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Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke | Magazine

The most recent Wired magazine discusses the use of thorium, rather than uranium, as a nuclear fuel. Thorium could either be combined with uranium to form pellets or combined with liquid fluoride, and the waste products are cannot be processed into weapon's grade material. Canada's CANDU reactors are considered capable of using thorium-uranium pellets and, in July, signed an agreement with China to develop and demonstrate thorium-based fuel use in CANDU reactors. In fact, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) has been interested in developing thorium-based fuels for use in CANDU reactors since the late 1970s. Australia and the United States produce most of the world's available thorium, but research on thorium-based reactors has languished because of the availability and proven technology of uranium-based reactors.
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Nanotech ink turns paper into batteries - News - Windows for Devices

Researchers at Stanford University have created a battery by baking paper onto which has been applied an ink containing a mixture of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires. The battery can be crumpled or even soaked in acidic or basic solutions without performance degradation, and can be charged and discharged an order of magnitude more often than lithium batteries. The battery also discharges quickly so the technology could also be used to make cheap supercapacitors.

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Smaller And More Efficient Nuclear Battery Created

University of Missouri researchers have developed a safe, efficient radioisotope battery the size of a penny. The battery is able to achieve an energy density six times that of a chemical battery of equivalent size.

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Major breakthrough in lithium battery technology reported

Canadian researchers have demonstrated the first robust lithium-sulphur battery, as well as a new approach to creating composite materials. Lithium-sulphur batteries have been long been sought because they have potential for high energy densities and sulphur is cheaper to obtain than materials currently used in lithium-based batteries. The team developed a nano-casting technique consisting of a structure of nanoscale carbon rods seperated by empty channels. The rods kept the channels open until molten sulphur was added. Capillary forces drew the sulphur into the channels where it solidified into sulpher nanofibers. The resulting battery demonstrated 3 times the storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries. The researchers are currently ironing out the details with an eye to commercialization.
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Atomic construction yields punchier power store - tech - 15 March 2009 - New Scientist

University of Maryland researchers have developed a new type of electrostatic capacitor that could replace batteries in some future devices. The new capacitor is, in fact, 10 billion nano-capacitors covering an area 50 nanometres across. The resulting system can discharge quickly (a 1 kg capacitor can deliver 1 megawatt) and has a storage capacity approaching that of supercapacitors (2500 joules per kilogram). They hope to use this device as part of a battery-capacitor hybrid.
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Efficient lighting equals higher heat bills: study

A recent study seems to indicate that the energy savings from using CFL bulbs may be offset by an increase in heating. Incandescent bulbs, though less efficient with regard to generating light, also generate heat. Switching to CLF bulbs means that heat source is no longer available so people turn up the furnace. In some cases, the increase in heating costs can exceed the energy saved by using CLF bulbs, particularly in parts of Canada.
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A machine that generates perpetual energy, but not, according to Thane Heins, the Ottawa-based inventor, a perpetual motion machine. He refuses to use the term because there are negative associations attached to it. But this inventor believes he has designed a device that draws energy from both braking an acceleration, resulting in very little energy loss. At least that is the claim, and Dr. Riadh Habash of the University of Ottawa was unable to explain what is, in fact happening. As a result, the inventor was asked to demonstrate his device to Dr. Markus Zahn of MIT, who was impressed the the potential of the device, but unable to figure out what is, in fact, happening to generate the observed effect.

While the Toronto Star article focused (understandably) on the inventor, PhysOrg focused on the technology. If you look at the picture of his experimental setup, the disks on the wheel are magnets and the device behind it is an induction motor. The motor was overcharged which results in a back-EMF in a wire coil (I assume the red object to the left of the wheel) which in turn generates a large electromagnetic field. The magnets pass though the field resulting in, one would expect, a retarding force as the magnets push though the field, eventually slowing the motor down. What has been observed to occur is that the field in the coil induces the flywheel to spin faster, increasing the back-EMF which in turn increases the field strength. To the average observer it might appear that energy is being generated for nothing, but what it may, in fact, be doing is increasing the overall motor efficiency by making better use of the electromotive forces. And it is this increase in motor efficiency that has people at UofO and MIT interested.
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You might want to take this story with a very large grain of salt, but it is entertaining enough to include here. According to NextEnergyNews, Toshiba has developed a small 200-watt nuclear reactor, designed to operate for up to 40 years with minimal maintenance. The system is designed for small businesses or apartment blocks. The announcement says a test system will be in place by 2008 or 2009, and is expected to generate electricity for half the cost of power available on the grid.

Found on Slashdot.
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Nature reports that a more environmentally-friendly way to process crude deposits is to allow bacteria to do the work. Scientists are planning to field test the idea of using anaerobic bacteria to convert deeply-buried oil into methane, eliminating the need for steam-injection and refining.
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Source: Space.com
Two robotic spacecraft have been launched as part of a three-month mission to test the feasibility of refueling and repairing satellites in orbit. The NextSat is the smaller of two and is designed to dock with satellites so that their store of propellant can be topped up. It can also be used to transfer replacement hardware from the ASTRO to the satellite. The larger of the two is the ASTRO which has a robotic arm that allows it to either recapture the NextSat or transfer parts to NextSat to shuttle to a satellite.

