December 20, 2007

Superconductivity without phonons

The idea of superconductivity without the mediating role of lattice vibrations (phonons) has a long history.

According to researchers Pines, Monthoux and Lonzarich, electron attraction leading to superconductivity can occur without phonons in materials that are on the verge of exhibiting magnetic order—in which electrons align themselves in a regular pattern of alternating spins.

Pines, Monthoux and Lonzarich examine the material characteristics that make possible a large effective attraction that originates in the coupling of a given electron to the internal magnetic fields produced by the other electrons in the material. The resulting magnetic electron pairing can give rise to superconductivity, sometimes at substantially higher temperatures than are found in the materials for which phonons provide the pairing glue.

“If we ever find a material that superconducts at room temperature—the ‘Holy Grail’ of superconductivity—it will be within this class of materials,” says Pines. “This research shows you the lamp post under which to look for new classes of superconducting materials.”

Carnival of Space 34

More energy efficient molecular machines

From, R. Dean Astumian, a Physics Professor at the University of Maine, has recently proposed a concept in which molecular machines can operate arbitrarily close to chemical equilibrium at every instant of the cycle, and still perform work at the rate of several micrometers per second against piconewton loads. The study, “Adiabatic operation of a molecular machine,” is published in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Illustration of the possible transitions for a catenane structure that consists of one large ring with three stations for two small rings. The two small rings move around the large ring to bind at a station. Each binding state is favored by a different energetic condition, as indicated. ©2007 PNAS. Image credit: R. Dean Astumian

“The main significance is conceptual – it changes the way we think about molecular motors,” Astumian told “Much emphasis has been put on the ‘non-equilibrium’ aspects of the system, but in fact this is not really important. The motion of the rings here arises due to a combination of topology that break spatial symmetry, and the slow external modulation that breaks time symmetry. It is also important to recognize that, in the molecular world, we can truly have motors that operate with nearly 100% efficiency.”

Astumian’s example of such a molecular machine is a three-ring “catenane” structure that serves as a rotating motor. The catenane, about 3 nanometers in diameter, consists of one large ring with two smaller rings linked to the large ring, like rings on a keychain. Three binding stations on the large ring provide locations where the two small rings can bind, depending on the interaction energy between ring and station.

Astumian gets the small rings to move clockwise from station to station around the large ring, a movement that results in mechanical cycling. Further, he achieves this movement without any heat gain or heat loss and without a change of entropy, but simply by thermal noise due to Brownian motion. This type of “adiabatic” system is arbitrarily close to equilibrium at every point of the cycle.

The key to making the small rings move from station to station is by periodically modulating the interaction energy. The rings will bind to the station that requires the lowest interaction energy. This modulation must be done slowly enough not to generate heat, but at a sufficient rate to produce significant work.

He also mentions that there might be more creative architectures where counter-clockwise motions don’t undo the clockwise motions. He likens this mechanism to a ratcheting screwdriver used to drive a screw. When the ratchet turns counter-clockwise to reset itself, it releases so that it doesn’t undo the forward turn of the screw. Although a molecular machine would use thermal noise instead of external torque, the concept is similar. In the molecular machine, one of the small rings could be fixed to prevent counterclockwise motion.

“I would say that the biggest challenge is to arrange the molecules on a surface so that the movement can be used to do work on the outside world,” Astumian said. He added that the chemical structures have already been synthesized by David Leigh at the University of Edinburgh, as the next step in the development of the machines.

this system requires a fine balance between modulating slowly enough so that the system is in chemical and mechanical equilibrium at every instant, but rapidly enough to perform substantial work.

“I plan to extend the theory to explain the mechanism of biological motors,” Astumian said.

99.1% accurate lab on chip cancer detector

A new lab on a chip -- slightly more than 1.5 square inches in area -- detected circulating cancer cells in 115 of 116 blood samples from patients with metastatic cancer for a sensitivity of 99.1%, according to Daniel Haber, M.D., director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, and colleagues.

I have proposed widespread use of biomarker tests to help with improving public health, lower the cost of medicine, and improving medical research. The first part of the use of a lot more labs on a chip and more capable chips for biomarker monitoring is here. It is related to x-CEO of Intel Andy Grove's proposals for better medicine.

And it found no cancer cells in the blood of healthy volunteers, for a sensitivity of 100%, the researchers reported in the Dec. 20 issue of Nature.

"Clearly this has tremendous potential for early diagnosis," Dr. Haber said, but it also has the potential to allow physicians to monitor the success or failure of treatment more closely and to begin to solve some of the puzzles that surround metastasis.

Cancer kills about 1 in 7 people in the world. 7.6 million people will die in 2007 out of a total of 55 million deaths from all causes. There are 12 million new cases of cancer worldwide in 2007.

Current approaches use complicated analytic techniques -- including centrifuging and washing samples -- that generate very low yield and purity, they said.

In contrast, their "microfluidics" approach is highly sensitive, has a 99% yield, and a purity approaching 50%, compared with less than 1% for other methods, the researchers said.

The development of the chip "bring[s] us closer to having a fully automated instrument that can detect circulating tumor cells with exquisite sensitivity," said Jonathan Uhr, M.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, writing in an accompanying comment.

Dr. Uhr said such a device "would allow routine monitoring of blood for tumor cells as part of a medical examination, and could result in early detection and treatment."

The researchers said that a number of engineering challenges remain before the system can be used for clinical applications, although it could be used now for research.

Microchips have been used for a range of analytic chores, such as flow cytometry, but have not been applied to tasks where milliliter-sized samples of whole blood must be analyzed, he and colleagues noted.

On theoretical grounds, they concluded that a microchip array of 78,000 tiny silicon posts -- coated with an antibody to a molecule specific to tumor cells -- would overcome that barrier.

"Much of cancer [drug] treatment now is trial and error," Dr. Haber said. The chip might potentially allow doctors to find the correct treatment more quickly.

One advantage of the system, Dr. Haber said, is that captured cells remain alive, opening the door to more detailed understanding of how they function and perhaps what causes some to become the root of new cancers while the majority commit cell suicide.

Flex fuel cars and oil dependence

Robert Zubrin makes the case that conservation will not free us from dependence on middle east oil. Robert shows that only fuel substitution policies have worked. In electricity generation oil for electricity was substituted for nuclear power. Robert indicates that we need all cars to be flex fuel vehicles. I agree that this is a relatively inexpensive policy that would have benefits. However, exceptionally good improvements in efficiency and the use of electric vehicles with abundant nuclear grid energy would also work.

Here is how oil is currently used. The USA only produces about 30% of the oil that it uses. Strong development of oil shale and new gulf of Mexico oil could increase domestic production to 50% of the current level of oil demand. This could be a difficult level to reach so any biofuel production and substitution would help reduce US oil dependence.

The US would need to eliminate oil usage for heating (14.8%), find some substitutes in some chemical and plastics, make cars 5 times more efficient (32%)and trucks and planes twice as efficient 9.7% and increase overall efficiency by 20% to offset economic growth and increased demand and eliminate oil imports.

Most projection are that the level of US oil production will not rise that much, oil shale and biofuels would have to come out at the optimistic end of projections.

