GE announced recently that they were partnering with the Transformational Medical Technology Initiative to develop the Biotic Man, a "physiologically based virtual human." The collaboration has the backing of the U.S. Dept. of Defense.
The Biotic Man will be based on computer modeling and has the potential to speed up the drug design process significantly. The project is aimed at providing a quicker response to biological threats on the battlefield and will advance the GE Physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic software tool. The tool employs computational models to measure drug response in the body far in advance of clinical trials.
Cognitive computing (computers that process information the same
way a brain does) has been a dream for 50 years. Artificial
intelligence, fuzzy logic, and neural networks have all experienced
some success, but machines still cannot recognize pictures or
understand languages as well as humans do.
Despite the many false starts however, forward-thinkers like Dr.
James Albus, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology,
believe cognitive computing research is at the tipping point,
similar to where nuclear physics was in 1905. The following
projects underway now describe the progress of this new
‘Smart’ cars: Auto makers are now investing heavily in
collision-warning systems and vehicles that drive themselves;
DOT officials believe that robotic
vehicles with safety warnings will likely save more lives than
airbags and seatbelts combined.
Future military: DOD planners predict
that by 2015, auto-fly drones and other computer-driven systems
could remove most soldiers from battlefield dangers.
Modeling the brain: Scientists at the Blue Brain project, a
collaboration of IBM and the Swiss
government; can zoom inside a single cell and examine exactly how
each neuron fires. This research will help repair damaged brains
today, and in the future could allow robots to mimic human
Let's think beyond simply trying to find new ways to produce more energy, and focus on ways of storing energy. Why? Because this expands ways for us to produce more energy! Confused?
Solar and wind alone are a hard sell to utility providers because of intermittent production when the sun isn't shining or wind doesn't blow. Add utility scale storage to solar and wind farms, and you have a more valuable proposition.
Battery powered cars sound great, but not if we have to plug in our vehicles every 50 or 100 miles. Or what about a new iPhone with a battery that cannot last the entire day.
We have written dozens of posts on energy storage and believe it deserves much more attention from the media and policy leaders. 2009 could be a turning point for awareness around the importance of enabling next generation batteries, fuel cells and capacitors.
List of 20+ Energy Breakthroughs in Batteries, Fuel cells, and Capacitors
There are only a few energy companies in the world that have generated as much attention and skepticism as BlackLight Power Inc. The company has demonstrated a controllable, scalable energy system the cannot be explained by conventional scientific paradigms of combustion or nuclear reactions.
Simply put the company has devised a way to capture the chemical energy from the electrons of hydrogen atoms as they transition to lower-energy levels. It is not combustion-based or nuclear but releases tremendous amounts of energy. [Flash video of process]
While the claims have, not surprisingly, generated a lot of criticism and doubt, Black Power has now confirmed successful independent replication and validation.
The validation of its 1,000 watt and 50,000 watt reactors was led by Rowan University’s Dr. Peter Jansson which conducted 55 tests of the prototypes, including controls and calibrations, during a nine-month study. Results indicated that energy generation was proportional to the total amount of solid fuel, and only one percent of the one million joules of the energy released could be accounted for by previously known chemistry. According to Dr. Jansson “Our experiments on the BlackLight technology have demonstrated that within the range of measurement errors the significant energy generated, which is 100 times the energy that could be attributed to measurement error, cannot be explained by other known sources like combustion or nuclear energy.”
Scientists and engineers are going to develop the solutions to our energy challenges. An obvious fact, but what if we’re not preparing people for those careers in the US? At the recent NanoTX’08 conference, Dr. Zvi Yaniv, CEO of Applied Nanotech, Inc. discusses the challenges of educating scientists and engineers in the US. All is not rosy, but all is not lost.
