FARADAY FUTURES

February 12, 2016


Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, another all-electric automobile emerges from “drawing board” to concept car with hopes of becoming reality.  Faraday Future–which suggests you call it FF for short–says it will launch its battery-electric vehicle sometime during 2017, model FFZERO1. This is a very aggressive timetable and one which draws considerable skepticism from informed individuals in the automotive industry.

Future was established in 2014 and is currently based in Gardena, California. Since its inception in 2014, the company has grown to 750 employees globally.  Over the past eighteen (18) months California-based Faraday Future (FF)  has drawn an incredible hype with plans to “redefine the automotive experience by delivering seamlessly connected electric vehicles and future mobility solutions that will fit the needs of tomorrow’s population.”   Former automotive design-team leaders were recruited from BMW and Tesla Motors.   This Chinese-backed company has huge ambitions to change the future of the automotive industry and take on other electric rivals. Faraday says it is targeting the highest energy density and specific vehicle energy on the market with its battery pack. That would likely take the total energy capacity to over 100 kilowatt-hours, given Tesla’s recent announcement of a 90-kWh pack option for its Model S sedan.

FF plans to use a single pack design, smaller than current large packs to provide greater crumple zones, but will offer different pack capacities inside this single form factor. The batteries sit in horizontal rows, and the scalable factor of the platform comes from the ability to add or take away rows for different sized models. Nick Sampson, senior VP at FF and head of R&D said the batteries would operate like Christmas tree lights — if one pack goes out the “strand” keeps working. Other specifics–cells grouped into modules, replaceable cells or modules, safety measures to prevent any short in a faulty cell from propagating to adjacent cells–have been seen before in various other makers’ pack designs.

Are you ready for this one—“The 1,000-horsepower FFZero1 includes the ability to exceed 200mph (321 kph) and accelerate from zero to 60mph in less than three seconds. It also includes a helmet to provide oxygen and water to the driver.”  Other key features are as follows:

  • The adjustable chassis can accommodate strings of batteries that are more easily changed than single batteries. The number of batteries would depend on car size
  • A helmet to provide oxygen and water to the driver. (This really blows my mind.)
  • ‘Aero tunnels’ incorporated into the design to channel air through the vehicle for reducing drag and cooling the batteries.

Faraday made a deal with the State of Nevada for a billion dollar factory, securing over $330 million in tax incentives and eventually bringing 4,500 jobs to the state. FF revealed at CES (Consumer Electronic Show-2016)  plans to break ground on the new three million square-feet factory in just a few weeks, with the Mayor of North Las Vegas and Governor of Nevada present at the event.

Let’s take a look at the FFZERO1 displayed at the recent show.

FARADAY BODY STYLE

FARADAY BODY STYLE(2)

FARADAY BODY STYLE(3)

As you can see, this is truly a car of the future and apparently that future begins in 2017. Please keep in mind, if this vehicle is commercialized at all, there will have to be involvement with the DOT.  Approvals will have to be given.  Maintenance protocols will have to be developed. Spare parts will have to be designated.  In other words, there is a great deal of extremely important work needing to be accomplished prior to the first vehicle being sold.  I may have missed it but I saw no price mentioned in any of the press releases for the product.  I suppose if you have to ask you cannot afford one.  Time will tell.

NOOR SOLAR POWER GENERATION

February 6, 2016


If you have read my posts in the recent past you know that I enjoy writing about technology and sustainability.  I make every effort, as time allows, to track technology and detail advances and discoveries that affect our lives.  I definitely try to “stay close” to all sustainability efforts regardless as to where they occur over our globe.  Let’s very quickly define “sustainability” as:

A state in which the demands placed on the environment can be met without reducing its capacity to allow all people to live well, now and in the future.”

Evidence suggests that we are exceeding and eroding the earth’s carrying capacity, that there are limits to growth on a finite planet.  Effects are interactive, complex, unpredictable and escalating, as we head for a global average temperature rise of more than 2 degrees centigrade over pre-industrial levels.

Sometimes ‘environmental’, ‘social’ and ‘economic’ are termed to be the three pillars of sustainability.  But this is problematic as it suggests they are equivalent and can be traded.  Environmental sustainability is the context within which social and economic life happen. Also, social inequity directly affects environmental viability.

Leading thinkers suggest that to stand any chance of achieving environmental sustainability, businesses need to move from a sense of right-to-exploit the natural environment to a worldview of mutual interdependence and radical eco-innovation.  Many organizations are now taking on this challenge.

