Archive for May, 2010

Milking the System for All It’s Worth

HP Seeks To Power Data Centers With Cow Manure.

The Times (UK) (5/23, Dey) reported Hewlett-Packard “is working on plans to power its data centres using energy generated from cow manure.” Company researchers “want to build computer warehouses on dairy farms where they would be hooked up to power plants fuelled by waste.” According to the article, “just one cow produces enough waste every day to power the televisions in three typical households. A large dairy farm, with about 10,000 cows, produces enough to run one of the firm’s typical data centres and meet the energy needs of the farmer, the HP scientists believe. If it works, the scheme could potentially solve two of the world’s looming environmental problems at a stroke:” the disposal of farm waste and large amounts of energy needed to cool off data centers.

Natural Selection Among the Ions

Program Simulates Natural Selection To Improve Ion Engine Design.

New Scientist (5/24, Marks) magazine reported, “The life expectancy of a popular type of ion engine has been almost doubled using software that mimics the way natural selection evolves ever fitter designs.” Cody Farnell, a space flight engineer at the University of Colorado, used a “genetic algorithm” (GA) in order to change the girds typically used in ion engines, which typically last 2.8 years. The geometry and voltages of the grids were substituted for the genes the program typically simulates. If a configuration looked “promising, the ‘genetic material’ was subjected to further random changes,” ultimately leading to a configuration that could last 5.1 years if the simulation is correct. “The engine could be improved further, says Farnell, by evolving the other parts too.”

Reposted from ASEE First Bell for May 25, 2010

Scramjet Launch

X-51 Scramjet Will Launch Later This Month.

New Scientist (5/7, Courtland) reported, “In the last week of May, thousands of square miles of airspace above the Pacific Ocean will be cleared to make way for a skinny, shark-nosed aircraft called the X-51.” The scramjet will be dropped from a jet, where it will attempt to maintain hypersonic speeds for minutes. Boeing X-51 Program Manager Joe Vogel said, “No one has successfully flown a vehicle of this nature for more than a few seconds.” NASA’s X-43 was “the last US hypersonic scramjet to fly successfully…managing only 10 seconds of powered flight. Unlike its predecessor, the X-51’s engine uses novel active cooling systems and uses standard jet fuel.”

Reposted from the May 7, 2010 ASEE First Bell

Microprocessor Power Use


SPEAKER: Antonio González, Director, Intel Barcelona Research Center

TOPIC: Software to the Rescue of Power

DATE: Monday, May 10

TIME: 1:00 p.m.

PLACE: Olsson Hall Room 009

Abstract:  Power has become the main limiting factor for the scalability of microprocessors.  This limit is different for different systems (e.g. servers, desktops, laptops, MIDs, etc.), but in all of them it is already constraining the computing capabilities of the microprocessor.

Moore’s law will continue to provide us with the capability to integrate more devices in the same area, but the benefit of this ever increasing power density is jeopardized by the difficulties to dissipate the increased power it requires.  This clearly indicates that innovative solutions to reduce power are needed to harness the benefits of Moore’s law in order to keep delivering an increased performance to the end user.

To address this challenge, in this talk we will explore an approach based on implement microprocessors based on hardware/software co-design.

The main advantages of this approach are dramatic reductions in power and area without compromising performance when compared with traditional approaches.  This approach has other important advantages in the areas of scalability, reliability, legacy code and prototyping of new techniques that will be discussed.

Special Needs Shelter

High-Tech Dwellings For The Elderly Garner Praise, Concern.

The Washington Post (5/6, Kunkle) reports on “the MEDcottage, a portable high-tech dwelling that could be trucked to a family’s back yard and used to shelter a loved one in need of special care.” The shelter is the brainchild of the Rev. Kenneth Dupin of Salem, Virginia, who wanted to give the aged the option to “avoid a jarring move to the nursing home by living in small, specially equipped, temporary shelters close to relatives.” Critics, meanwhile, refer to the product as “the granny pod,” and “some local officials warn that Dupin’s dwellings — which have been authorized by Virginia’s state government — will spring up in subdivisions all over the state, creating not-in-my-back-yard tensions…and perhaps being misused.” The Post notes, “The enterprise has received backing from the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center,” and VT engineering professor Janis P. Terpenny said the shelter “could have a huge impact on revolutionizing health care.”

Reposted from the May 6, 2010 ASEE First Bell

Invisible Ink to (Eventually) “Invisible Pens”

Paper Mate Launches Line Of Biodegradable Pens.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle (5/4) reported Paper Mate has launched “a line of biodegradable pens and mechanical pencils that break down in soil or home compost in about a year.  The Paper Mate Biodegradable series looks and feels like conventional plastic, but its compostable components are a bio-plastic made from plant-derived sugar.”

Reposted from the May 5, 2010 ASEE First Bell.


This coming Monday, 10 May from 1-2 pm, VPR is hosting a special colloquium by Dr. Srikumar Banerjee , Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission & Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, India in the Rotunda Dome Room.  I would appreciate your help in getting the word out to faculty, staff and students who may have interest in attending.

Dr. Banerjee will talk on the following topic:  “Accelerator Driven System (ADS) in Support of Sustainable Nuclear Power Program in India” – the abstract of his talk is posted below.

Dr. Phillip A. Parrish
Associate Vice President for Research
University of Virginia
PO Box 400301
Charlottesville, VA  22904-4301
434-243-4023 (office) / 434-825-5258 (cell)
434-924-3667 (fax)


Accelerator Driven System (ADS) in Support of Sustainable Nuclear Power Program in India

Srikumar Banerjee

Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission & Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, India


Energy policy of populous country like India caters to sustain fast economic growth without burdening environment with deleterious effects and yet conserve resources for future generations. Nuclear energy would be essential for such goals even though other renewable energy sources could provide incremental supplements.

India is not endowed with large deposits of basic nuclear fuel uranium, but thorium as fertile fuel is abundantly available. Long-term goal of our nuclear energy policy is to harness thorium reserves which will last for a couple of centuries. This policy is manifested in the 3-stages of fuel cycle and reactor technology development program. A closed uranium fuel cycle is planned alongside heavy water reactors of first stage. The second stage would enhance fuel stockpiles with fast breeder reactors and provide seed fuel for thorium utilization in eventual third stage.

However, sustainable thorium fuel utilization with capacity growth requires use of sub-critical reactor system with external supply of non-fission neutrons to achieve high & economic fuel burn up (of thorium). Reprocessing of fuel and its recycling would be essential part of such a scheme. Recycling of uranium spent fuel would also reduce the radiotoxicity, whereas thorium utilization would not create large quantities of actinides waste. Final “ashes” of uranium fuel would be minor actinides which are transmuted safely by fission in dedicated sub-critical reactor.

An energy efficient way to supplement reactor with external non-fission neutrons is by nuclear reaction of spallation using high energy proton accelerator and its beam power intensity of several megawatts. This forms basic configuration of Accelerator Driven System (ADS). We have an integrated R&D program for ADS that is implemented with analytical and technology studies and experimental facilities in BARC and other institutes of Indian Department of Atomic Energy. Development of linear proton accelerator (linac) having low beam loss, high reliability and energy efficiency would require application of RF superconductivity and associated cryogenics. Termination scheme of intense proton beam at spallation target needs development of liquid lead and lead-bismuth technology and high temperature structural materials.

The above aspects of ADS in support of sustainable nuclear power in India are covered in the talk and status of activities initiated under R&D program on ADS is elaborated.

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May 2010