Even complete elimination of oil for cars and trucks (via electric or flex fuel) means that the USA would still be importing oil because of heating and other uses.

Here are my articles related to various aspects of efficiency:
My view of an energy conservation plan proposed by McKinsey and the importance of DOE Freedomcar thermoelectrics for overall efficiency

Home energy efficiency, simple steps for 44-50% less energy usage at equal cost or lower

Transportation improvements from displacing coal usage

Electric guideways and dual mode vehicles

Pulse detonation airplanes are more efficient and other efforts for fuel efficient jets. (lighter planes and better engines)

Robert Zubrin thinks congress should require that all future vehicles sold in the United States be flexible-fueled, capable of using mixtures of methanol, ethanol, and gasoline. Within three years of such a mandate, there would be 50 million such FFVs on American roads.

Dutch inventor G. A. Schwippert, who in 1984 patented an optical sensor that could determine the alcohol content of a methanol/gasoline mixture by measuring the fluid’s index of refraction (light-bending properties). Using this device and the new technology of electronic fuel injection then coming into general use, Nichols and her Ford team devised a scheme whereby a Schwippert sensor would assess the alcohol content of the fuel in real time as it was being fed to the engine. The computer that controlled the car’s electronic fuel injector (EFI) would then determine the correct air/fuel ratio for the mixture of the moment. No matter what the fuel mixture might be, the EFI would always know how much to pump to make the engine operate correctly.

By the end of the 1990s, General Motors had shipped the CEC 1,512 methanol/gasoline flex-fuel vehicles, Chrysler sent 4,730, and there were a handful of Volkswagens, Nissans, Toyotas, and Mercedes-Benzes. Some six million FFVs have been produced to date in America—a number that sounds impressive, and that indeed is quintuple the number of gas/electric hybrid cars in the United States today, but is still dwarfed by the total U.S. fleet of about 230 million cars now on the road.

Our use of gasoline poses health risks, too. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, smoke, soot, and other particulate pollution from cars currently causes approximately 40,000 American deaths per year from lung cancer and other ailments. And as a result of fuel leaks and spills, incomplete combustion, and fumes from ordinary refueling operations, vast amounts of carcinogens and mutagens are released every day, causing an increased incidence of cancer among the general public. The result is many deaths and billions of dollars in health-care costs inflicted on the nation every year. Alcohol fuels do not produce smoke, soot, or particulates when burned in internal combustion engines, and neither methanol nor ethanol causes cancer or mutations.

By 2006, about 70 percent of all new vehicles sold in Brazil were FFVs, and in 2007, the flex-fuel auto market share is projected to approach 90 percent, and it will reach 100 percent fairly quickly since all non-flex-fuel lines are being phased out.

Bush's science advisor, Marburger, and his staff do not want to recommend this because it would cost the American auto industry a total of $150 million to make the necessary conversion. This is less than the United States spends on foreign oil every five hours and because the current administration is philosophically opposed to mandates.

Barrack Obama would mandate that all new vehicles are flex-fuel by the end of first term in office.

Here is a government supplied online flex fuel cost calculator Currently the US government defines flexfuel as whether are vehicle can use E85 (85% ethanol) or regular gas or a mixture of both.

Chrysler's flex fuel vehicles

Ford produced about 250,000 flex fuel vehicles in 2006 Four Ford vehicle models are available as FFVs: the Ford F-150, Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car.

GM has flex fuel vehicles as well.

The Speculist has articles on Zubrin's proposed solution and an interview with Zubrin

December 19, 2007

California will sue to get its own fuel standard

The EPA made a [politically based] ruling that denied California a waiver to set its own fuel standard

This will be overturned in a lawsuit.

California's standard would be 36mpg by 2016 versus the recently passed 34 mpg by 2020 CAFE.

Graphene transistors ten times faster than silicon

From, graphene transistors that are ten times faster than silicon are possible and the method needs to be scaled up.

Switching from silicon to carbon has not been possible because technologists believed they needed graphene material in the same form as the silicon used to make chips: a single crystal of material eight or 12-inches wide. The largest single-crystal graphene sheets made to date have been no wider than a couple millimeters, not big enough for a single chip. Chou and researchers in his lab realized that a big graphene wafer is not necessary, as long they could place small crystals of graphene only in the active areas of the chip. They developed a novel method to achieve this goal and demonstrated it by making high-performance working graphene transistors.

“Our approach is to completely abandon the classical methods that industry has been using for silicon integrated circuits,” Chou said.

In their new method, the researchers make a special stamp consisting of an array of tiny flat-topped pillars, each one-tenth of a millimeter wide. They press the pillars against a block of graphite (pure carbon), cutting thin carbon sheets, which stick to the pillars. The stamp is then removed, peeling away a few atomic layers of graphene. Finally, the stamp is aligned with and pressed against a larger wafer, leaving the patches of graphene precisely where transistors will be built.

The technique is like printing, Chou said. By repeating the process and using variously shaped stamps (the researchers also made strips instead of round pillars), all the active areas for transistors are covered with single crystals of graphene.

“Previously, scientists have been able to peel graphene sheets from graphite blocks, but they had no control over the size and location of the pieces when placing them on a surface,” Chou said.

One innovation that made the technique possible was to coat the stamp with a special material that sticks to carbon when it is cold and releases when it is warm, allowing the same stamp to pick up and release the graphene.

Chou’s lab took the next step and built transistors -- tiny on-off switches -- on their printed graphene crystals. Their transistors displayed high performance; they were more than 10 times faster than silicon transistors in moving "electronic holes" -- a key measure of speed.

The new technology could find almost immediate use in radio electronics, such as cell phones and other wireless devices that require high power output, Chou said. Depending on the level of interest from industry, the technique could be applied to wireless communication devices within a few years, Chou predicted.

“What we have done is shown that this approach is possible; the next step is to scale it up,” Chou said.

Nanowerk reports that researchers in Germany exploit ultra-thin transparent conductive graphene films as window electrodes in solar cells.

This is critical because indium is used now and is getting very expensive and we are running out.

As a critical component of optoelectronic devices, transparent conductive coatings pervade modern technology. The most widely used standard coating is indium tin oxide (ITO), used in nearly all flat panel displays and microdisplays. Causing problems for manufacturers, though, Indium is expensive and scarce and demand is increasing. From the depressed levels of $60/kg in 2002, indium prices rose to over $1,000/kg during the summer of this year. Recently, prices have fallen back to between $400-$500/kg. But, geologists say the cost of indium may not matter soon, because the earth's supply of this element could be gone within just a few years.

"The graphene-based solar cells show a relatively lower efficiency than metal oxide coating based solar cells" he says. "There is still large room for improvement of the device performance by, for example, further increasing the conductivity of the graphene films via the use of large graphene sheets with lateral dimensions on the micrometer scale, or exploitation of a new and special structure of solar cells based on graphene window electrodes. Of course, we also face a number of challenges going forward, such as perfection of the graphene structure; a balance of conductivity and transparency of the graphene film; fabrication techniques for graphene-based optoelectronics, just to name a few. Nevertheless, we believe this is a new starting point in the direction of graphene window electrodes, which may open a door for further development of novel optoelectronics."