Dr. Zvi Yaniv is an expert in LCD technology. He received his PhD in Physics at the Kent State Liquid Crystal Institute in 1982. Shortly after he graduated, he was recruited by Energy Conversion Devices to run their LCD laboratory. Three years later, he spun out Optical Imaging Systems, OSI, Inc. “The premier Liquid Crystal Display Company in America, designing displays for our avionics, for F22, phantoms, helicopters,” he says. “And I loved it!”
The Obama Administration is following through on a major campaign promise: funding basic energy science.
Do you want Hope? (Or maybe long term optimism!)
Stop looking for 'short term' solutions and quick fixes to global energy challenges. We need disruptive breakthroughs that enable new energy systems and business models.
Start with basic science.
A Good Day for Energy Science Today, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science announced that it will invest $777 million in Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) over the next five years as we attempt to 'accelerate the scientific breakthroughs needed to build a new 21st-century energy economy'. The 46 new multi-million-dollar EFRCs [PDF list] will be established at universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms across the United States with partnerships extending around the globe.
The EFRCs will focus on a wide range of projects (PDF) 'ranging from solar energy and electricity storage to materials sciences, biofuels, advanced nuclear systems, and carbon capture and sequestration' and will engage 'nearly 700 senior investigators and employ, on a full- or part-time basis, over 1,100 postdoctoral associates, graduate students, undergraduate students, and technical staff.'
Getting Serious about CleanTech Industries Building a Bridge to Molecules: A Nano-Bio Energy Age The 'Cleantech' Industry vision promoted by entrepreneurs, activists and political leaders is not likely to be based on technologies and energy systems that exist today. (Translation: We are at the beginning of this new era of energy. And it is not likely to be an extension of the past or present!)
How do you create cleantech industries?
Be the economy that launches the Industrial Age of Nanoscale Molecular Engineering.
Learn how to manipulate carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, light, enzymes and metals at the nanoscale (1 billionth of a meter)- and you have the new 21st century drivers of economic growth.
Nanoscale materials science and Bio energy sciences are growing into giant new industry sectors that will dwarf today's major industry sectors. Science is the foundation for real green collar jobs of the future.
Smart Money - Right Time, Right Ideas, Right Teams Funding Basic Science not Mystery Science- Nano is no Joke!
The Institute will focus on global energy and climate issues by expanding the number of faculty and graduate research positions across the entire spectrum of energy science and engineering from photovoltaics to carbon sequestration.
The center is the result of a team of funders led by energy Executive Jay Precourt, who donated $50 million, and a $40 million gift from Thomas Steyer and Kat Taylor who supported the creation of the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy.
Stanford intends to expand global partnerships but it is clearly a big win for the State of California as it attempts to build a 'cleantech' hub of talent, IP, and companies involved in the 21st century energy systems.
The most successful players in the 'New Energy Economy' will be those who advance and profit from materials that enable cleaner interactions between molecules.
Even the 'greenest' consumers and markets will be stuck in a lower part of the value chain to countries and companies who dominate the Nanoscale Era of Science and Engineering. The future will shaped by those who become Masters of Molecules. So we pay close attention to investments by energy incumbents who are pushing forward around science.
'Pom Poms' to the Rescue? Nanoparticle Ionic Materials (NIMS) The performance qualities of elements such as carbon, iron, platinum (et al) change dramatically at the nanoscale (billionth of a meter). The KAUST-Cornell research will focus on a new material discovered at Cornell called Nanoparticle Ionic Materials (NIMS).
Researchers describe NIMS as: "pom-poms; that is, a squishy core made out of inorganic nanoparticles, and a hairy exterior called a corona that is made out of an organic polymer. This exterior can capture things such as carbon dioxide in a coal power plant, and the core can then be the catalyst to fix the carbon dioxide and convert it into something else, thereby preventing the building of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."
One of the biggest obstacles in using plant-based biomass (e.g. non-food crops/bio waste) to energy is reducing the cost and energy required to break down the strong cell walls. A way to reduce the costs of biofuels and to use waste biomass to energy, is to find enzymes capable of eating through cell walls.