One country, Morocco, has taken that definition very seriously and has accomplished a marvelous engineering feat.  OK, with that being the case, just where is Morocco? Morocco lies on the Northwestern portion of the African Continent. The two digital maps below will indicate the exact location for us.

MOROCCO

SAHARA DESERT

The country of Morocco has officially turned on a massive solar power plant in the Sahara Desert, kicking off the first phase of a planned project to provide renewable energy to more than one million Moroccans.

The Noor I (Quarzazate Solar Power Station or OSPS) is located in the Souss-Massa-Drâa area of Morocco, 10 km from Ouarzazate town, in Ghessat rural council area.

It is capable of generating up to 160 megawatts of power and covers more than thirty-five (35) soccer fields of desert.  This fact signifies NOOR I as being one of the world’s largest solar thermal power plants.

There are two additional phases, Noor II and Noor III that will come on line with completion in 2030. With NOOR I, NOOR II and NOOR III active, Morocco will be able to generate 580 Mw and supply most of the nation’s power needs.

Morocco currently relies on imported sources for 97 percent of its energy consumption, according to the World Bank, which helped fund the Noor power plant project. Investing in renewable energy will make Morocco less reliant on those imports as well as reduce the nation’s long-term carbon emissions by millions of tons.

“It is a very, very significant project in Africa,” said Mafalda Duarte, the manager of Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which provided $435m (£300m) of the $9bn project’s funding. “Morocco is showing real leadership and bringing the cost of the technology down in the process.”

The digital photograph below will indicate the enormous size of the Saudi-built “footprint” upon which this energy will be derived.  Please keep in mind, this is only phase one of the overall project.   There are eight hundred (800) rows with five hundred thousand (500,000) collector panels in the overall array.  These panels track the sun as it moves from east to west.  The digital after the surface area indicates the basic configuration of the collector panels themselves.

NOOR I FOOTPRINT

Curvature of Panels

The system at Ouarzazate uses 12-meter-tall [39-foot-tall] parabolic mirrors to focus energy onto a fluid-filled pipeline.  The pipeline’s hot fluid — 393 degrees Celsius (739 degrees Fahrenheit) — is the heat source used to warm the water and make steam. The plant doesn’t stop delivering energy at nighttime or when clouds obscure the sun; heat from the fluid can be stored in a tank of molten salts.”  The facility is designed to provide energy twenty (20) hours per day.  The only down-time will be four hours in a twenty-four hour day.  The Noor II and Noor III plants will have a molten salt storage capacity of seven hours each, whereas Noor I will have a molten salt storage capacity of three hours.

Noor I will use a wet cooling system whereas the latter plants will use a dry cooling system. The water required for the plants will be sourced from the Mansour  Eddabhi dam, located approximately 12km from the project site, and stored in water storage reservoirs with a total capacity of 300,000m³.  Complexities of the overall mechanical system may be seen below.

MECHANICAL COMPLEX

The specifications for this remarkable project are as follows:

SPEC 1

SPEC 2

One striking fact—the Ouarzazate Solar System will reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year.  This is the definition of sustainable.

As always, I welcome  your comments.

WHAT’S AFTER HUBBLE

January 30, 2016


HUBBLE:

It is very difficult to believe that the Hubble Telescope is twenty-five (25) years in orbit. The launch date for Hubble was April 24, 1990 and remains in operation. Hubble’s orbit outside the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere allows it to take extremely high-resolution images with negligible background light.  It rotates approximately 345 miles above our Earth.   It has recorded some of the most detailed visible-light images ever, allowing a deep view into space and time. Many Hubble observations have led to breakthroughs in astrophysics, such as accurately determining the rate of expansion of the universe. A digital photograph of the Hubble Telescope is given as follows:

HUBBLE

Every 97 minutes, Hubble completes a spin around Earth, moving at the speed of about five miles per second (8 km per second) — fast enough to travel across the United States in about 10 minutes. As it travels, Hubble’s mirror captures light and directs it into its several scientific instruments.

Hubble is a type of telescope known as a Cassegrain reflector. Light hits the telescope’s main mirror, or primary mirror. It bounces off the primary mirror and encounters a secondary mirror. The secondary mirror focuses the light through a hole in the center of the primary mirror that leads to the telescope’s science instruments.

People often mistakenly believe that a telescope’s power lies in its ability to magnify objects. Telescopes actually work by collecting more light than the human eye can capture on its own. The larger a telescope’s mirror, the more light it can collect, and the better its vision. Hubble’s primary mirror is 94.5 inches (2.4 m) in diameter. This mirror is small compared with those of current ground-based telescopes, which can be 400 inches (1,000 cm) and up, but Hubble’s location beyond the atmosphere gives it remarkable clarity.