New drug delays Alzheimers by about 14 months

Epix Pharmaceuticals (nasdaq: EPIX) announced that its Phase II clinical trial of experimental drug PRX-03140 showed "compelling" results. Alzheimer's patients who received 150 mg doses of PRX-03140 orally once per day for two weeks achieved an average improvement of 5.7 points on the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale cognitive subscale (ADAS-cog).

The Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale for Cognition (ADAS-Cog), a 70-point scale that measures cognitive status.

The natural history of Alzheimer's disease is one of progressive decline; cognitive, physical, and social functions gradually deteriorate. Thus, "improvement" from an intervention for Alzheimer's disease means slowing the rate of decline. The rate of decline in Alzheimer's disease is not linear, however.67 People with mild dementia experience an average rate of decline of 5 or fewer ADAS-Cog points (2 or fewer MMSE points) per year. Thus, for people with mild dementia, a slowing of decline by 2 to 3ADAS-Cog points over a year could mean a delay of up to 7 months in the progress of the disease.

Therefore, an almost 6 ADAS-cog point improvement is equal to about 14 months of delay in the disease.

Fuji molten Salt Reactor

The Fuji Molten salt reactor is a japanese design that can run on thorium or a mix of thorium and Uranium or Plutonium. The project plan is to take 8 or 9 years to develop a miniFuji reactor and 12-15 years to develop a Fuji reactor. The R & D is mostly related to the details of the structural material and components.

-How to exactly modify the Hastelloy N alloy (increasing Cr and reducing Co)
-analyse and test low tensile strength parts like the tubing elbow

The projected costs for the reactor are about 20-25% less than a PWR and a little less than a LWR.

The Encyclopedia of Earth claims that the 100 MWe FUJI MSR design is being developed internationally by a Japanese, Russian and US consortium.

The attractive features of this MSR fuel cycle include: the high-level waste comprising fission products only, hence shorter-lived radioactivity; small inventory of weapons-fissile material (plutonium-242 being the dominant plutonium isotope); low fuel use (the French self-breeding variant claims 50kg of thorium and 50kg uranium-238 per billion kWh); and safety due to passive cooling up to any size.
Currently nuclear reactors use about 100 to 200 tons of uranium every year. 10,000 to 20,000 kg of uranium per billion kWh. 200 to 400 times more uranium than the french msr design uses. The MSR can generate 1000 times less uranium and plutonium waste and everything else that is left over has a halflife of less than 50 years.

Several of the Fuji designs fit the IAEA definition of a small reactor that generates less than 300Mwe. There is interest in small reactors due partly to the high capital cost of large nuclear power reactors generating electricity via the steam cycle and partly to consideration of public perception, there is a move to develop smaller units. These may be built independently or as modules in a larger complex, with capacity added incrementally as required. Economies of scale are provided by the numbers produced. There are also moves to develop small units for remote sites.

The most prominent modular project is the South African-led consortium developing the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) of 170 MWe. In China, Chinergy is preparing to build a similar unit, the 195 MWe HTR-PM. A US-led group is developing another design with 285 MWe modules.

Each PBMR unit will finally discharge about 19 tonnes/yr of spent pebbles to ventilated on-site storage bins. Eventual construction cost (when in clusters of four or eight units) is expected to be very competitive, and generating cost is projected below US3 cents/kWh. Each 210g fuel pebble contains about 9g uranium and the total uranium in one fuel load is 4.1 t. MOX and thorium fuels are envisaged. With used fuel, the pebbles can be crushed and the 4% of their volume which is microspheres removed, allowing the graphite to be recycled. The company says microbial removal of carbon-14 is possible (also in the graphite reflectors when decommissioning). So ideally PBMR should generate about 1000kg/year (1 ton/yr) of waste or 30,000 kg over 30 years of operation. This is 15 times more waste than the Fuji MSR and it would have long lived radiative material.

Generally, modern small reactors for power generation are expected to have greater simplicity of design, economy of mass production, and reduced siting costs. Many are also designed for a high level of passive or inherent safety in the event of malfunction. Traditional reactor safety systems are 'active' in the sense that they involve electrical or mechanical operation on command.

Small-medium reactors with development claimed to be well advanced

NAME Power Type Who is Developing

CAREM 27 MWe PWR CNEA & INVAP, Argentina
KLT-40 35 MWe PWR OKBM, Russia
MRX 30-100 MWe PWR JAERI, Japan
IRIS-50 50 MWe PWR Westinghouse, USA
NP-300 100-300 MWe PWR Technicatome (Areva), France
Modular SBWR 50 MWe BWR GE & Purdue University, USA
PBMR 165 MWe HTGR Eskom, South Africa, et al
GT-MHR 285 MWe HTGR General Atomics (USA), Minatom (Russia) et al
BREST 300 MWe LMR RDIPE (Russia)
FUJI 100 MWe MSR ITHMSO, Japan-Russia-USA

South Korea's SMART (System-integrated Modular Advanced Reactor) is a 330 MWt pressurized water reactor with integral steam generators and advanced safety features. It is designed for generating electricity (up to 100 MWe) and/or thermal applications such as seawater desalination. The design life is 60 years, with a 3-year refuelling cycle. A one-fifth scale plant (65 MWt) is being constructed and expected to begin operation in 2007.

Fuji Molten Salt Reactor vessel and the mini-Fuji Molten salt reactor

Here is the schematic of the larger reactor plant

Most of the information for this article is from the 870 page status report on small reactors pages 821-870 and the rest from the already cited Encyclopedia of Earth.

Accumulated waste over 30 years is about 880kg in the salt and 750kg in the gas. This is very little waste and they are not long life radioactive material

The projected costs for the reactor are about 20-25% less than a PWR and a little less than a LWR.

The proposed project development schedule.

The neutron flux distribution

December 18, 2007

Silicon nanowires for 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion

New batteries using silicon nanowire, developed through research led by Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, produces 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion, known as Li-ion, batteries. If these batteries are produced in high volume at a reasonable cost this will enable high performance all electric cars and plug in hybrid vehicles. The researchers do believe that they can commercialize quickly.

The breakthrough is described in a paper, "High-performance lithium battery anodes using silicon nanowires," published online Dec. 16 in Nature Nanotechnology, written by Cui, his graduate chemistry student Candace Chan and five others.

The greatly expanded storage capacity could make Li-ion batteries attractive to electric car manufacturers. Cui suggested that they could also be used in homes or offices to store electricity generated by rooftop solar panels.

"Given the mature infrastructure behind silicon, this new technology can be pushed to real life quickly," Cui said.

The electrical storage capacity of a Li-ion battery is limited by how much lithium can be held in the battery's anode, which is typically made of carbon. Silicon has a much higher capacity than carbon, but also has a drawback.

Silicon placed in a battery swells as it absorbs positively charged lithium atoms during charging, then shrinks during use (i.e., when playing your iPod) as the lithium is drawn out of the silicon. This expand/shrink cycle typically causes the silicon (often in the form of particles or a thin film) to pulverize, degrading the performance of the battery.

Cui's battery gets around this problem with nanotechnology. The lithium is stored in a forest of tiny silicon nanowires, each with a diameter one-thousandth the thickness of a sheet of paper. The nanowires inflate four times their normal size as they soak up lithium. But, unlike other silicon shapes, they do not fracture.

