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Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Technology update-nuclear fusion, flying cars and so on

In today's edition:

  1. Plastic film could make house lights obsolete
  2. Flying Cars Near Takeoff
  3. Free US wireless network a step closer
  4. ITER, IAEA sign deal to move nuclear fusion research forward
Very interesting stuff, trust me. Especially the flying car-it's awesome. Also some ITER update, though I have doubts on it. Check my comment below the article for more.

Plastic film could make house lights obsolete

By Peter Svensson
updated 11:52 a.m. ET Oct. 10, 2008

NISKAYUNA, N.Y. - On a bank of the Mohawk River, a windowless industrial building of corrugated steel hides something that could make floor lamps, bedside lamps, wall sconces and nearly every other household lamp obsolete.

It's a machine that prints lights.

The size of a semitrailer, it coats an 8-inch wide plastic film with chemicals, then seals them with a layer of metal foil. Apply electric current to the resulting sheet, and it lights up with a blue-white glow.

You could tack that sheet to a wall, wrap it around a pillar or even take a translucent version and tape it to your windows. Unlike practically every other source of lighting, you wouldn't need a lamp or conventional fixture for these sheets, though you would need to plug them into an outlet.

The sheets owe their luminance to compounds known as organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs. While there are plenty of problems to be worked out with the technology, it's not the dream of a wild-eyed startup.

OLEDs are beginning to be used in TVs and cell-phone displays, and big names like Siemens and Philips are throwing their weight behind the technology to make it a lighting source as well. The OLED printer was made by General Electric Co. on its sprawling research campus here in upstate New York. It's not far from where a GE physicist figured out a practical way to use tungsten metal as the filament in a regular light bulb. That's still used today, nearly a century later.

OLEDs have broad, diffuse light sources bathing rooms in a gentle glow. Photographers go to great lengths to diffuse the illumination they use when shooting portraits, because they know we look our best in soft light.

The big glowing sheets could also make light sources out of everyday things. GE imagines putting OLEDs on the inside of window blinds — pull them down, light them up, and you have light streaming from the window, even at night. You could even make OLED wallpaper, since the material is flexible.

The panels in Maurer's lamp are made by Osram Opto Semiconductors, a subsidiary of German industrial conglomerate Siemens AG, which is also the parent of Osram Sylvania, a competitor to GE in the general lighting market.

Osram Opto made them with an expensive, slow process known as vacuum deposition that has dominated OLED development so far. One virtue of this method is that it can be combined with the technologies that produce LCD displays to make full-color OLED TVs. Sony Corp. sells an 11-inch model for $2,500.

OLED TVs have to become much cheaper (and larger) to become mass-market products, and OLED lights have to be cheaper still. That's the issue GE is tackling with its printer, which dispenses with vacuum deposition in favor of a process that's not much more complicated than the printing of a newspaper.

In the next step, GE plans to build a larger machine that can print panels several feet wide. Its output could be sold commercially as early as 2010, Duggal said, but he acknowledged that's a "very aggressive" goal.

This sets OLEDs apart from another promising technology that has been hailed as the future of lighting. Inorganic LEDs, the pinhead-sized lights that adorn electronic gadgets, are beginning to show up in commercial lighting, where their extreme longevity compared to bulbs makes up for their high production cost. Since they're made with semiconductor manufacturing techniques, a cluster of LEDs that produces as much light as a standard bulb costs more than $100.

LEDs and OLEDs both hold the potential for big energy savings over standard incandescent bulbs. Matching fluorescents is tougher. Universal Display this year created OLEDs that exceeded the energy efficiency of fluorescents, but combining that feature with longevity and mass production will be a challenge.

"It's not going to be competitive with fluorescents in 2010," Duggal said.

As point light sources, LEDs are likely to coexist with the big, diffuse OLEDs, said analyst Lawrence Gasman at Nanomarkets LLC, a research firm in Glen Allen, Va. "Together, they make for a nice lighting future," Gasman said.

He projects that OLED lighting sales could reach $5.9 billion by 2015.

For GE and Osram to reach customers with their panels, they'll need to go through makers of light fixtures, and "that's an industry that is tremendously conservative," Sagebiel said.

On the manufacturing side, there are still challenges to overcome for the technology, particularly in making OLEDs long-lasting in addition to being power-efficient. They're gradually worn out by use. Exposure to atmospheric oxygen, which can seep through plastic, destroys them quickly.