As you might suspect, the marvelous Hubble Telescope is using technology that is considered outdated relative to what is available today.  Still working and still providing remarkable photographs and data, the scientists and engineers at NASA recognized a newer device would ultimately be needed to push the boundaries of astronomy. Hence the James Webb Telescope.  OK, just who is James Webb?

JAMES WEBB:

The man whose name NASA has chosen to bestow upon the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is most commonly linked to the Apollo moon program, not to science.

Yet, many believe that James E. Webb, who ran the fledgling space agency from February 1961 to October 1968, did more for science than perhaps any other government official, and that it is only fitting that the Next Generation Space Telescope would be named after him.

Webb’s record of support for space science would support those views. Although President John Kennedy had committed the nation to landing a man on the moon before the end of the decade, Webb believed that the space program was more than a political race. He believed that NASA had to strike a balance between human space flight and science because such a combination would serve as a catalyst for strengthening the nation’s universities and aerospace industry.

By the time Webb retired just a few months before the first moon landing in July 1969, NASA had launched more than 75 space science missions to study the stars and galaxies, our own Sun and the as-yet-unknown environment of space above the Earth’s atmosphere. Missions such as the Orbiting Solar Observatory and the Explorer series of astronomical satellites built the foundation for the most successful period of astronomical discovery in history, which continues today.  It is absolutely fitting that the next generation telescope be named after Mr. Webb.

JAMES WEBB VS HUBBLE:

The graphic below shows an excellent comparison between Hubble and James Webb relative capabilities.

Hubble vs James Webb

JAMES WEBB TELESCOPE:

JWST is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the development effort. The main industrial partner is Northrop Grumman; the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate JWST after launch.

Several innovative technologies have been developed for JWST. These include a primary mirror made of 18 separate segments that unfold and adjust to shape after launch. The mirrors are made of ultra-lightweight beryllium. JWST’s biggest feature is a tennis court-sized five-layer sunshield that attenuates heat from the Sun more than a million times. The telescope’s four instruments – cameras and spectrometers – have detectors that are able to record extremely faint signals. One instrument (NIRSpec) has programmable micro-shutters, which enable observation up to 100 objects simultaneously. JWST also has a cryo-cooler for cooling the mid-infrared detectors of another instrument (MIRI) to a very cold 7 K so they can work.  The JPEG below will show the instrumentation assembled into the platform and give a very brief summary of purpose.

JAMES WEBB SPECIFICS

The telescope will be “parked” 932,000 miles above Earth into space; obviously, beyond our moon.  With the ability to collect much more light than Hubble, the Webb Telescope will be able to see distant objects as they existed much earlier in time, specifically 13.5 billion years earlier.  This number is only 200,000 years after the “big bang”.

Other JPEGs of the telescope are given as follows:

James Webb in Orbit

(ABOVE) The Webb Telescope in Orbit.

Given below:  The James Webb Telescope Team.

TEAM

On 6 July 2011, the United States House of Representatives’ appropriations committee on Commerce, Justice, and Science moved to cancel the James Webb project by proposing an FY2012 budget that removed $1.9bn from NASA’s overall budget, of which roughly one quarter was for JWST.  This budget proposal was approved by subcommittee vote the following day; however, in November 2011, Congress reversed plans to cancel the JWST and instead capped additional funding to complete the project at $8 billion.

The committee charged that the project was “billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management”. The telescope was originally estimated to cost $1.6bn but the cost estimate grew throughout the early development reaching about $5bn by the time the mission was formally confirmed for construction start in 2008. In summer 2010, the mission passed its Critical Design Review with excellent grades on all technical matters, but schedule and cost slips at that time prompted US Senator Barbara Mikulski to call for an independent review of the project. The Independent Comprehensive Review Panel (ICRP) chaired by J. Casani (JPL) found that the earliest launch date was in late 2015 at an extra cost of $1.5bn (for a total of $6.5bn). They also pointed out that this would have required extra funding in FY2011 and FY2012 and that any later launch date would lead to a higher total cost. Because the runaway budget diverted funding from other research, the science journal Nature described the James Webb as “the telescope that ate astronomy”. However, termination of the project as proposed by the House appropriation committee would not have provided funding to other missions, as the JWST line would have been terminated with the funding leaving astrophysics (and the NASA budget) entirely. You can see from the following digital, Congress was certainly within their right to cancel the program.