Chan grew the nanowires on a stainless steel substrate, providing an excellent electrical connection.

Cui said that a patent application has been filed. He is considering formation of a company or an agreement with a battery manufacturer. Manufacturing the nanowire batteries would require "one or two different steps, but the process can certainly be scaled up," he added. "It's a well understood process."

Publications from Cui research group

Micro and small nuclear reactors

More than 50 new small and medium size reactor designs were developed and are being considered by research groups around the world in 2006.

There are a number of small and medium nuclear reactors that are in funded development.

Toshiba has designs for a micro nuclear reactor that generates 200 kw for 40 years

The 200 kilowatt Toshiba designed reactor is engineered to be fail-safe and totally automatic and will not overheat. Unlike traditional nuclear reactors the new micro reactor uses no control rods to initiate the reaction. The new revolutionary technology uses reservoirs of liquid lithium-6, an isotope that is effective at absorbing neutrons. The Lithium-6 reservoirs are connected to a vertical tube that fits into the reactor core. The whole whole process is self sustaining and can last for up to 40 years, producing electricity for only 5 cents per kilowatt hour, about half the cost of grid energy. It has dimensions of 20 feet by 6 feet.

Toshiba expects to install the first reactor in Japan in 2008 and to begin marketing the new system in Europe and America in 2009.

This reactor is a small-scale design developed by Toshiba Corporation in cooperation with Japan's Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI) and funded by the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI) [unified with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency in 2005]
It is the 5 MWt, 200 kWe Rapid-L, using lithium-6 (a liquid neutron poison) as a control medium. It would have 2700 fuel pins of 40-50% enriched uranium nitride with 2600°C melting point integrated into a disposable cartridge. The reactivity control system is passive, using lithium expansion modules (LEM) which give burnup compensation, partial load operation as well as negative reactivity feedback. As the reactor temperature rises, the lithium expands into the core, displacing an inert gas. Other kinds of lithium modules, also integrated into the fuel cartridge, shut down and start up the nuclear reactor. Cooling is by molten sodium, and with the LEM control system, reactor power is proportional to primary coolant flow rate. Refuelling would be every 10 years in an inert gas environment. Operation would require no skill, due to the inherent safety design features. The whole plant would be about 6.5 meters high and 2 meters in diameter.

This information is from Hore-Lacy, Ian (Lead Author); Cutler J. Cleveland (Topic Editor). 2006. "Small nuclear power reactors." In: Encyclopedia of Earth. Eds. Cutler J. Cleveland (Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment). [Published in the Encyclopedia of Earth September 4, 2006; Retrieved December 19, 2007].

A 2001 article from the New Scientist discussed the Rapid-L

The Rapid-L reactor was conceived as a powerhouse for colonies on the Moon. Unlike normal nuclear reactors, the Rapid-L has no control rods to regulate the reaction. Instead, it uses reservoirs of molten lithium-6 - an isotope that is effective at absorbing neutrons. The reservoirs are connected to a vertical tube that runs through the reactor core.

During normal operation the tube contains an inert gas. But as the temperature of the reactor rises, the liquid lithium expands, compressing the inert gas and entering the core to absorb neutrons and slow down the reaction.

The lithium acts as a liquid control rod. And unlike solid control rods, which have to be inserted mechanically, the liquid expands naturally when the core gets warm.

The Rapid-L uses the same principle to start up and close down the reaction. The reactor would be cooled by molten sodium and run at about 530 °C. Mitsuru Kambe's, head of the research team at Japan's Central Research Institute of Electrical Power Industry (CRIEPI), main concern now is to test the fail-safe system's long-term durability.

How the lithium expands to control the reaction as heat rises.

The Rapid-L is not the same as the toshiba 4s reactor which has 50 times higher generation capacity.

Toshiba 4S reactor would generate 10 MW.
The actual reactor would be located in sealed, cylindrical vault 30 m (98 ft) underground, while the building above ground would be 22 x 16 x 11 m (72 × 52.5 x 36 ft) in size. The 4S uses neutron reflector panels around the perimeter to maintain neutron density. These reflector panels replace complicated control rods, yet keep the ability to shut down the nuclear reaction in case of an emergency. Additionally, the Toshiba 4S utilizes liquid sodium as a coolant, allowing the reactor to operate 200 degrees hotter than if it used water. This means that the reactor is depressurized, as water at this temperature would run at thousands of pounds per square inch.

The reactor is expected to provide electric energy for between 5 and 13 cents/kWh in Galena, Alaska, which factors in only operating costs. On paper, it has been determined that the reactor could run for 30 years without being refueled.

More details on the Toshiba 4S

The encyclopedia of earth article is largely the same as this Australian Uranium Association article. Either the same author or perhaps the encyclopedia copied the nuclear association article.

UPDATE NOTE: The japanese reactor has conceptual similarities to the uranium hydride reactor The Japanese reactor is using uranium nitride. The first could be completed in 2012 and a good design would use 50% of the uranium which is 25 to 70 times more efficient with uranium fuel than existing reactors.

The Fuji Molten salt reactor is a type of reactor which would have almost no long lived nuclear waste. It seems to be under development by a consortium of Japan and Russian groups. It would ideally run with thorium instead of uranium. The mini version is still 8 year away from completion under assumptions of completing a proposed schedule.

870 page report on the status small nuclear reactors without onsite refueling

A 17 page policy framework for micro nuclear reactors

IAEA nuclear technology report (102 pages) from 2004

IAEA nuclear technology report (135 pages) from 2006

IAEA nuclear technology report (141 pages) from 2007

21st century mercenary force

Hoping to get into the peacekeeping business, the private Blackwater security firm is acquiring a fleet of aircraft, ships and ground vehicles.

Blackwater has bomb-proof Grizzly APC (armored personnel carriers).

In March 2006, Cofer Black, vice chairman of Blackwater USA, allegedly suggested at an international conference in Amman, Jordan, that the company was ready to move towards providing security professionals up to brigade size (3,000–5,000) for humanitarian efforts and low-intensity conflicts.

Now in 2007, the company is buying a fleet of aircraft and ground vehicles, including its own airship, hoping to win contracts to secure failed states before the U.N. arrives. Blackwater also utilizes UAVs and other robotic vehicles.

As Blackwater fights to keep its State Department security contracts in Iraq, the company is expanding into areas where its competitors have not. Blackwater recently purchased the McArthur, a naval vessel intended for disaster response and training, but that can also be used as a "mothership" for launching peacekeeping operations.

The 183 ft McArthur has been refurbished with "state of the art navigation systems, full GMDDSS communications, SEATEL Broadband, dedicated command and control bas, helicopter decks, hospital and multiple support vessel capabilities."

Blackwater now produces the Grizzly, a bomb-resistant vehicle that sports a unique diamond-shaped hull. In addition to a fleet of fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, Blackwater has also moved into unmanned airships, building the Polar 400, a dirigible that would fly between 5,000 and 15,000 feet, and is designed to monitor border areas or track terrorists. The airship could provide surveillance, or eventually, transport into war-ravaged areas.

