Tech Scavenger

Searching for the Future

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Steel Mill Considers Thorium Power

Thorium energy is one of my ongoing crusades and so when I saw this article I thought I’d post it up here.

A steel mill operator mentioned that he’d like to power his furnaces with a small thorium reactor rather than the natural gas that he burns now. He recognizes that Thorium energy isn’t ready yet, but you can probably count him in when it is. The author, Mark Halper also gives his thoughts. It is worth the read!

Filed under thorium nuclear energy independence energy

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Laser Powered Drones to With Extreme Loiter Times

A new drone developed by Lockheed can stay in flight by recharging via laser. The downside is you’d have to maintain line of sight, and I assume there are range limitations, but still, this is pretty cool and has some interesting potential uses.

I’d put these on duty at the border. It would almost be like having full time satellites, maybe even better…

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Spray-on Rechargeable Batteries Could Store Energy Anywhere

Very interesting… between this, the structural battery from BAE, and the bevy of efficiency increasing technologies we’re seeing, I expect a huge increase in general battery life in our electronic devices in the coming years. 

singularitarian:

A team of mechanical engineers has published a paper demonstrating its latest invention — spray-on rechargeable batteries that could be combined with solar cells to create self-sufficient, energy conversion-storage devices.

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Hyper-sonic - The New Stealth

The linked article doesn’t amount to much more than a “DARPA is really cool” type press release, but I think the critical point in the press release is the idea that the next frontier in air superiority is hyper-sonic travel.

From the press release:

DARPA’s research and development in stealth technology during the 1970s and 1980s led to the world’s most advanced radar-evading aircraft, providing strategic national security advantage to the United States. Today, that strategic advantage is threatened as other nations’ abilities in stealth and counter-stealth improve. Restoring that battle space advantage requires advanced speed, reach and range. Hypersonic technologies have the potential to provide the dominance once afforded by stealth to support a range of varied future national security missions.

Extreme hypersonic flight at Mach 20 (i.e., 20 times the speed of sound)—which would enable DoD to get anywhere in the world in under an hour—is an area of research where significant scientific advancements have eluded researchers for decades.

I think DARPA is absolutely right about this. If the U.S. wants to maintain a definitive military edge, then hyper-sonics are the next frontier. We’ve made some progress in recent times with hyper-sonic tests, and we have a little ways to go, but for now the U.S. leads the world on this front, and I’m glad we’re continuing to invest in it. 

Filed under hypersonic hyper-sonic hypersonics DARPA military superiority

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Robot Re-Creates Human Like Gait

Researchers at UA have created a robot that can walk like a human. It uses Kevlar straps as “muscles” and a bevy of sensors to help it detect strain on various parts of the legs. 

Capable “soft robots” (discussed in the article) could potentially be a big and big money saver in years to come. Imagine being able to use wirelessly controlled robots to save time and money in the home health care industry for example, or in any position right now that requires only occasional monitoring. What if a tech support person could use your home robot to work on your household equipment?

Filed under robots walking robot artificial muscles

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Dark Matter Observed

It has long been theorized that there must be another source of mass in the universe because the existing observed mass doesn’t really seem to explain some of the phenomena  we’ve been seeing for centuries as we look out at the universe. 

For the first time though, we’ve actually been able to get a look at this theorized source of mass. We were able to see it because the direction of the tendril that we got on camera was perpendicular to us, which meant there was a enough density to distort visible light. 

Now that we can observe dark matter, I wonder what comes next. Can we use it somehow in space travel, perhaps harvesting it as reaction material for nuclear thermal rockets?

Filed under dark matter space nuclear propulsion

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A Plan For Airships That Might Finally Take Off

I love this. Wouldn’t it be fun if airships were practical again?

singularitarian:

“Some kids wanted to be firefighters,” Igor Pasternak says. “I always thought about blimps.” Pasternak grew up in Lviv, Ukraine, near a weather station. When he was six, he convinced the Soviet meteorologists there to let him launch one of their balloons. “I was hooked,” he says. “I wanted to build airships.”

Filed under airship blimp cargo transporation transporation

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Stretchy Circuitry

This is really cool, and I’ll give a little anecdote as to why I think so. Waaaaay back when I was a recent high school grad in the late 90s, I worked for a little electronics shop called Advanced Electronic Packaging.

The owner of the company had a nifty little educational product for teaching college students how to design and connect electronics with Lego type connections rather than the traditionally used wire-wrapping technique (which is still employed to a large degree). Inside each of these Lego-style blocks was a connector. The connector had to be somewhat flexible and pliable and the solution at that time was melt grains of copper into the rubbery material to conduct electricity through it.

For what it did, it worked pretty well. It allowed you to press the blocks together and get a decent electrical connection. It did have higher resistance than a standard wire though and required a solid connection. Also, it wouldn’t stretch very well (not that they needed to in that application). If you did the resistance went up quickly and the wire would snap before too long. 

Later on, I worked in another board shop that specialized in flexible circuitry for mostly government projects like yf-22 and the mars rover. A problem there was that flexible circuits would fatigue and crack over time and they were always trying to find ways to improve on that problem. I bet this solution would have helped quite a bit. 

It’ll be interesting to see how this technology gets applied to real world problems. 

Filed under flexible circuitry electronics

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New Smart Headlights Dodge Raindrops As You Drive

This new headlight system predicts where the raindrops are going to fall and then adjust the headlights accordingly. Apparently a high percentage of drops can be illumination-free (so you don’t see the reflection) at lower speeds, though the technology is still a bit slow to get a high percentage of drops at freeway speed.

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Researchers Can Prolong Life 15-30 Minutes for Patients Lacking Oxygen

Researchers at the Children’s Hospital in Boston have found a way to directly inject oxygen into someone’s blood stream, allowing them to prolong the life of someone who can’t breathe for 15-30 minutes. I’m sure this technology will eventually save a lot of lives and I fully expect to see this solution showing up in CPR kits around the country in the next years.

Now… how long till athletes are using this to give them that extra edge right before an event? Maybe we’ll see a 3.5 minute mile someday?

Filed under medical technology medical research