ESTIMATED COSTS

It is not an inexpensive program.  The House of Representatives, as mentioned above, did not kill the program. Launch is still scheduled for 20 October, 2018. I personally believe this was the proper move for them to make.

As always, I welcome your comments.

 

GOING GLOBAL

January 20, 2016


If you do not believe we live in a global economy I would ask you to take another look.  I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  We are not a large community as can be seen from the information below:

Quick People Facts

We are a growing community as is Tennessee but a metropolis—not quite.  Our tax base is definitely conducive to investment by foreign companies and our ability to make those companies feel welcome is, in my opinion, unparalleled.  We call it Southern-fried hospitality.  With that being the case, let’s look at those companies that have chosen to place their US commercial businesses in our city.

CANADA

  • Woodbridge Group
  • Resolute Forest Products
  • Chattanooga Seating

GREAT BRITAIN

  • Home Services

BELGIUM

  • Beaulieu
  • IUC

FRANCE

  • Chattem
  • Plastic Omnlum

SPAIN

  • Gestamp

GERMANY

  • Volkswagen
  • Wacker
  • T-Mobile
  • BASF

TURKEY

  • Kordsa

SAUDI ARABIA

  • Mattex Group

CHINA

  • Yanfeng
  • Vanguard Trailer
  • GE/Roper

JAPAN

  • Komatsu
  • Denso
  • Toyo Seat

BRAZIL

  • Pilgrim’s Pride

Just over this past year, several foreign businesses have announced plans to invest nearly $300 million in the local economy, not including the $600 million VW is already spending on facility expansion to make the new sport utility vehicle late this year.  China-based Yanfeng Automotive Interiors has plans to invest $55 million into their facility in Chattanooga to supply assemblies for VW.  Vanguard National Trailer Corp, subsidiary of China International Marine Containers, is making plans for a $30 million facility in Dade County with plans to employ 400 people. Spanish auto supplier Gestamp is investing $180 million and now building at three separate sites in Chattanooga. That company, which already has a plant in the city, plans to employ 500 additional workers to supply VW and other auto manufacturers in the South. German-based Wacker is bringing online its new facility in Charleston, Tennessee. Wacker is spending $2.4 billion (yes that’s with a “B”.) which is a record-breaking investment for a single business in Tennessee.

Foreign-owned businesses, after the Haier purchase of GE Appliances, will employ approximately 10,000 people in the Chattanooga area.   This is according to the Chamber of Commerce.  When I mention area, I include the tri-state region of East Tennessee, North Georgia and North Alabama.

In looking at Tennessee relative to foreign investment, we see the following:

The Volunteer State is home to 864 foreign-based establishments that have invested over $30.1 billion in capital and employ more than 116,000 Tennesseans. And Tennessee continues to proactively identify and recruit new foreign direct investment (FDI) into the state in addition to increasing Tennessee exports. Our state now has offices courting foreign direct investment in Japan and Canada. We also have offices seeking export opportunities for Tennessee companies in Mexico, China, the United Kingdom and the European Union. This investment demonstrates Tennessee’s commitment to competing globally for business and jobs, not something most states can claim.

In 2013 alone, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development projects accounted for fifty-two (52) commitments from foreign-owned businesses that created 9,215 jobs and $1.68 billion in capital investment. This FDI accounted for nearly forty (40) percent of all Tennessee’s new jobs committed last year and nearly one-third of all capital investment committed in the state. These major foreign projects included South Korean-owned Hankook Tire (1,800 new jobs, $800 million investment), Japanese-owned Calsonic Kansei (1,200 new jobs, $109.6 capital investment) and Swiss-owned UBS (1,000 new jobs, $36.5 million capital investment).

Tennessee led the nation in jobs created by foreign investment in 2013, according to the new Global Location Trends Report by the IBM Institute. The annual report measures job commitments due to direct investments by foreign companies. Foreign companies have 864 operations in Tennessee, representing more than 116,000 jobs and an investment of more than $30.1 billion. The state was No. 1 in terms of raw number of jobs and jobs per capita, according to the report, which is held up as an industry standard in the economic development community. Tennessee runs economic development recruitment offices in Canada and Japan, along with export assistance offices in Mexico, the U.K., the European Union and China.

Tennessee believes in high expectations, low debt and a pro-business regulatory environment. Tennessee is a right-to-work state with no personal income tax on wages.  These two facts act as a magnet for investment consideration by investors.    State and local tax burdens represent some of the lowest in the country. We have the lowest debt per capita, and our state budget operates with a healthy surplus.

In my opinion, one of the reasons Tennessee and Chattanooga have attracted foreign investment is our belief in the Sister Cities Program.  Chattanooga is a sister city to the following cities across the globe.