Blackwater owns more than 20 aircraft, is seeking to acquire a Super Tucano light combat plane from the Brazilian manufacturer Embraer. The propeller-driven planes, which can be outfitted with up to 1-1/2 tons of machine guns, bombs and missiles, are used by Brazil and Colombia to battle insurgents and drug smugglers. Blackwater is buying a two-seat model to be used for pilot training.

All this new technology is part of a broader company expansion. Blackwater argues that it can provide a "transition force" to take over security for failed states after military operations are finished.

Blackwater believes it could, in addition to providing security, also deliver aid and oversee disaster relief. This is work now done primarily by non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, and humanitarian groups. Blackwater executives have suggested sending a private peacekeeping force into Darfur, for instance.

The Grizzly vehicle can ferry peacekeepers, or in an ambulance version, could be used to transport NGO workers and patients. And the airship could provide surveillance, or be used to ferry supplies for disaster relief.

Doug Brooks, president of International Peace Operations Association, which represents private security contractors (though not Blackwater, which pulled out of the group in October), says in many parts of the world, "private companies are in fact holding peace operations together."

The industry, in Brooks’ view, is in part a natural consequence of the West’s unwillingness to commit its military forces to troubled regions, leading to what he calls "Westernless peacekeeping." Globally, such contracting is a $20 billion industry, and growing, he contends.

The Blackwater company and the private military industry is trending towards the levels of forces seen in Roman times. During that period, mercenaries made up a large part of the forces that fought.

The history of mercenaries is mixed throughout the history of war There is an ebb and flow to how many mercenaries there are. There are the most mercenaries when a wealthy and powerful force has a difficulty gettings its citizenry to fight in its armies. This situation creates more demand for mercenaries.

The French foreign legion has 9 regiments and usually has a few thousand up to ten thousand or so forces.

Energy bill passes and spending bill has load guarantees for better energy sources

The Energy bill has passed both the Senate and House of representatives with veto proof margins and will increase the CAFE to 35 mpg

Separately, Congress reached a tentative agreement on a major energy package that it plans to enact outside the energy bill. The agreement, to be included in a broad government spending bill, would authorize the Energy Department to guarantee loans for various energy projects, making financing far easier.

The agreement would guarantee loans of up to $25 billion for new nuclear plants and $2 billion for a uranium enrichment plant, something those industries had been avidly seeking. It would also provide guarantees of up to $10 billion for renewable energy projects, $10 billion for plants to turn coal into liquid vehicle fuel and $2 billion to turn coal into natural gas.

Peter Jackson and Newline make nice and go for billions in Hobbit box office

Peter Jackson will direct the Hobbit in two movie parts. The Hobbit movies should come out in 2010 and 2011.

Rumors are that the second film will cover the 60-70 years between the Hobbit and the beginning of the Lord of the Rings (LOTR).

The timeline of the third age between the Hobbit and LOTR

July, 2941 - Bilbo Baggins obtains the One Ring; the White Council drives Sauron out of Dol Guldur
2941 - Esgaroth is attacked by the dragon Smaug, who is consequentially killed by Bard the Bowman; Battle of Five Armies
June 22, 2942 - Bilbo Baggins returns to Bag End
2951 - Estel, later known as Aragorn, comes of age and is told about his heritage; the Corsairs of Umbar officially ally themselves with Mordor and destroy great monument commemorating Ar-Pharazôn's victory over Sauron
2953 - Last meeting of the White Council. Fengel, 15th king of Rohan, dies. His son Thengel returns to Rohan to succeed him.
2956 - Aragorn first meets Gandalf the Grey
2957-2980 - Aragorn as Thorongil serves in the armies of King Thengel of Rohan, and Steward Ecthelion II of Gondor
September 22, 2968 - Frodo Baggins is born
2978 - Boromir is born
2980 - Arwen pledges her hand in marriage to Aragorn; Frodo Baggins loses both of his parents in a boating accident; Aragorn, in the service of the Steward of Gondor Ecthelion II leads a taskforce south and kills the Captain of the Haven, ruler of Umbar; Samwise Gamgee born;[14] Théoden, son of Thengel, becomes 17th king of Rohan after the death of his father. Théoden is the last king of the second line.
2982 - Birth of Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry)
2983 - Birth of Faramir
2989 - Frodo Baggins comes under the guardianship of Bilbo Baggins; a company of Dwarves, led by Balin, try to recolonize Moria
2990 - Birth of Peregrin Took (Pippin)
2991 - Birth of Éomer
2994 - Balin is killed; the dwarf-colony in Moria is destroyed
2995 - Birth of Éowyn
3001 - Bilbo Baggins turns 111, passes the One Ring on to Frodo Baggins, and leaves the Shire. From now on Aragorn and Gandalf intermittently hunt Gollum

The Hobbit movie information at the internet movie database

Cuttlefish bones template for new superconductors with almost 100 times higher current density

UK chemists have used cuttlefish bones to template the growth of new superconductors that have almost 100 times higher current density. The weight of 1 cm**3 of superconducting cuttlebone replica is 0.06 g, compared to 6.38 g in the case of an equivalent sized monolith of pure Y123. With an overall decrease in mass of two orders in magnitude, these materials could well find application in areas where weight is of critical importance, such as space-based and mobile device technologies. It is envisaged too, that our method could apply equally well in the synthesis of light and porous giant magnetoresistive, piezoelectric and ferromagnetic materials.


Cuttlefish bone templated superconductor
Cuttlefish bone templated superconductor

A very high critical current density using light weight material can enable far better magsails. These lightweight and high critical density superconductors could even enable ground launched magsails. They need to find a good way to reinforce the structural strength (perhaps carbon nanotubes) that do not reduce the critical current too far and they need to produce the superconductors in high volume and a reasonable cost and preferably in the form of wires. Note: they have proved that an ordered, macroporous morphology provides a greatly improved critical current density. Therefore, any other means of creating ordered macroporous morphologies (such as three dimensional nanostructuring) can be used as well and could allow for a better tuning of the critical current and structural strength properties.

The critical current density of the cuttlebone templated Y123 was measured at 1.6 MAcm−2 at 10 K and 1 T field. This is almost two orders of magnitude higher than that observed in a commercially available Y123 powder (Aldrich 99.9% — average particle size 5 µm), for which SQUID magnetometry revealed a Tc of 92 K and a critical current density of 0.02 MAcm−2 at 10 K and 1 T field.

Chart of current density and magnetic field strength

In terms of mechanical strength, the cuttlebone-templated superconductors are self-supporting but very weak (<1.5 kPa). After calcination (with 10% silver nitrate), the monoliths were noticeably more structurally stable. Compressive strength testing confirmed this, with monoliths capable of withstanding a compressive strength of 27.95 kPa, a figure comparable with certain roofing materials used in the construction industry. EDXA revealed the presence of silver in the material, and PXRD showed more pronounced peaks due to Y123 than in the undoped sample, confirmation that the silver is promoting a more pronounced crystalline structure. SEM images show that the silver doped replicas retain the cuttlebone morphology exceedingly well, even to the extent that the fine structure of the S-shaped pillars are reproduced in detail. TEM revealed that the crystallite size was now 3 µm ± 0.2 µm, larger than seen in the undoped samples. This increase in crystallite size has ramifications for the electronic behaviour of these materials, as an increase in crystallite size can often lead to a decrease in critical temperature and current. SQUID magnetometry confirms this, with a pronounced decrease in both Tc (to 73 K) and Jc (to 0.16 MA cm−2) of the silver doped samples. It is apparent therefore, that a balance must be struck between an improvement in compressive strength and the electronic performance of the superconducting monolith.

