• Nuclear waste is recyclable. Once Uranium fuel is used in a reactor, it can be treated and put into another reactor as fuel. This cycle can be repeated several times. Once all the energy is finally extracted from the fuel, the waste that is left over decays to harmlessness within a few hundred years, rather than a million years as with standard nuclear waste. This page explains how this interesting process is possible.

    Among other solutions for the need to meet power requirements for the 1 billion people without electricity Thorium reactors may be the best bet. It is a little known fact that from the beginning of the nuclear industry Thorium was seen as a better alternative to U238. It just did not produce the Plutonium required for bombs! So we are stuck with huclear waste not out of technological neccesity, but rather as a by-product of the arms race.

    Advocates of nuclear energy point out that high-level radioactive waste is not a fundamental issue for nuclear energy in general, but only for the conventional "once-through" light water reactors, which use only 0.6% of the energy contained in the uranium fuel, and discard the rest as high-level waste. Reactors such as Integral Fast Reactor or Liquid fluoride thorium reactor which "burn" almost all the actinides in the fuel have successfully operated. These reactors can extract almost all energy content of the fuel, and even consume nuclear waste from conventional reactors as fuel, turning liability into an asset. The resulting low-actinide waste reaches safe background radiation levels in just 300 years, compared to tens of thousands of years in case of high level waste from once-through LWR reactors

    Nov 11 2015
  • How close are we? For the last 70 years fusion has been 20 years away. The pundits are still saying the same thing, so will fusion power always remain a dream? Fusion power with a net gain is an engineering problem. When the materials and the electronics are available it will function. The interesting questions are around the shortcuts. It’s all about getting the atoms to stay close enough, long enough to actually fuse. Up until now this has taken more energy than the resulting fusion makes available. Yes we can create a fusion reactor, but it has a negative gain. Some new ideas may change that sooner than expected.

    Fire is a plasma, so is the energy generating reaction inside the sun. Fire takes oxygen out of the air and combines it with carbon to make CO2. These are chemical reactions which release subatomic particles called photons which we experience as light or heat. The difference between chemical reactions releasing subatomic particles, and nuclear reactions which also release subatomic particles is one of scale. Atomic scale or molecular scale, or turning a gram of material into watts or megawatts. If this scale is continuous and not quantised then the cold fusion folks may have something. Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) is the preffered name. CBS has a laymans overview.

    The other set of options for fusion on a budget are epitomised by the Bussard poleywell fusion project. These ideas are much closer to the conventional wisdom about what makes fusion possible, and unlikely as they may seem are still getting minimal funding. By using innovative ways to attack the confinement problem size and complexity can theoretically be reduced resulting in a fusion reactor that may fit in an automobile, giving it enough power to hover. Jetsons here we come!

    Sep 09 2015
  • August 27 2015 There is a lot of research going on into artificial photosyntheses. It seems to be one of those areas ready for a breakthrough. Interesting is that in this case an effeciancy of only 15% is deemed adequate for large scale implementation. Science fiction shows us living spaceships which would require similar technology. More down to earth such systems could be deployed indepenedent of large infrastructure creating fuels that could be used in simple engines.<!--break-->

    This kind of enabling technology meets, Arthur C. Clark's “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” criteria. Produced in large quantities or even genetically engineered to be self reproducing, it would allow agrarian self-sufficient life styles without the backbreaking work normally required.

    Recently the first comercial plant for photosynthesiszing ethanol has gone into production.

    Sep 09 2015
  • Old Tech vs New Tech, I have been searching for a good motor generator combination. The time frame for equivalence between electrical energy storage and liquid energy storage is probably greater than 10 years.
    Still, electrically driven automobiles, especially with in wheel motors, have many advantages. The disadvantages are range, charge time, and reliability. How do we get close to the parameters of our daily drive given today's technology?
    The picture compares two diesel motors of 40hp. The little one besides being smaller and lighter is also less complicated and more efficient. Running a motor like this at constant velocity increases both reliability and efficiency. Is this kind of range extender enough to compete with gasoline guzzling SUV's which most of us can no longer afford to drive. The factors inhibiting the adoption of efficient personal transportation come from both the consumer and automobile ecosystem stakeholders. Consumer resistance is waning. Mass media can make today's alternatives into desirable options. Vested interests are actively trying to prevent this. Despite this companies producing a "liquid piston" have a limited time span in which to recoup there initial investment. The Chinese purchased Protean Electric, will this be there next acquisition?
    Moving proactively into electric mobility will allow for mass manufacturing of all the other components to achieve efficiencies of scale for when the power-source becomes available.
    A gallon of gasoline (roughly 4.5 liters) weighs approximately 6 pounds (less than 3 kilos), occupies a mere 230 cubic inches but contains the equivalent of 36 kWhs of electrical energy. For better or worse, this is the energy density standard to which the driving public has gotten accustomed over the years. Anything heavier, bulkier or with less energy density would be considered inferior, hence the main obstacle to popularity of PEVs.

    Nov 11 2014
  • This is not a display. It is 1/2 camera and 1/2 lens. How can that be? Well it does not focus light and it does not record light, but it does transform light.
    There are no active components within the sheet of plastic but a transformation and organization of light does take place. As the boys in Linz put it,"This is really cool".
    Time will tell the practical applications, but having very cheap visual sensor arrays that can take any shape brings us a lot closer to the invisibility cloak. Check it out, click on the picture!

    Nov 11 2014
  • The idea has been around in science fiction since at least the ‘60s. The implementation I found most impressive was an all terrain motorcycle capable of >100 mph in open country. Imagine an array of collapsible rods instantly retracting and extending in response to the underlying surface. If these thing are arrayed around a hub with the ability to extend laterally as well as vertically not only would objects up to the length of the rods be imperceptible to the rider, turning at speed would allow for rapid avoidance of larger obstacles as the rods pushed the bike into a horizontal position. Just watch out for the G forces! A computer simulation of this would be really cool. I bet some smart kids could do this on the cheap using Alias and the physics engines in todays graphic cards.