  • Wuxi, China
  • Hamm, Germany
  • Wolfsburg, Germany
  •  Givatayim, Israel
  •  Gangneung, Korea
  • Nizhnii Tagil, Russia-

I have been told the relationships developed between Chattanooga and her sister cities is not only cultural but definitely commercial.  The visits shared have given foreign cities a great perspective on a fairly small Southern, progressive city and they like what they see.

More and more cities in the United States are working to attract foreign investment hoping to provide job opportunities for their residents.  Governors providing leadership for their states recognize the fact that American workers are the best trained with a great work ethic.  They can do those jobs required.

I certainly welcome you to Chattanooga and hope you can come a stay awhile.  We would love to have you for a visit.

42,000 SQUARE FEET OF PAINT

January 20, 2016


Public Art Chattanooga decided to add a splash of color to the monolithic grey hulk of the AT&T building, located on the Southside of Chattanooga proper.  This building is a tall windowless structure resembling the “BORG” habitat detailed in several Star Trek episodes.  Not really appealing in any sense of the word.  When Public Art received permission to go forward, they called internationally respected artist Meg Saligman.  Meg was the obvious choice for the work.  This is her largest mural to date covering approximately 42,000 square feet.  It is definitely one of the five (5) largest murals in the country and the largest in the Southeastern part of the United States.

The ML King District Mural Project reinforces the critical role public art plays in lending a sense of place to a specific neighborhood, and certainly contributes to future neighborhood beautification and economic development efforts. The images and people in the mural are inspired by real stories, individuals, and the history of the neighborhood.  For approximately six (6) months, people living and visiting the Southside were interviewed to obtain their opinion and perspective as to what stories would be displayed by the mural.  The proper balance was required, discussed, and met, with the outcome being spectacular.

This is a Meg Saligman Studios project.  Co-Principal Artists are Meg Saligman and Lizzie Kripke. Lead Artists Hollie Berry and James Tafel Shuster. In 2006, Public Art Review featured Meg Saligman as one of the ten most influential American muralists of the past decade. She has received numerous awards, including the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s Visionary Artist Award, and honors from the National Endowment of the Arts, the MidAtlantic Arts Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and Philadelphia’s Leeway Foundation.  Saligman has painted more than fifty murals all over the world, including Philadelphia, Shreveport, Mexico City, and now Chattanooga.  She has a way of mixing the classical and contemporary aspects of painting together. Prior to the M.L.K mural, Saligman’s most famous work is “Common Threads” located in the Philadelphia area. It is painted on the west wall of the Stevens Administrative Center at the corner of Broad and Spring Garden Streets. Other major works include “Philadelphia Muses” on 13th and Locust streets, a multimedia “Theatre of Life” on Broad and Lombard streets, “Passing Through”  over the Schuylkill Expressway, and the paint and LED light installation at Broad and Vine streets, “Evolving Face of Nursing”.  Saligman’s work can be viewed nationally in Shreveport, Louisiana, with “Once in a Millennium Moon”, and in Omaha, Nebraska, with “Fertile Ground.”

A key component of the M.L.K. Mural in Chattanooga was the local apprentice program offering an opportunity for local artists to work with the nationally recognized muralist and to learn techniques and methods for large scale projects such as this. From thirty-three (33) applicants, Meg interviewed and hired a team of six (6) locals who constituted an integral part of the program itself.  Each artist was hired for their artistic skill sets and their ability to work collaboratively as team members. Members of the local team are: 1.) Abdul Ahmad, 2.) Anna Carll, 3.) Rondell Crier, 4.) Shaun LaRose, 5.) Mercedes Llanos and 6.) Anier Reina.

Now, with that being said, let’s take a look.

Layout

From this digital photograph and the one below, you can get a feel for the scope of the project and the building the artwork is applied to.  As you can see, it’s a dull grey, windowless, concrete structure well-suited for such a face-lift.  Due to the height and size of the building, bucket trucks were used to apply the paint.

Basic Layout

The digital above shows a partially-filled mural.  The one below, if you look closely, shows the basic layout for the design above.

Layout (2)

The layout, of course, was developed on paper first with designs applied to quadrants on the building.  You can see some of the interacies of the process from the JPEG above.Layout

The planning for this project took the better part of one year due to the complexity and the layout necessary prior to initiating the project.  As I traveled down M.L.King Avenue, I would watch the progress in laying out the forms that would accept the colors and shades of paint.  In one respect, it was very similar to paint-by-numbers.  Really fascinating to watch the development of the artwork even prior to painting.

