Westinghouse for 4 nuclear reactors to be operating by 2013 China plans to have 28 more nuclear reactors operating by 2020 to go with the fifteen that are in use or under construction.

Wired has similar conclusions of NASA problems

Wired has an article by Gregg Easterbrook which discusses the problems of NASA I mostly agree with his analysis but his 4th place recommended priority Figure out a way to replace today's chemical rockets with a much cheaper way to reach Earth orbit should be first.

I also believe that laser arrays (preferrably with mirrors), magnetic launch systems (coilguns, magnetic rails, magbeam for orbital boost) and tether systems are the technologies that should be pursued I believe that the laser arrays take advantage of the rapid improvement in lasers. Solid state lasers that had less than 15 KW of maximum power in 2003 will have about 100kw in 2007

The space review also has an article indicating the importance and need for space based solar power However, I believe we can skip the development of lunar mining by using te simplified construction methods of inflation of structures (magnetically or with gas) and formation flying. This allow for simple but large thin film structures to be fully constructed on earth and launched and deployed in orbit.

May 21, 2007

Biological computers able to decode and mark cellular activity

From nanowerk, Harvard and Princeton researchers have developed steps toward biological computers These machines can convert cellular signals and activity into easily detectable markers.

1. The entire computer (device able to perform boolean logic) is “encoded” by genes made of engineered DNA molecules.
2.The genes enter the cell using special delivery techniques and interact with the existing cellular activity.
3. Components of the computer, generated from its genes, are short hairpin RNA molecules known as shRNA and messenger ribonucleic acid molecules known as mRNA.
4. Both mRNA molecules generate the same output protein. shRNA molecules are designed to target and destroy the mRNA molecules using short color-coded mRNA stretches (sequences). They “hitchhike” on the biological mechanism known as RNA interference (RNAi).
5. Dicer enzyme, present in the cell, binds to shRNA and cleaves the loop-shaped tail
6. Another cellular enzyme, called RISC, binds to the dicer-processed shRNA and unwinds it, capturing one of the two strands
7. RISC bound to the RNA strand may now bind to the target region in the mRNA. The nucleotide sequence of the RNA strand guides RISC to its destination
8. Combination of RISC activity and other cellular mechanisms lead to the degradation of the mRNA.
9. All three shRNAs are engaged in a similar process, and each of them targets a different region within mRNA molecules, as indicated by black blunt-end arrows
10. Ultimately, any logic algorithm may be implemented using appropriate extensions.

Evaluating Boolean logic equations inside cells, these molecular automata will detect anything from the presence of a mutated gene to the activity of genes within the cell. The biocomputers’ “input” is RNA, proteins and chemicals found in the cytoplasm; “output” molecules indicating the presence of the telltale signals are easily discernable with basic laboratory equipment.

“Currently, we have no tools for reading cellular signals,” Yaakov Benenson says. “These biocomputers can translate complex cellular signatures, such as activities of multiple genes, into a readily observed output. They can even be programmed to automatically translate that output into a concrete action, meaning they could either be used to label a cell for a clinician to treat or they could trigger therapeutic action themselves.”

Benenson and his colleagues demonstrate in their Nature Biotechnology paper that biocomputers can work in human kidney cells in a culture. Research into the system’s ability to monitor and interact with intracellular cues such as mutations and abnormal gene levels is still in progress.

Further info:
Here is animation of the molecular automata

Surveying expected Hard Drive Improvements

China learning how to invest

China's state investment company announced on Sunday it would take a $3 billion stake *just under 10%) in Blackstone Group LP Blackstone is one of the leading global private investment firms.

China will learn how to structure and value private equity deals, as well as gaining a network of well connected people. "The Blackstone deal is as much about education on how to invest as it is about the actual investment itself," Oberweis [president of Oberweis Asset Management Inc] said. "From the perspective of Blackstone, what better way to increase your penetration into the fastest-growing, major economy in the world than to have that government invested in you?"

This is following up the establishment of China's investment fund

Secure superconducting power grids

The EEtimes reports that a secure superconducting power grid is being piloted and developed for New York

Superconducting cable

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will provide up to $25 million of the total project cost of $39.3 million to develop technology for "Secure Super Grids." The new grids will use customized HTS wires, power cables and ancillary controls to deliver more power while suppressing power surges that can disrupt service.

Testing of the first secure grid system is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2008. The project's next phase will focus on deployment of the first grid system at an undisclosed New York City location.

American Superconductor will supply HTS wire, known as 344 superconductors, for the project, and will contract with Southwire Co. for cable and termination designs as well as the manufacture of superconductor cable. Commissioning of the 13-kilovolt HTS cable system is expected in early 2010

Superconducting grid

Videos that describe project hydra are here

Here is a pdf that describes the benefits of a superconducting power grid. Up ten times the power can be transmitted when the current copper wire is replaced with the same size superconducting cable. Power can be switched in milliseconds.

Related reading:
A past article discussed the benefits of superconducting motors and generators

May 20, 2007

Early nanomedicine helping to regenerate nerves

Nanofiber scaffolds can help nerves grow 4 millimeters in 5 days and
a method developed at the University of Miami shows how magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) may be used to create mechanical tension that stimulates the growth and elongation of axons of the central nervous system neurons.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a technology that has the potential to serve as a better alternative than currently available synthetic nerve grafts. The graft material is composed entirely of aligned nanoscale polymer fibers. These polymer fibers act as physical guides for regenerating nerve fibers. They have also developed a way to make these aligned nanofibers bioactive by attaching various biochemicals directly onto the surfaces of the nanofibers. Thus, the bioactive aligned nanofiber technology mimics the nerve autograft by providing both physical and biochemical cues to enhance and direct nerve growth.

This technology has been tested by culturing rat nerve tissue ex vivo on our bioactive aligned nanofiber scaffolds. When the nerve tissue was cultured on unaligned nanofibers there was no nerve fiber growth onto the scaffolds. However, on aligned nanofiber scaffolds, they not only observed nerve fibers growing from the tissue but the nerve fibers were aligned in the same orientation as the nanofibers. Furthermore, when there were biochemicals present on the nanofibers, the nerve fiber growth was enhanced 5 fold. In a matter of just 5 days, nerve fibers had extended 4 millimeters from the nerve tissue in a bipolar fashion on the bioactive aligned nanofiber scaffolds. Thus, this technology can induce, enhance and direct nerve fiber regeneration in a straight and organized manner.

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