Professor Ian Plimer could not have said it better! If you’ve read his book, you will agree, this is a good summary.  

As you well know, there is a “raging” controversy relative to global warming and what, if anything, to do about it.   Talk to one group of scientists and you get one story—talk to another group and you get a completely opposite rendition.   In my opinion, from looking at the existing data, there is a strong case to be made for global warming in certain parts of our world.  The big issues for me are how civilization contributes to that warming.   We may be in a global cycle and have no real influence on climate changes at all.  Dr. Ian Pilmer feels that mankind is definitely out of the picture as being contributory.  His comments are as follows:

Okay, here’s the bombshell.  The volcanic eruption in Iceland, since its first spewing of volcanic ash has, in just FOUR DAYS, NEGATED EVERY SINGLE EFFORT you have made in the past five years to control CO2 emissions on our planet – all of you.

Volcanic Eruption


Of course, you know about this evil carbon dioxide that we are trying to suppress – it’s that vital chemical compound that every plant requires to live and grow and to synthesize into oxygen for us humans and all animal life.

I know, it’s very disheartening to realize that all of the carbon emission savings you have accomplished while suffering the inconvenience and expense of driving Prius hybrids, buying fabric grocery bags, sitting up till midnight to finish your kid’s “The Green Revolution” science project, throwing out all of your non-green cleaning supplies, using only two squares of toilet paper, putting a brick in your toilet tank reservoir, selling your SUV and speedboat, vacationing at home instead of abroad, nearly getting hit every day on your bicycle, replacing all of your 50 cents light bulbs with $10.00 light bulbs …well, all of those things you have done have all gone down the tubes in just four days.  The volcanic ash emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere in just four days – yes – FOUR DAYS ONLY by that volcano in Iceland, has totally erased every single effort you have made to reduce the evil beast, carbon.  And there are around 200 active volcanoes on the planet spewing out this crud at any one time – EVERY DAY.

I don’t really want to rain on your parade too much, but I should mention that when the volcano Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, it spewed out more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire human race had emitted in all its years on earth.  Yes, folks, Mt. Pinatubo was active for over one year – think about it.

Of course, I shouldn’t spoil this touchy-feely tree-hugging moment and mention the effect of solar and cosmic activity and the well-recognized 800-year global heating and cooling cycle, which keep happening, despite our completely insignificant efforts to affect climate change.

And I do wish I had a silver lining to this volcanic ash cloud, but the fact of the matter is that the wildfire season across the western USA and Australia this year alone will negate your efforts to reduce carbon in our world for the next two to three years.  And it happens every year.
Just remember that your government just tried to impose a whopping carbon tax on you on the basis of the bogus “human-caused” climate change scenario.

Hey, isn’t it interesting how they don’t mention “Global Warming” any more, but just “Climate Change” – you know why?  It’s because the planet has COOLED by 0.7 degrees in the past century, and these global warming bull artists got caught with their pants down.

And just keep in mind that you might yet have an Emissions Trading Scheme – that whopping new tax – imposed on you, that will achieve absolutely nothing except make you poorer.  It won’t stop any volcanoes from erupting, that’s for sure.

But hey, relax, give the world a hug and have a nice day!

I’m going to let you be the judge on this one.  You have his side of the story.



March 21, 2013

 The following post is taken from an article written by Suzanne Deffree in EDN Magazine – March 15, 2013

Nikola Tesla, the favorite genius of many engineers, stood out not only for his brilliance but also for several personal traits and beliefs that were sometimes  considered very odd.    That’s not to be insulting; it’s simply a fact.   In comparison to others of his time, Tesla was noted not only for his scientific and engineering accomplishments but also for his personal habits, rituals, and beliefs.   Perhaps by today’s terms, Tesla would be diagnosed with OCD or a similar syndrome, but in his day many of the following traits were simply written off as the peculiarities or partial insanity that came with his character.   Some also example his extreme intelligence and dedication to his work, even the sacrifices he made along the course of his exceptional career.

Let’s take a look at 10 things in Tesla’s daily life that accompanied his intelligence and made him the man he was.