Allmost Finished

The completed mural covers all four (4) sides of the AT&T building and as you can see from the JPEG below—it is striking.


Completed Mural

This gives you one more reason to visit Chattanooga.  As always, I welcome your comments.


Don’t we all wish we had a crystal ball we could gaze into to “divine” the future?  Sure we do!!   Because technology is generally evolutionary and not revolutionary, it does become easier to look at where we are and consider where we might be in the near or even distant future.  The following digital photographs were provided by Elizabeth Montalbano, contributing writer for Design News Daily.  The descriptive texts are mine.  Let’s take a look and several projections for important technologies that just might touch our daily lives.  I chose these technologies because they seem to be the most promising and varied to play key roles in the engineering profession next year. From developments in electronics to materials to robotics, these technologies, I believe, will make a difference as the source of innovation for design and engineering projects globally.

Printed-Flexible Electronics

Over 3,000 organizations are pursuing printed, organic, flexible electronics, including printing, electronics, materials and packaging companies. While some of these technologies are in use now, there are three sectors which have created billion dollar markets – others are commercially embryonic.   The benefits of these new electronics are numerous – ranging from lower cost, improved performance, flexibility, transparency, reliability, better environmental credentials and much more. Many of the applications will be newly created, and where existing electronic and electrical products are impacted, the extent will be varied.  The total market for printed, flexible and organic electronics will grow from $26.54 billion in 2016 to $69.03 billion in 2026. The majority of that is OLEDs (organic but not printed) and conductive ink used for a wide range of applications. On the other hand, stretchable electronics, logic and memory, thin film sensors are much smaller segments but with huge growth potential as they emerge from R&D.
Photovolltaics

A Michigan State University research team has finally created a truly transparent solar panel — a breakthrough that could soon usher in a world where windows, panes of glass, and even entire buildings could be used to generate solar energy. Until now, solar cells of this kind have been only partially transparent and usually a bit tinted, but these new ones are so clear that they’re practically indistinguishable from a normal pane of glass.

Previous claims toward transparent solar panels have been misleading, since the very nature of transparent materials means that light must pass through them. Transparent photovoltaic cells are virtually impossible, in fact, because solar panels generate energy by converting absorbed photons into electrons. For a material to be fully transparent, light would have to travel uninhibited to the eye which means those photons would have to pass through the material completely (without being absorbed to generate solar power).

So, to achieve a truly transparent solar cell, the Michigan State team created this thing called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC), which employs organic salts to absorb wavelengths of light that are already invisible to the human eye. Steering clear of the fundamental challenges of creating a transparent photovoltaic cell allowed the researchers to harness the power of infrared and ultraviolet light.

The TLSC projects a luminescent glow that contains a converted wavelength of infrared light which is also invisible to the human eye. More traditional (non-transparent) photovoltaic solar cells frame the panel of the main material, and it is these solar cells that transform the concentrated infrared light into electricity.

Versions of previous semi-transparent solar cells that cast light in colored shadows can usually achieve efficiency of around seven percent, but Michigan State’s TLSC is expected to reach a top efficiency of five percent with further testing (currently, the prototype’s efficiency reaches a mere one percent). While numbers like seven and five percent efficiency seem low, houses featuring fully solar windows or buildings created from the organic material could compound that electricity and bring it to a more useful level.

Researchers on the Michigan State team believe their TLSC technology could span from industrial applications to more manageable uses like consumer devices and handheld gadgets. Their main priorities in continuing to develop the technology appear to be power efficiency and maintaining a scalable level of affordability, so that solar power can continue to grow as a major player in the field of renewable energy.

Interactive Industrial Robotic Systems

For decades, manufacturers have had very few cost-effective options for handling low volume, high mix production jobs.  No longer.  Meet Baxter – the safe, flexible, affordable alternative to outsourced labor and fixed automation.  Leading companies across North America have already integrated Baxter into their workforce, and gained a competitive advantage for their business in the process.

Baxter is a proven solution for a wide range of tasks – from line loading and machine tending, to packaging and material handling.  If you walk the floor of your facility and see lightweight parts being handled near people, you’ve likely just found a great job for Baxter.  This smart, collaborative robot is ready to get to work for your company – doing the monotonous tasks that free up your skilled human labor to be exactly that.

Graphene

In my opinion, graphene has remarkable possibilities for development of future products.   Graphene has many extraordinary properties. It is about 100 times stronger than strongest steel with hypothetical thickness of 3.35Å which is equal to the thickness of graphene sheet.  It conducts heat and electricity efficiently and is nearly transparent. Researchers have identified the bipolar transistor effect, ballistic transport of charges and large quantum oscillations in the material.