But OLED technology is, at least, in much better shape to take on the lighting market than an older technology that also produces thin and printable light sources. Electroluminescent lights, which glow in Indiglo watches and car dashboards, have been made for decades. Despite early hopes, they've never become competitive when it comes to brightness or energy efficiency.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. source

My comment: It looks like this technology is far from being competitive in the near 3 years, but that could easily change. The world is seen other technologies that looked uncompetitive and then their use dramatically increased and modified. So, I have certain hope for this. Just imagine how nice it would be to have transparent sheet on your windows that accumulate light (like phosphor does) and then in the nigh, they are shine without electricity. True, it will be hard to turn it off, but it sounds fun however.

Flying Cars Near Takeoff

By Erin Richards, Scientific Blogging

10 October 2008

If you're thinking about which hybrid vehicle to purchase, now that gas prices have dictated that you replace your Hummer, consider a vehicle that will not only eliminate high spending at the gas pump, but also your time spent in traffic. Wouldn't you rather fly above the endless traffic jams in your very own ethanol-fueled flying car? I know I would.

Science fiction, right? Guess again. Welcome to Moller Int., a small company nestled in the unassuming city of Davis, CA, where they are making this science fantasy into cold hard reality via the M400 Skycar, a 'volantor' sky vehicle. Volantor refers to the capability of a vertical takeoff and landing as well as its quick and agile flight.

Dr. Paul Moller, company founder, Chairman of the Board and also the company's President and Chief Executive Officer has, needless to say, invested his entire being into his vision. With a masters degree in Engineering and a Ph.D. in Aerodynamics, Moller's dream, since his first helicopter designs at the age of 15, has been to create viable flight vehicles for the general public. His realization of that dream became the Skycar.

Moller Int. currently has two working models of volantor aircraft. The M400 Skycar resembles a small sports car jet, bright red and glossy with a pointed nose, two sets of fans (which rotate for liftoff) and a Plexiglas cockpit, which seats four people. Moller imagines that it would be the best for people with regular trips over 50 miles, and would be much faster due to its ability to cruise between 200 miles/hour at sea level and up to 400 miles/hour at 25,000ft.

The other model at Moller Int. is the M200X Neuera, formerly the Jetson, which most closely resembles a two person UFO. Its round shape, blue color and domed cockpit are reminiscent of the popular cartoon The Jetsons. Its usability ranges from farming to military, to shipping usages to border patrol. Moller envisions it competing with modern all terrain vehicles and as such its uses are endless. As fast as the average car, it can cruise easily at 75 miles/hour with top speeds near 100 miles/hour.

The M400 Skycar and the M200X Neuera are capable of vertical liftoff, landing, hovering and cruising with the success of two key elements: its engine and its stability system. The Skycar has an engine capable of generating a huge amount of power in a very small space.

"That was the tricky part of our business," says Moller, "How to generate that large amount of power in a very small package. If the engine weighs a lot, you are just going to sit on the ground." Moller's advanced engine, the Rotapower engine, can generate 2 horsepower for every pound of its weight. "That's an absolutely new accomplishment," says Moller.

Moller's technology, "as sophisticated as the system used to land a man on the moon," is not just for astronauts. The second key component of the Skycar is its artificial stabilization system, which allows all of us who aren't Neil Armstrong to pilot the vehicle. The stability system is a network which collects information such as change in velocity, acceleration and position every few milliseconds and integrates them, telling the engine how to adjust its speed to maintain the craft's stability. The advantage that these key elements give Moller's volantor crafts is undeniable.

The stability system allows for the average person to pilot the craft without the need for a pilot's license (at least from a skill level). This enables the vehicles to be available for the general public. Also, the improved engine provides a slew of advances over the common automobile.

The Rotapower engine, which Moller hails as the "most significant mechanical invention of the 20th century," allows for a safer, more powerful, quieter and cleaner engine. "The beauty of the engine is that its round, so I can hide it," says Moller. This is important because it forgoes the need for gear boxes found in regular aircraft and which are vulnerable to breakdown and malfunction. According to Moller, 40 percent of all helicopter crashes are due to powertrain failure, a risk he's eliminated with the usage of his rotary engine.