1.       Things  Come in 3s:

Tesla had his obsession with the number 3.   It is said that he often walked around a block 3 times before entering a building and that he required 18 (a number divisible by 3) napkins to polish his silverware and drinking glass each night.   When he died, he did so 3 days before his 87th birthday and alone in Room 3327 (a number divisible by 3) of the 33rd floor of the New Yorker Hotel, in which he lived out his last years.

2.       No Sleep for the Brilliant

As did Da Vinci, Tesla claimed to sleep in short bursts, but never over a period of more than two hours at a time.   He did so on a work schedule that often kept him at his desk until after 3 am, then he started again just hours later. It is said that he once worked 84 hours straight.
While he never got what could be considered a good night’s rest, he did admit to “dozing” from time to time.

3.       Queen Bees

Tesla made many predictions about the future; among them,  flying machines that would replace cars, of course — wireless power, and the emergence of women as the dominant sex.
In 1926, he predicted a “queen bee” scenario where women would overcome all obstacles and create a more intellectual, selective society.  “It is clear to any trained observer, and even to the sociologically untrained, that a new attitude toward sex discrimination has come over the world through the centuries, receiving an abrupt stimulus just before and after the World War,” he said in an interview with Collier’s magazine“This struggle of the human female toward sex equality will end in a new sex order, with the female as superior. The modern woman, who anticipates in merely superficial phenomena the advancement of her sex, is but a surface symptom of something deeper and more potent fermenting in the bosom of the race.  It is not in the shallow physical imitation of men that women will assert first their equality and later their superiority, but in the awakening of the intellect of women.  Through countless generations, from the very beginning, the social subservience of women resulted naturally in the partial atrophy or at least the hereditary suspension of mental qualities which we now know the female sex to be endowed with no less than men.  But the female mind has demonstrated a capacity for all the mental acquirements and achievements of men. As generations ensue that capacity will be expanded; the average woman will be as well educated as the average man, and then better educated, for the dormant faculties of her brain will be stimulated to an activity that will be all the more intense and powerful because of centuries of repose. Woman will ignore precedent and startle civilization with their progress.  “The acquisition of new fields of endeavor by women, their gradual usurpation of leadership, will dull and finally dissipate feminine sensibilities, will choke the maternal instinct, so that marriage and motherhood may become abhorrent and human civilization draw closer and closer to the perfect civilization of the bee.   Tesla did not fear this predicted future, but embraced it, suggesting it would bring about a near-perfect society by more selective reproduction and less undesirable citizens.

4. Healthy Living

Tesla believed, as many modern-day health experts would agree, that a sound body encouraged a sound mind. As such, he walked eight to 10 miles a day and was very aware of staying fit.   In the evenings before bed, Tesla would complement his walks by curling his toes 100 times per foot. He believed this stimulated brain cells.  Tesla even became a vegetarian in his later years, living on only milk, bread, honey, and vegetable juices, as he believed this would benefit his health.

5. Appearances Matter

Along with Telsa’s beliefs on healthy living, he was strict about his appearance and that of those in his employ.  Always meticulous dressed and groomed, Telsa understood that the world takes a man by his appearance and that a good appearance can often open doors.   Tesla was so strict in these beliefs that he once fired a secretary for being overweight and repeatedly sent others home during the workday to change into more tasteful attire.

6. Celibate

Tesla chose to live a life of celibacy. Not without options – it is said that Tesla had women falling at his feet due to his brilliance, fame, and periods of wealth – Tesla made the choice, believing sex would muddy his thinking and claiming that his chastity was very helpful to his scientific abilities.  Late in his life, Tesla was said to have questioned if he sacrificed too much for his work in not taking a wife.