Scientists have theorized about graphene for decades. It has likely been unknowingly produced in small quantities for centuries, through the use of pencils and other similar applications of graphite. It was originally observed in electron microscopes in 1962, but not studied further.  The material was later rediscovered, isolated and characterized in 2004 by Andre Geimand Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester.  Research was informed by existing theoretical descriptions of its composition, structure and properties.   High-quality graphene proved to be surprisingly easy to isolate, making more research possible. This work resulted in the two winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 “for groundbreaking experiments regarding thetwo-dimensional material graphene.”

Self-Driving Automobiles

Self-driving cars are no longer a futuristic idea. Companies like Mercedes, BMW, and Tesla have already released, or are soon to release, self-driving features that give an automobile some ability to drive itself.

Tech companies are also trying to pioneer the self-driving car. Recently, Google announced that it would be testing its prototype of a driverless car on roads this summer in California.  Here are several bullet points that may aid our efforts in understand the status of this technology.

  • Self-driving cars are not some futuristic auto technology; in fact there are already cars with self-driving features on the road.  We define the self-driving car as any car with features that allow it to accelerate, brake, and steer a car’s course with limited or no driver interaction.
  • We divide the self-driving car into two different types: semi-autonomous and fully autonomous. A fully autonomous vehicle can drive from point A to point B and encounter the entire range of on-road scenarios without needing any interaction from the driver. These will debut in 2019.
  • By the end of the forecast period, we expect there will be nearly 10 million cars with one of our defined self-driving car features.
  • Fully autonomous cars are further divided into user-operated and driverless vehicles. Because of regulatory and insurance questions, user-operated fully autonomous cars will come to market within the next five years, while driverless cars will remain a long ways off.
  • The biggest benefits of self-driving cars are that they will help to make roads safer and people’s lives easier. In the UK, KPMG estimates that self-driving cars will lead to 2,500 fewer deaths between 2014 and 2030.
  • But the barriers to self-driving cars remain significant. Costs need to come down and regulations need to be clarified around certain self-driving car features before the vehicles fully take off among mainstream consumers.

CONCLUSIONS:

This post has only considered engineering technological forecast for mostly mechanical and electrical systems.  We have not looked at medical, civil, infrastructure, etc forecasts, of which I’m sure, there could be comparable lists structured.  It might be a good exercise for you to list your own projections and take a look at the end of 2016 to see how many have come to fruition.

MANAGEMENT STYLES

January 6, 2016


If you are fortunate enough to have a job during these trying times you probably work for or at least report to someone who is presumably in charge. By that, I mean an individual responsible for giving you a performance review.   This scenario seems to fit most of us but even if you are the boss you may be surprised as to the following classifications of personality types indicated by “Industry Week”.  This is an excellent publication and I recommend you log in to their on-line website if at all possible.

I have served in both capacities; i.e. employee and employer, during my fifty (50) plus years as a gainfully-employed engineer so I do have some experience with management and the peccadilloes of  various management styles.  In my opinion, no two managers are just alike; although most do fit into one of the twelve (12) management styles given below.  I used the headings from Industry Week but have structured the text under each heading from my experiences over the years.  Any names have been changed to protect the guilty and preclude lawsuits against my company and me.  Let’s take a look.