Simon Hall at the University of Bristol and colleagues soaked the cuttlefish bone - cuttlebone - in a solution of the precursors of the yttrium barium copper oxide superconductor Y123 and then heated the sample to over 900 °C to form the superconductor. Cuttlebone has an open structure, consisting of calcium carbonate layers connected by pillars. This allows the sample to be oxidised efficiently when heated, so unlike other synthesis methods flowing oxygen is not needed to produce high quality Y123.

The researchers found that the complex porous structure of the cuttlebone was retained, giving a lightweight superconducting material. They also discovered that the critical current density of their material was almost two orders of magnitude higher than that of the commercially available Y123 powder.

Magsail analysis for a game using real equations.

Enhancing magsail launches using light weight high volume magnets and a big lightweight tower.

Movie plagues and pandemics and the real world

For Hollywood, the effort for any accuracy in the science of plagues and pandemics is only to make a more believable zombie or horror movie. I will list some of the movies related to the current number one box office movie "I am Legend". I will discuss some of the real science and statistics for pandemics and disease and the Lifeboat foundation's bioshield program.

The recent Will Smith movie "I am Legend"

is a remake of The Omega Man (1971) with Charlton Heston.

The Omega Man's synopsis:
Robert Neville who took an experimental vaccine, is the only survivor of an apocalyptic war waged with biological weapons. The plague caused by the war has killed everyone else except for a few hundred deformed, nocturnal people calling themselves "The Family". The plague has caused them to become sensitive to light, as well as homicidal. They are zombies with a bit of scientific explainations.

the Omega Man was based on the same book which was previously made into a movie The Last Man on Earth in 1964 with Vincent Price.

Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) is the only survivor of a devastating world-wide plague due to a mysterious immunity he acquired to the bacterium while working in Central America years ago. He is all alone now...or so it seems. As night falls, plague victims begin to leave their graves

Popular Mechanics discusses the science of viruses as it relates to the movie "I am Legend"

What happens when you manipulate the measles vaccine into a retrovirus, then apply it to cancer patients in a clinical trial? In Legend, you cure cancer. At first. Then, the patients begin to get sick. Most of them bleed out, but those who don't become hairless, transparent, vampire-like mutants who are allergic to sunlight and crave blood. They spread the disease by biting others. When the virus mutates and goes airborne, it spreads rapidly, killing everyone on Earth except for those who are immune—and slowly, even they are picked off by the vampires, until only one man is left.

Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, one of the world's top virologists and director of the Laboratory for Immunopathogenesis and Infectious Diseases at Columbia University Medical Center, says the scenario presented in the movie doesn't seem plausible at all. “It sounds pretty far-fetched,” he says. “Viruses don't mutate and become airborne. They typically fall into a couple of different categories—respiratory, STDs and vector-borne like insects, ticks and mosquitoes. They don't change from tick-borne to pneumonic. They just don't do that.”

So the Charlton Heston "The Omega Man" movie plot use of devasting biological warfare is somewhat more plausible. If some military research group were to purposefully create a pneumonic version of a deadly microbe. One factor is that such a research group would certainly want to be control the spread of their biological weapon and/or provide immunity to their side.

I am on the advisory board of the Lifeboat foundation and one of their programs is a Bioshield to help reduce and limit the risks of pandemics

Influenz pandemics occur fairly regularly every few decades. The worst recent influenza pandemic was the Spanish flu (at the end of WW1) which killed 40 million.

There is a pandemic severity index, which measures how bad a Pandemic is.

CDC Pandemic Severity Index
Category Case Fatality ratio (CFR) example(s)
1 less than 0.1% seasonal flu
2 0.1% to 0.5% Asian Flu and Hong Kong Flu
3 0.5% to 1%
4 1% to 2%
5 2% or higher Spanish flu

The difference between the distribution of those who died in average flu years versus the Spanish flu is that the Spanish flu was somewhat deadlier for all ages but especially a lot more deadly for 10-45 year olds (especially those round 20-25 as a lot of soldiers were in ideal areas, the trenches, for catching and dieing from the disease). Normally flu primarily kills infants and the elderly.

HIV/AIDS has killed 25 million in its first 25 years.

Typically, in a year's normal two flu seasons (one per hemisphere) there are between three and five million cases of severe illness and up to 500,000 deaths worldwide, which by some definitions is a yearly influenza epidemic. Although the incidence of influenza can vary widely between years, approximately 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations are directly associated with influenza every year in America.

Historically the worst plagues killed up to 50% of a population. (bubonic plague)

In modern times, if a disease becomes infectious and the onset of symptoms happens quickly it allows medical professionals to quickly quarantine vectors and prevent them from carrying the pathogen elsewhere. This means if you are infected and get very sick or die quickly then it is easier for public health measures to be taken to stop the disease from spreading.

Limiting and controlling transmission is one of the most important steps for disease control. Real world diseases have to spread and get through the biological defenses of the host. This can be modelled with transmission risks and rates. Those factors can be reduced by having fewer gatherings of large numbers of people (like sports stadiums) and having everyone wash hands with soap more frequently.

We can get a far better handle on many infectious diseases by finding the infection reservoir sources of the disease. If we know that mosquitos are hosts for Malaria then we can take steps to reduce the amount of Mosquitos with Malaria and reduce the exposure of people to Mosquitos with Malaria.

Improvements in science also provide more tools to fight real world diseases. Using gene sequencing, understanding of proteins, RNA interference, RNA activation etc... we can understand and potentially disrupt the molecular processes of a disease or increase human resistance to diseases.

Similar movies:
28 days later

Annual deaths from infectious diseases Up to one third of the 55 million annual deaths have been from infectious diseases.

Alfin also has article with his take on "I am Legend" and real world plague threats

December 17, 2007

Chemical Pulse detonation engines

Pulse detonation engines (PDE) can achieve a maximum of 50% efficiency verus 30% for conventional jet engines Pratt & Whitney and General Electric now have active PDE research programs in an attempt to commercialize the designs with high pulse rates of 50-100 times per second to allow for less vibration. Some of the top scientists and engineers in the field say that with the right economic incentives and a few well-placed technology leaps, they could get to a flight-ready system in five years. (Air and Space magazine sept 2007). They are 3 to 4 on the technology readiness scale (working in the lab).

Pulse-detonation engines could push aviation into a new age, leading to superefficient subsonic jetliners, cheaper suborbital flight and more affordable space access.

There is a lengthy article at Air and Space Magazine on pulse detonation

The pace of current research and development points the way to three phases of pulse detonation engine technology, each a bit more complex than the one preceding it.