    The biggest challenge I see is the construction of the rods to allow for maximum extension. Say you want to have an extension of 60 cm (which is about what I ran into with my TR3, blowing out Bob’s teeth) then you have to add the diameter of the hub. Hmm… actually they could go through the hub. If you let them go through the hub then reaction time will have to increase, also distribution of the weight around the hub will be constantly changing putting increased stress on the central bearing.

    Some interesting engineering challenges in any case.

    Oct 10 2014
  • Protean Electric, a producer of in-wheel motors, has
    commissioned a series of wide-ranging studies into the
    effects and opportunities afforded by in-wheel motors.
    This includes driving experiments using real vehicles,
    test rigs and theoretical studies. These studies provide a
    comprehensive overview of the implications of in-wheel
    motors in mainstream applications. Two of the studies,
    specifically into unsprung mass effects, were carried out
    by Harty and Anderson. They worked in isolation and
    from very different perspectives, and the results are
    reported briefly here; conventional “you can’t get there
    from here” perspectives are severely challenged.

    Jun 06 2014
  • Graham is right on top of one of the biggest questions affecting the future of connectivity. Not only does he address the Gorilla in the store "China", but also brings into question the archaic institution of "Territories". For those of you who don't know, distribution rights to copyrighted material are given on a territory by territory basis. This means that providers have to negotiate with many, many, many etc. rights holders in order to achieve world wide distribution. This is also a technical handicap as the actual version in each territory may be different, in the worst case the provider would have to store 128 versions on there servers in order to distribute to 128 territories (countries more or less). Providing tools to keep the resulting metadata straight is a profitable sideline.

    Maybe someone out there can respond to the following:

    A. I buy a DVD in the USA and bring it to my home in Shrangri-La and watch. This is OK right?

    B. I rent storage space in the USA (1TB @ $20 a year). Now I buy a File in the USA and have it delivered to my storage. Still OK right?

    C. Now, instead of going to the USA and copying my file to a DVD and then flying home, I just move the file to my mountaintop via the internet. Whats the difference?

    Mar 03 2014
  • Why do we not have solar panels on every house and car? Because TCO exceeds ROI.In other words, the payback (when productive lifetime is included) is not really enough to justify the investment. What will change this? Increase Efficiency of solar to electric conversion per square meter. Decrease Installed cost per square meter. Increase usable lifetime.
    Silvija Gradečak and colleagues at MIT have made some progress on the first two.
    It will be interesting to see how these developments affect the third criteria as organic materials usually degrade at higher rates than silicone.

    Feb 02 2014
  • What we are are looking for are self-organizing molecular structures for electronic systems. These structures would be in a fluid carrier the “soup”. How farfetched is this, and what purpose would it serve?

    Coming from a TV engineering background I was looking for a way to get displays which would show off 8K TV as envisioned by NHK etal. The further I got into this the more I realized that this would be an enabling technology similar to 3D printing.

    The “soup” could be thought of as similar to the primordial soup of pre-evolutionary oceans, but instead of waiting for millions of years we would design the bits required to make functioning systems. Putting up a wall size screen would be as simple as taping a conducting strip at each end, painting the wall and then turning on the power. What do we need to get there?

    Light emitting structures that will float in the soup and then connect themselves together when the power is turned on should be pretty simple. OLED displays made with inkjet technology are already in the labs. So think of an engineered particle with a built in lens and a couple of transistors. When current is applied to the surface the particles will hook up via the path of least resistance, first vertically then horizontally. Once the connections are made a little extra voltage will lock them in place and the excess can be wiped off or left as redundancy.

    Once the manufacturing capacity is in place these particles will be so cheap that they may be thought of as disposable. Configurable antenna arrays in clothing will allow for incredible increases in bandwidth for mobile applications. Rumors already abound about invisibility cloaks, these will require light receptors as well. If we add sensors and transmitters for gaseous molecules we can retrieve and transmit sounds and microwaves.

    So how would these particles self organize to provide whatever functionality is required? In the same way that cells attach to each other to make plants or animals.

    Who is researching this stuff and what sort of budgets are being applied? We are not talking about molecular electronics, which is bedeviled by quantum effects and needs a lot more theoretical work. The challenges to building cell sized structures need to be solved by engineers, there is no new science required. Simulations of how these structures connect together to form functioning units should be a simple programming problem. These simulations will tell us what additional logic will be required at the cellular level.

    Jan 01 2014
  • According to this plan clean power also makes economic sense, at least for the general public.
    4000 lives saved due to reduction in pollution related deaths.
    35% less energy required to maintain the same standard of living.
    All these can be achieved within 15 years.
    The lack of balanced discussion regarding long term infrastructure projects indicates vested interests. The best time to stop someone from changing the status-quo is before they start.
    Suppressing discussion or belittling science through disinformation are the best methods.
    This does not mean that money cannot be made, just less for the those who are profiting from "burning life" which is essentially what our carbon based economy is about.

    Mar 03 2013
  • David Strom over at arsTechnica has given a good overview on coming developments in network technology. This is useful information for anybody tasked with determining the tradeoffs between cloud and center solutions. The kind of cabling required for these higher speeds, i.e. preconfectioned QSFP, is going to create a lot of headaches on long runs. Provisioning of these kinds of systems is moving beyond what todays IT techs have been used to. The in-house support for these systems is more about who to call when than actually being able to do something to solve the problem. Solving the equation of how much up-time and duration of down time is good ROI just got harder.

    Feb 02 2013



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