  • VISIONARY—You are very fortunate to have a manager that has vision.  Someone who can plan one, three, five or ten years ahead and one who knows where the company should go relative to resources and competition.  Equally important, is a manager that can call an audible when necessary.   This quality is so very rare today and yet is absolutely necessary for progress in any company. Times change; technology changes; necessary skill sets come and go; turnover is inevitable.   In my entire career, I have worked for only one true visionary.  He was definitely ahead of the curve relative to products that would excite and sell.  One caution, some visionaries, being before their time, cannot obtain technical support or financing quickly; consequently, the products may not meet expectations or may fail outright. Visionaries simply are before their time.
  • THE CLIMBER—This person is all about me and is obsessed with his own career.  He will use you to his advantage, obtain his raise or promotion and when you serve his purposes, he will discard you like a wet paper towel.  Some employees; i.e. direct reports, do survive but it is advisable to always have a “plan B” in your back pocket at all times.  He can be ruthless when he does not get his way or when things go “south”.  He will never hesitate to throw you under the bus to save his own skin.  I have worked for two climbers over my career, one male and one female.  Both were dangerous relative to their direct reports.  It was not a fun situation.
  • THE BUREAUCRAT—Everything is by the book.  If there is no written policy, no procedure, no course of detailed action, etc. he or she will panic and “time will stop”.  Thinking “outside the box” never happens.  Innovation never occurs. Creativity is stiffled.  Most actions taken are accomplished by “group-think”.    This type is the furthest thing from adventurous when it comes to decision making.
  • THE PROPELLERHEAD—This type of manager is tech all the way.  No “gut-feel” here. If he cannot put numbers to the problem or an explanation of the problem using a generated formula or computer code, delays definitely occur.  A great concern—he always feels he does not have enough information to make a decision even when a decision was needed to be made two weeks ago.  Procrastination can be a huge issue for this management type and, generally, the team gets blamed. (NOTE: If you combine the propellerhead with bureaucrat styles you can get a very difficult situation.)
  • THE FOGEY—OK, an “old guy”.  Someone who has been there, done that and knows where all of the bones are hidden.  “We tried that back in the ’80 and it did not work then and it won’t work now”.  He, seemingly, does not compensate for newer technology or listen to those younger members of the team. He refuses to incorporate additional team members or outsiders to solve problems.  He is not a self-starter. He always plays it safe because retirement is in his front window.  I would say look at Congress but I know that’s not PC.
  • THE WHIPPERSNAPPER—Just the opposite to the Old Fogey.  A young person, generally right out of college, who knows it all.  (His father probably owns the company so now he is a brand new manager.)  This type can be a dictator also due to his network and connections.
  • THE SOCIAL DIRECTOR—He values personal interactions and demands the “right chemistry” between all members of the team.  He needs to know “how the wind blows” relative to the people he manages and spends an inordinate time on Facebook, Twitter, U-Tube, etc etc checking up on his employees.  Meeting after meeting is called and they are extremely time-consuming.   One of my first positions as a working engineer was reporting to a social director.  She was a lady.  Very nice lady but a social director.  This was before social media but made no difference.  If you came in looking like you had a problem you were in her office in a heartbeat.  She was the “mother-confessor”.  The lady priest that took all confessions.  Now, to her credit, I never heard of her discussing private matters in a public fashion.  I suspect she took some information to her grave.
  • THE DICTATOR—We have all worked for a manager like this one.  I have experienced this three times in my career.  “My way or the highway”.  “ We don’t do it like that, son.”  They cannot stand for individual thinking and veto any thought that is not theirs.  One difficulty, if your dictator is on drugs or drinks excessively like one I had, you are in trouble day one.   The “druggie” owned a small company and his actions were instrumental to his having to declare bankruptcy.  He talked a good game and that’s why I came on board.  The product was very interesting also and my skill sets fit right in.  I lasted about seventeen months.
  • THE SALES STAR—This person is a great salesman but only knows how to sell.  He is not hands-on and probably has difficulty tying his shoes.  He cannot solve problems that are not sales-related and you will need to cultivate other sources if you cannot extricate yourself from difficulties.
  • THE HATCHET MAN—This guy was hired to purge the department and reduce “fat”.  He, many times, throws the baby out with the bathwater.  He only sees what he wants to see and sometimes reduces staff to levels requiring other employees to work horrible hours to compensate.  I have experienced only one hatchet man in my career. He was hit-and-run and eventually eliminated most of the working class in the facility.
  • THE LOST LAMB—This management type is totally lost.  He is clueless.  He talks a good game but cannot play a good game.   He has no vision. He is horrible at delegating.  He does not surround himself with competent individuals and depends upon a small and select group to receive advice. They are mostly “yes-men or yes-women”.   He misses deadlines.  He is frequently over budget.
  • THE HERO—He coaches others. He brings people together. He shares. He is instrumental in surrounding himself with people possessing skill sets leaning towards accomplishment.  He is the furtherst thing from being a dictator. He is not a busybody.  He reaches a consensus by listening to his people and lets them perform at their level of capability.  He stays in touch and is always available when needed.  He is decisive and never waivers from his responsibility as a manager.  He promotes. He is gracious in his applause and never condescending even when a direct report screws up.  He never scolds in public.

I hope this helps you identify the type of manager you work for or the management style you have. It’s never too late to change and become a hero.   If you love your job and find fulfillment in your job, you can tolerate just about any management style—maybe.  Things get tough when management plays employees and become less than transparent.  I had one manager who gave the entire team less than stellar reviews because he did not want to provide bonuses or raises for his people that year.  He owned the company and the first quarter of the following year he drove in with a new Mercedes-Benz.  We all noticed!!!!!!!!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 135 other followers