Source: Space.com
The State of New Mexico has threatened to "...secede from the astronomical community..." if Pluto is not given official status as a planet. Their primary reason? The original discoverer of Pluto used to live there. The reaction from the International Astronomical Union has been, understandable, understated, given this is a threat with no teeth. They have also declared 13 March as "Pluto Planet Day".

Source: National Geographic
If Global Warming can be seen to have an upside, one of them may be access to a new source of fuel in the form of gas hydrates. First discovered in 1983, it is now believed that there may enough methane trapped in the form of gas hydrates to exceed the world's traditional supply of gas, oil and coal. Each 0.02 cubic metre of gas hydrate can yield as much as 4.5 cubic metres of methane. Research is currently being conducted in the Arctic to determine how to mine this resource from the sandy sediments in which they appear.

Source: ABC News
As we go into the weekend knowing that Daylight Savings time starts three weeks earlier than usual this year (causing innumerable computer headaches), it turns out that the plan may be more annoyance than solution. The original purpose was to reduce the US's energy consumption by a wopping 1%; Canada followed suit in it usual passive manner to avoid upsetting anyone. The idea was that with an hour more sunlight in the evening, electric lights would be on a shorter period of time. A new study points out that there will, in fact, be an "...increase in morning electricity consumption ... so big that it offsets any benefits we get from the extra light in the evening." The cost of this shift has been estimated at more than $2 billion(US).

Source: SlashDot
IBM, in association with The Anomalies Network, has designed a new search engine for those of you have may have been captured by aliens. UFOCrawler is a repository of information pertaining to ghosts, conspiracy theories and extraterrestrials. Strangely enough, I might have a use for this sight, these being things I find entertaining.

A note expanding on yesterday's report of NetFile being down: apparently the problem is some data being scrambled, such as Social Insurance numbers being switched with birthdates [Toronto Star]. Intuit Canada recommends that you can either wait for NetFile to come back online or submit paper copies. QuickTax will generate a barcode for printed returns so those who use their system can simply print out the data and submit it.
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Source: Technology Review
Results from clinical trials of vaccines to treat nicotine and cocaine addiction are due out within the next few months. A commercial product is expected to follow shortly thereafter. In addition to reducing the effects of withdrawal, these vaccines also induce the body to generate antibodies that bind to the drug being ingested and reduce the amount that reaches the brain. In effects, they inoculate the body against the effects of the drug by engaging the body's own immune system.

Source: SlashDot
Just as Australia (and more locally, Ontario) look to ban incandescent light use, General Electric has unveiled a new breed of high-efficiency light bulbs that are nearly twice as efficient as current light bulbs. They hope to push that efficiency to 4 times the current standard, which is comparable to compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Source: SlashDot
A Christian group in California is planning to unleash a smear campaign against Wii because they are, apparently, "...a portal to porno". Could it be... Satan?

Source: CBC News
Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] ancalagon_tbA group of Chinese researchers have succeeded in controlling the flight of a pigeon using a microchip implanted in the bird's head. They hope to put the technology to practical use, but there is no word on what that might be.

Source: New York Times
Not feeling popular enough? Like most problems, it can be "solved" by throwing enough money at it. FakeYourSpace.com offers a service in which, for 99 cents a month, you can rent an attractive person to provide comments and photos for your MySpace account. The rest of the article discusses the legalities of this an similar services, including one that you can hire to call your cell phone at a prearranged time to get you out of inconvenient events. Ah, the Internet. So genuine(tm)!
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Source: Slate
Slate Magazine calls Windows Vista"...the Canada of operating systems.". Ummm, thanks?

Source: San Francisco Chronicle
The US Department of Homeland compliance Security is working with a consortium of universities to develop software that monitors the negative opinions of other countries towards the United States. This is, apparently preferable to an aggressive "me first/screw you" foreign policy.

Source: EurekAlert!
Wind power is often touted as a great source of clean energy; however, recent research has shown that airborne particulate matter (such as from automobiles and other consumers of fossil fuels) scatters or absorbs solar energy that drives daytime air convection, the source of wind energy. This reduces the amount of wind on average and so, reduces the amount of energy that can be obtained from wind power.

Source: PhysOrg
It's a sign that the environment has become a major issue when corporate leaders (from companies like DuPont and General Electric) are requesting that the US President to establish pollution reduction targets and begin enforcing mandatory compliance.

Source: New Scientist
New Scientist reports on a new technique for coating devices in a thin coating of a diamond-like material. The device is surrounded by graphite through which a charge is passed. The charged graphite adheres to the plastic surface of the device and bonds with it to form diamond-like coating that is scratch and static-resistant, as well as being biodegradable.

January 2010

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