Researchers at the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) now believe they have found one of these ‘super enzymes’. ARS Bioproduct Chemistry and Engineering Research Unit’s Charles Lee went looking for enzymes inside dank soil beneath 25-foot-high piles of decaying rice straw, and from the murky liquid from dairy-waste lagoons! (This is where super enzymes hang out to avoid media attention…)
Low temperature = Low cost
Lee’s team then sorted the microbe genes to find the blueprint for super enzymes. From the dairy lagoon sample, the team found a microbe with a gene that they’ve named xyn8. Xylanase is an enzyme that specializes in breaking down xylan, a troublesome component of the hemicellulose in plant cell walls.
Xylanase works well in temperatures regarded as “cold” in the biofuels business. The research group believes that this ‘cold-loving’ enzyme could sidestep the need for the costly heating typically needed at today’s biorefineries.
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have discovered and demonstrated a new method for overcoming two major hurdles facing solar energy. By developing a new antireflective coating that boosts the amount of sunlight captured by solar panels and allows those panels to absorb the entire solar spectrum from nearly any angle, the research team has moved academia and industry closer to realizing high-efficiency, cost-effective solar power.
“To get maximum efficiency when converting solar power into electricity, you want a solar panel that can absorb nearly every single photon of light, regardless of the sun’s position in the sky,” said Shawn-Yu Lin, professor of physics at Rensselaer and a member of the university’s Future Chips Constellation, who led the research project. “Our new antireflective coating makes this possible.”
An untreated silicon solar cell only absorbs 67.4 percent of sunlight shone upon it — meaning that nearly one-third of that sunlight is reflected away and thus unharvestable. From an economic and efficiency perspective, this unharvested light is wasted potential and a major barrier hampering the proliferation and widespread adoption of solar power.
After a silicon surface was treated with Lin’s new nanoengineered reflective coating, however, the material absorbed 96.21 percent of sunlight shone upon it — meaning that only 3.79 percent of the sunlight was reflected and unharvested. This huge gain in absorption was consistent across the entire spectrum of sunlight, from UV to visible light and infrared, and moves solar power a significant step forward toward economic viability.
All over the web, new 'green-themed' eco blogs are sprouting up like mushrooms with low impact solutions for affluent consumers.
So many new sites and products, yet there is no way to 'buy' ourselves into a 'green economy'.
Organic yoga mats, reusable water bottles, 'green weddings', telecommuting, hybrids and EVs, carbon neutral rock concerts, (et al) are all perfectly legitimate steps forward. But they do little to solve long-term problems, and they fall helplessly short of really educating people about the tremendous challenges ahead with energy.
Our strategy should not be to make consumers more 'green', but to make sure people know that we cannot 'buy' our way into sustainability.
The message that should really be pushed on the web, is that the energy systems that could actually change the world do not currently exist today. And that they will only emerge from advances in basic energy sciences that destroy all our current notions of what is technically possible today with regards to how we produce, store, transmit and deliver energy.
So please, no more new 'eco' blogs! Let's focus on people's minds, not wallets.
We need to learn, not buy,our way into a sustainable economy. And the learning starts with asking questions that are beyond our current energy knowledge base. Let's empower scientists, not marketing agencies to ask the right questions about 'going green'.
The good news is that researchers now know, what we don't know!
Basic Energy Science Reports The Office of US Basic Energy Science has spent the past five years engaging scientist around the world in a conversation about 'what we do not know about energy systems'. What new knowledge about molecules and electrons could enable new solutions?
Rather than seek quick fixes that fail, the program attempted to outline the Grand Challenges of energy systems that are beyond our current notions of what is technically possible.
Their conclusion? What we currently 'have' and 'know' about energy is not enough. [PDF]
"The magnitude of the challenge is so immense that existing energy approaches—even with improvements from advanced engineering and improved technology based on known concepts—will not be enough to secure our energy future. Instead, meeting the challenge will require new technologies for producing, storing and using energy with performance levels far beyond what is now possible."
The Summary findings and Full reports can be found here.