The first phase could be called the “pure PDE”: Essentially it focuses on developing the detonation tube, which would power a very-high-speed, air-breathing missile. In this application, engineers and scientists can punt on two of the biggest technology problems—life, or the durability of the system, and noise. The missile has to fly only once, so long life for the metals or components is not a concern. And at the high speeds—around Mach 6—and altitudes in which the missile would operate, less noise is also moot. This is the area in which Adroit Systems, and later Pratt & Whitney, made the most strides. It was their machine that would have been flown on NASA’s F-15B.

The next phase could involve using pulse detonation engines to address another pressing issue in combustion: afterburners for fighter aircraft. Today’s fighter engines simply spray aerosolized fuel into a long tube aft of the turbine section, literally dumping extra fuel-air mixture into the hot gas stream for a brief extra kick of speed. Engineers think that if they add pulse detonation technology to a low-bypass-ratio turbine engine—the modern fighter jet engine—they can get the efficiency benefit of pressurized, shockwave combustion. It’s relatively simple because the pulse detonation tube would be at the end of the engine and not in the middle of the turbo-machinery. Here again, life and noise are less of an issue than they might be in a commercial aircraft. Fighter pilots only fly on afterburner about five percent of the time, and anyone who has seen an airshow knows fighter jocks usually don’t worry about making a racket.

The third phase is where it gets most complicated, but is the one that may offer the biggest payoff: pulse detonation in the middle of the engine. Having a compressor upstream and a turbine downstream, says GE’s Dean, is a potential high-value payoff that keeps his company attracted to PDE development. A PDE-based combustor is one of the main areas of work for a young researcher on Dean’s team named Adam Rasheed. Rasheed is chronicling his work on a publicly available blog, “From Edison’s Desk” ( The publicity seems to have done him some good: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review magazine in 2005 named Rasheed one of under the age of 35.

Like everyone else, Rasheed has his eyes on a jet engine that burns five percent less fuel—an enormous leap compared with today’s fuel-saving techniques. In a world in which efficiency improvements of even 0.2 percent are considered a major breakthrough, “PDEs represent a possible game-changing technology that could revolutionize aerospace propulsion,” Rasheed writes. Even a one percent improvement would save hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel.the world’s top 35 researchers

29 page overview of pulse detonation engine technology written in 2004

Nuclear pulse rocket engines, which can go up to 10% of lightspeed primarily using technology that we have had for decades.

Nasa taking fresh look at MHD ramjet/scramjet technology

NASA hypersonics expert Dr Isaiah Blankson believes that MHD energy-conversion in the intakes can take 30-40% of the energy, letting a turbine engine run at up to Mach 7. Past the MHD the air would slow from Mach 7 to Mach 3. This was the speed of the air going into engines of the Blackbird spyplanes. The Blackbird's conventional J-58 turbojets could keep burning up to Mach 3+ because of their special intakes, which slowed the intake air down for them using a retracting central spike. This would permit the reusable first stage of a future NASA two stage to orbit launcher to take off from a runway and get its piggyback orbiter well up into scramjet-type flight regimes, all using just one set of engines.

Scramjet from Popular Science. The first true reusable, free-flying scramjet could be Darpa's HTV-3X. It is also known as Blackswift. The HTV-3x could make its inaugural flight as early as 2012.

ISP efficiency of scramjets would be about 1000 at Mach 7.

The advantage of this proposal is that it seems like a simpler design than some other proposals for scramjets Scramjets promise to be better than rockets by not needing the 75% of the weight which is oxidizer, but designs need to simpler and not replace the oxidizer with a heavier and more expensive aircraft.

Reportedly, Blankson says extracting 30 to 40 per cent of the inflow energy would cut its speed by 50 to 75 per cent. That sounds counterintuitive, as kinetic energy is proportional to the square of velocity, but presumably a man with his background knows what he's on about. Potentially, a Mach 7 flow would slow to Mach 3 downstream of the MHD, and then a Blackbird type setup could handle it.

Blankson has a team working on the idea at NASA's Glenn Research Centre in Ohio, with various studies planned over the next two years. The hope is that the latest advances in high-voltage pulsed power systems might make feasible what hasn't been to date.

One does note, of course, that there would be other uses for standstill-to-Mach-7 airframes which ran on fairly ordinary fuel and potentially had huge amounts of spare electrical power. Blankson has worked with the military before, as it happens.

If his team does well, America might get hypersonic missiles, fighters or bombers - perhaps armed with directed-energy rayguns of some kind - well before it gets a reusable space launcher.

Over the next two years, NASA Glenn plans computational and experimental work aimed at sizing an MHD energy bypass engine capable of M7 to see if it is a feasible way of powering the air-breathing first stage of a reusable spaceplane.

Chemical pulse detonation engines might power scramjets and would be up to 66% more efficient than regular jet engines.

Nasa hypersonic research website is here

52 page hypersonic research proposal.

MHD generators can be 50% more efficient than conventional generators

Magnetohydrodynamics at wikipedia

MHD scramjet

The MHD ramjet/scramjet has some similarities with the Skylon concept. The MHD ramjet/scramjet could use reduced heat by slowing the air down to keep the weight of the vehicle from increasing. The Skylon concept uses the SABRE engine.

The pre-cooler is also the most aggressive and difficult part of the whole SABRE design. The mass of this heat exchanger is an order of magnitude better than has been achieved previously; however, experimental work has proved that this can be achieved. The experimental heat exchanger has achieved heat exchange of almost 1 GW/m³, believed to be a world record. Small sections of a real pre-cooler now exist.

Skylon concept: using some of the liquid hydrogen fuel to cool the air right at the inlet. The air is then burnt much like in a conventional jet. Because the air is cool at all speeds, the jet can be built of light alloys and the weight is roughly halved. Additionally, more fuel can be burnt at high speed. Beyond Mach 5.5, the air would still end up unusably hot, so the air inlet closes and the engine instead turns to burning the hydrogen with onboard liquid oxygen as in a normal rocket.

Alfin has a scramjet article which indicates that China likely has an extensive scramjet program

Popular Science discusses recent scramjet work. If it works, the HTV-3X will be the first reusable scramjet-powered plane. It will be able to take off from a runway, fly at speeds of up to Mach 6, land safely, and then do it again.

World Bank updates purchasing power parity calculations

The World Bank has updated 1986 pricing data for China to 2005 pricing data and reduced by 40% the purchasing power parity size of China's economy.

Under the old calculation, China had a GDP of $8.8 trillion, about 15% of global GDP of $59 trillion. According to the new calculation, China's economy shrank by 40% to $5.3 trillion, which is about 10% of global GDP of $55 trillion.

In this survey, China submitted price statistics from 11 cities, which still leaves out rural areas -- and so may not be as accurate as possible. The report said it didn't believe the estimate of China's GDP was off by more than 5%.

Under the new calculations, India had 4% of global GDP, Russia had 3%. Their shares of global output were higher than they would be when measuring at market rates.

The $5.3 trillion PPP figure is still about 70% more than the straight exchange rate amount of about $3.1 trillion. The PPP exchange rate would be about 4.3 yuan to 1 USD. If the exchange rate were to head to the PPP rate then the yuan would continue to appreciate at 7.5% per year until about 2014/2015.

They caution:
The study said the survey "should not be used as indicators of the under- or overvaluation of currencies."