Another advantage is the fuel that powers the Skycar and Neuera. Ethanol, besides burning cleaner than gasoline, is much safer as well. Ethanol is able to be mixed with water and, while it burns within the engine, won't ignite outside of it. If in the case of a crash, or a fuel spill, the risk of fire or explosion is negated by using the ethanol-water mixture.

The M200X Neuera is currently in limited production for 2009 while the Skycar is 3 years away. Moller estimates that the Neuera will sell for under $100,000 and could get under $50,000 with increased volume. The Skycar, however, will sell for above $100,000 dollars but is well worth the dough if having a cherry red volantor sky vehicle is your thing - and you know it is. source

My comment:Yeah! Check the videos. This is absolutely awesome. And now, it's not just a dream, it's reality. When I become rich enough to buy a Ferrari, I'll buy one Skycar too. And anyway, $100k is not so much for something that will drive you out /or above/ the traffic. And it's even flying on ethanol. They just didn't mention how much it will burn. Anyway, I love it. And you should too!

Free US wireless network a step closer

This photo shows a failed internet connection on a computer at a cafe providing wireless access, in Hong Kong in 2006. A free nationwide wireless Internet network has moved one step closer to becoming a reality in the United States following a key finding by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

A free nationwide wireless Internet network has moved one step closer to becoming a reality in the United States following a key finding by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Major US telecommunications companies have opposed opening up unused portions of the US airwaves to wireless Web use, but a new report by FCC engineers has essentially shot down one of their major arguments.
The proposed band is 2155-2175 MHz, or AWS-3, for Advanced Wireless Service.

US telecoms giant T-Mobile submitted test results claiming that using AWS-3 for wireless Internet use would interfere with mobile devices operating in the adjacent 2110-2155 MHz band known as AWS-1.

But in a report late Friday, the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology said tests conducted in September at a facility in Washington state found there was no "significant risk of harmful interference."

A Silicon Valley start-up, M2Z Networks Inc. applied to the FCC, the US regulatory body, in May 2006 to lease the AWS-3 spectrum to build a free nationwide wireless broadband network.

M2Z pledged to ensure broadband coverage for 95 percent of the population within 10 years.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin has said repeatedly he favors extending free access to the Internet and has proposed auctioning off the portion of the spectrum that would be dedicated to free wireless use.
© 2008 AFP source

My comment:I think that internet should become just as common as electricity and this article is a ray of hope. Although without common computer systems, it's not of much use. But the development of netbooks is also a step in the right direction. This gives a totally new definition of the freedom of information. With nation-wide free coverage of wireless (hopefully coming to Europe after that) and cheap netbooks for everyone, we will all be free to share whatever we like, whenever we want to. Isn't that nice?

ITER, IAEA sign deal to move nuclear fusion research forward

Technicians work at a nuclear reactor. Key nuclear international institutions signed a deal to step up their collaboration marking a step forward in the development of a multibillion dollar experimental nuclear fusion project.
Key nuclear international institutions on Monday signed a deal to step up their collaboration, marking a step forward in the development of a multibillion dollar experimental nuclear fusion project.
The accord was signed in Geneva by International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Director General Kaname Ikeda and Yury Sokolov, the deputy director general of the UN's nucler watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The agreement would strengthen the exchange of information and training of scientists between the two organisations.

The ITER thermonuclear project aims to research a clean and limitless alternative to dwindling fossil fuel reserves by testing nuclear fusion technologies.

Instead of splitting the atom -- the principle behind current nuclear plants -- the project seeks to harness nuclear fusion: the power of the sun and the stars achieved by fusing together atomic nuclei.

If it is successful, a prototype commercial reactor will be built, and if that works, fusion technology will be rolled out across the world.

The EU, Japan, China, India, South Korea, Russia and the US are involved in the experimental project, with the reactor currently under construction in the south of France, at Cadarache.
© 2008 AFP source
My comment: Hmm, that's very interesting list in the end. Because according to Wikipedia, US along with Canada pulled out all the financing for ITER two years ago. So I don't see how exactly it is involved in the project, beside spiritually. Anyway, I have a difficulty to understand what's going on with ITER because it's either a big fraud or a big secret. I won't speculate what it is, because I really want to see ITER working. But if you check their site, it always looks like nothing is going on. That can have two reasons and I don't see a way to know which one it is.