Synthetic Biology and Gene synthesis

From the synthetic biology FAQ: Current synthesis costs are about $1 per base pair. Current synthesis times for a 1,500 bp gene are of order 4 weeks. We need a ~3-fold reduction in cost ($0.33 for 3 base pairs) and a ~10-fold reduction in turn-around time (3 days), from where we are today for commercial DNA synthesis to be competitive with standard gene cloning. Such a cost reduction could play out within the next two years; however, changes in turn-around time are much harder to predict.

Geneart is a company offering gene synthesis starting at 0.79 dollars per base pair. Some companies are advertising 0.59 dollars per base pair for 1.5 kb or less base pairs

GENEART AG, the world's leading producer of synthetic genes and specialist in the field of synthetic biology. They had 9 million euros in sales in the first 9 months of 2007 Geneart is profitable. The GENEART AG in Regensburg (Germany) and the subsidiary GENEART Inc. in Toronto (Canada) employ more than 180 people.

Cheap and powerful gene synthesis is at the heart of the impending synthetic life revolution. Building custom organisms could revolutionize the cost and productivity of biofuel production

DNA 2.0 is offering gene synthesis with 8-10 day turnaround DNa 2.0 has made synthetic DNA fragments of over 30 kb and routinely make genes in the 5–7 kb range.

Size Average (days) Median (days)
0–500 bp 8.7 8
500 bp–1 kb 9.3 9
1–1.5 kb 11.1 11
1.5–2 kb 14.5 13
2–3 kb 15.8 14
3–10 kb 26.3 23

A paper on using microarrays to greatly reduce the cost of DNA synthesis (Parallel gene synthesis in microfluid arrays) Written by David S. Kong, Peter A. Carr, Lu Chen, Shuguang Zhang, and Joseph M. Jacobson from
Center for Bits and Atoms, Media Laboratory, Department of Chemical Engineering and Center for Biomedical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The costs of expensive reagents such as polymerase and oligonucleotides can be significantly reduced by utilizing microfluidic technology to minimize reaction volumes to a fraction of a microliter as compared to tens of microliters required in conventional syntheses.

Further reductions in oligonucleotide costs by several orders of magnitude can be achieved by utilizing the oligos synthesized from DNA microarrays. In such arrays, large numbers of distinct oligos are synthesized massively in parallel [104–105 or more for a single high-density array] but in minute quantities (femtomoles or less). Thus, each oligo in a microarray can cost as little as 1 × 10**−5 to 1 × 10**−3 dollars per base, depending on the array, which typically cost between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars (e.g. USD489 for a 244000 spot Agilent microarray). These costs per base are orders of magnitude less than for conventional oligo synthesis. Thus, the current significant contribution of oligo costs to the overall price of gene synthesis could be reduced to an almost trivial amount if the wealth of raw building material provided by microarrays could be successfully utilized. If maximally employed, oligo costs for building a 10**6bp genome could potentially be reduced to tens of dollars. To achieve this goal, two difficulties must be addressed: (1) conducting synthesis from the low yields of each oligo in a microarray; and (2) problems that arise from manipulating highly complex pools of oligonucleotides (>10**4 distinct sequences). In this work, successful gene synthesis from minute oligo quantities (femtomoles) utilizing a microfluidic device architecture has been demonstrated, while such an architecture employed in conjunction with a microarray has the potential to overcome the limitations associated with complex pool manipulation.

Sales of the gene-synthesis industry are estimated at only $50 million a year, but they are growing rapidly. One foundry, GeneArt, in Regensburg, Germany, has gone public. It says it expects sales this year to increase at least 60 percent, to 12.5 million euros, or about $17 million.

Fueling the surge is the productivity of DNA synthesis, which has increased 700-fold in the last decade, according to Bio Economic Research Associates, a consulting firm. The cost per base pair, the basic chemical unit of a DNA molecule, has dropped to less than $1, from about $30.

Sales of DNA oligos are about $700 million a year, according to BioInformatics, a market research firm, though some executives say that figure is too high. Production is automated and competition is cutthroat, with prices of 10 cents to 50 cents a base.

George Church's work to lower gene synthesis and raw DNA synthesis costs. Gene synthesis was $1.30 per bp in 2006, so the cost has more than halved to 0.59 dollars per bp now.

A past article on DNA synthesis costs and projections The parallel microchip array method or George Church's methods need to get commercialized for a major 1000 times improvement in DNA synthesis costs.

December 16, 2007

Commercializing Micro-Nanotechnology Products book

The new book from CRC Press features a chapter written by Zyvex founder Jim Von Ehr: “Zyvex Corporation: Providing Nanotechnology Solutions today.” The chapter discusses Zyvex’s Instruments and Materials product lines, our partners, processes, and corporate focus. It also contains a section on Zyvex’s vision for atomically precise manufacturing and the 2001 NIST-ATP grant for “Assemblers for Nanotechnology Applications and Manufacturing: Enabling the Nanotechnology Era.”

The book begins by detailing the steps required to turn an idea into a marketable product. The editors give examples of previously successful products and relate to their own experiences in development. Next, the text focuses on the importance of entrepreneurship and the required steps to finance and develop a marketing strategy. It contains various definitions of nanotechnology and how each relates to roadmap and production issues. Three detailed case studies from the leading MNT development and manufacturing companies describe how each venture started and progressed to become a market leader. These studies offer valuable insight into overcoming the challenges related to achieving financial backing and specifying the right product for development.

Chapter 1: The Path to Commercialization
Chapter 2: Entrepreneurships role in Commercializing Micro-nanotechnology products
Chapter 3: Roadmapping Nanotechnology
Chapter 4: Technology transfer of nanotechnology products from US Universities
Chapter 5: Commercialization strategies for Public research organizations
Chapter 6: Market Analysis and growth for Micro-nanotechnology products
Chapter 7: Oxonica PLC - A leading UK nanotechnology firm : Kevin Matthews
Chapter 8: Zyvex Corporation - providing nanotechnology solutions today: Jim Von Ehr
Chapter 9: microParts GmbH - History of a successful German Microsystems based business. Reiner Wechsung
Chapter 10: Shaping the Future
Oxonica is one of the leading international nanomaterials groups with products already launched into international markets. Oxonica’s business model is to focus on its strength in identifying market opportunities, securing intellectual property and introducing new technology to market. The company has four operating divisions: Oxonica Energy, Oxonica Healthcare, Oxonica Materials and Oxonica Security.

Oxonica has 60 staff. O2Q:London Stock Exchange. 1.4 Billion market capitalization. $20 million in revenue in 2006.

Commercialised products are:
Envirox™ Fuel Borne Catalyst – a fuel borne nanocatalyst for diesel engines which reduces fuel consumption with savings of 5-10% and reduces particulate emissions by up to 15%. The product has already been adopted by Stagecoach Group in the UK and is distributed by DMX Technology Corporation to petroleum companies in the Philippines for use in a premium diesel.

Optisol™ UV Absorber – a photostable UV absorber that provides enhanced and longer lasting protection against UVA in sun-care and anti-ageing products. Optisol™ also reduces the formation of free radicals produced from exposure to the sun and which are implicated in premature skin ageing. Boots Group plc is the first to incorporate Optisol™ in their new Soltan Facial Sun Defense Cream for 2005.

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