7. Fondness for pigeons

Tesla may have chosen to stay away from women and marriage but, according to some reports, he grew overly fond of a pigeon.   Near the end of his life, Tesla walked to the park every day to feed the pigeons. He began to bring injured ones into his hotel room to nurse back to health.  He claimed that he had been visited by a specific injured white pigeon each day at the park. Tesla spent more than $2,000 to fix the bird’s broken wing and leg, including building a device that comfortably supported the bird so her bones could heal.   Tesla is reported as saying, “I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them, for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings that was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her, and she would come flying to me. I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”

8. Hyper polyglot

Engineers have their own language. Add in the other eight languages Tesla spoke – Serbo-Croatian, Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin – and the polyglot was more of a hyper polyglot (one who can speak more than six languages with fluency) with a high degree of proficiency.  The jury is still out on what makes someone able to learn multiple languages and use them fluently: One theory claims that a spike in testosterone levels while in the uterus can increase brain asymmetry and allow for such learning. Others theories suggest that becoming a polyglot has nothing to do with such factors and is actually just about hard work and the right type of motivation, which any adult, but especially one of Tesla’s high intelligence, can apply.

9. Celebrity friends

Tesla often refused social engagements, preferring the company of his work to dinner-party chit chat. But he did have a few close friends, many of whom were writers (perhaps as a hyper polyglot he appreciated those whose stills leaned toward words) and some of whom also happened to be famous.   Among them was Mark Twain. Each was a fan of the other’s work before meeting. Notably, Twain, whose word was near gold at the time, described Tesla’s induction-motor invention as “the most valuable patent since the telephone” before they became acquainted.   Tesla and Twain spent a lot of time together in Tesla’s lab and elsewhere. When Tesla described his mechanical oscillator that produced alternating currents as a device that could be therapeutic, Twain even helped Tesla test it.

10. Oddity odds and ends

Tesla reportedly always despised jewelry and did not own a single piece, seeing it as wasteful and cumbersome. In his very last years, however, he seemed to focus in on pearls specifically, as, in addition to hating jewelry; he began to hate round objects.   In his later years, Tesla also could not bear to touch hair and did not like to shake hands.


March 17, 2013

This past Saturday I had the great opportunity of attending an event called Maker Day.  It was sponsored by CoLab, Inc. in my home town of Chattanooga, Tennessee.    CoLab is company dedicated to fostering innovation in the Chattanooga/Hamilton Country area and this was the first event organized specifically to demonstrate 3-D printing.    CoLab is a tremendous complement to our city, which is becoming well known in the southeast for technological advancements.  We also are very fortunate to have the “SIM Center” located on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  That organization provides project work involving “computational engineering”; an incredible technology in itself. 

 If you remember an earlier posting from last year, you remember 3-D printing is an “additative manufacturing” technology depending upon metered deposition of material in a proscribed manner determined by solid modeling.  There are several “additative manufacturing” processes as follows:

In each case, the following processes are followed thus producing the model:


  • Create a 3-D model of the component using a computer aided design (CAD) program.  There are various CAD modeling programs available today, but the “additative manufacturing” process MUST begin by developing a three-dimensional representation of the part to be produced.  It is important to note that an experienced CAD engineer/designer is an indispensable component for success.  As you can see, RP&M processes were required to wait on three-dimensional modeling before the technology came to fruition. 
  • Generally, the CAD file must go through a CAD to RP&M translator.  This step assures the CAD data is input to the modeling machine in the “tessellated” STL format.  This format has become the standard for RP&M processes.  With this operation, the boundary surfaces of the object are represented as numerous tiny triangles.  (VERY INDENSABLE TO THE PROCESS!)
  • The next step involves generating supports in a separate CAD file.  CAD designers/engineers may accomplish this task directly, or with special software.  One such software is “Bridgeworks”.  Supports are needed and used for the following three reasons:
  1. To ensure that the recoater blade will not strike the platform upon which the part is being built.
  2. To ensure that any small distortions of the platform will not lead to problems during part building.
  3. To provide a simple means of removing the part from the platform upon completion.
    1. Leveling—Typical resins undergo about five percent (5%) to seven percent (7%) total volumetric shrinkage.  Of this amount, roughly fifty percent (50%) to seventy percent (70%) occurs in the vat as a result of laser-induced polymerization.  With this being the case, a level compensation module is built into the RP&M software program.  Upon completion of laser drawing, on each layer, a sensor checks the resin level.  In the event the sensor detects a resin level that is not within the tolerance band, a plunger is activated by means of a computer-controlled precision stepper motor and the resin level is corrected to within the needed tolerance.
    2. Deep Dip—Under computer control, the “Z”-stage motor moves the platform down a prescribed amount to insure those parts with large flat areas can be properly recoated.  When the platform is lowered, a substantial depression is generated on the resin surface.  The time required to close the surface depression has been determined from both viscous fluid dynamic analysis and experimental test results.
    3. Elevate—Under the influence of gravity, the resin fills the depression created during the previous step.  The “Z” stage, again under computer control, now elevates the uppermost part layer above the free resin surface.  This is done so that during the next step, only the excess resin beyond the desired layer thickness need be moved.  If this were not the case, additional resin would be disturbed.
    4. Sweep—The recoater blade traverses the vat from front to back and sweeps the excess resin from the part.  As soon as the recoater blade has completed its motion, the system is ready for the next step.
    5. Platform Drops–The platform then drops down a fraction of a MM.    The process is then repeated.  This is done layer by layer until the entire model is produced.  As you can see, the thinner the layer, the finer and more detailed the resulting part.
    6. Draining–Part completion and draining.
    7. Removal–The part is then removed from the supporting platform and readied for any post-processing operations. .
  • Next step— the appropriate software will “chop” the CAD model into thin layers—typically 5 to 10 layers per millimeter (MM).  Software has improved greatly over the past years, and these improvements allow for much better surface finishes and much better detail in part description.  The part and supports must be sliced or mathematically sectioned by the computer into a series of parallel and horizontal planes like the floors of a very tall building.  Also during this process, the layer thickness, as discussed above, the intended building style, the cure depth, the desired hatch spacing, the line width compensation values and the shrinkage compensation factor(s) are selected and assigned.
  • Merging is the next step where the supports, the part and any additional supports and parts have their computer representations combined.  This is crucial and allows for the production of multiple parts connected by a “web” which can be broken after the parts are molded.
  • Next, certain operational parameters are selected, such as the number or recoater blade sweeps per layer, the sweep period, and the desired “Z”-wait.  All of these parameters must be selected by the programmer. “Z”-wait is the time, in seconds, the system is instructed to pause after recoating.  The purpose of this intentional pause is to allow any resin surface nonuniformities to undergo fluid dynamic relaxation.  The output of this step is the selection of the relevant parameters.
  • Now, we “build the model”.  The 3-D printer “paints” one layer exposing the material in the tank and hardening it.    The resin polymerization process begins at this time, and the physical three-dimensional object is created.  The process consists of the following steps:
  • Next, heat treating and firing may occur for further hardening.  This phase is termed the post-cure operation.
  • After heat treating and firing, the part may be machined, sanded, painted, etc until the final product meets initial specifications.  As mentioned earlier, there have been considerable developments in the materials used for the process, and it is entirely possible that the part may be applied to an assembly or subassembly so that the designed function may be observed.  No longer is the component necessarily for “show and tell” only.

 The entire procedure may take as long as 72 hours, depending upon size and complexity of the part, but the results are remarkably usable and applications are abundant. 


 If I may, I would now like to show several JPEGs from the event.  A very short description will follow each photograph.  I would like to state that I’m not Ansel Adams so some of the photographs are a bit borderline in quality.  Please forgive me for that.  Hopefully the content is worthwhile and will demonstrate the equipment used in the 3-D processes. 

 Assembly Hall (1)

 The demonstration was held in the Hamilton County/ Chattanooga Public Library.  The photo above does not really indicate the number of people attending but the day was a great success.  I’m told approximately three thousand (3,000) individuals did attend during the five-hour presentation.  Great turnout for the very first exhibition.

3-D Printing with Computer Image(2)

This photograph will demonstrate that the first step is developing a three-dimensional model of the part to be printed.  The computer screen to the right of the printer will show the model being produced.  The “black box” is the printer itself.  The purple coil located in the back of the printer, is the material being deposited onto the platform.   The platform indexes as the material is being deposited. A better look at a typical print head may be seen as follows:



Print Head (2)

One of the greatest advances in 3-D printing is the significant number of materials that now can be used for the printing process.  The picture below will show just some the options available.


The assembly below demonstrates a manufacturing plant layout assembled using 3-D printing techniques.  Individual modules were printed and assembled to provide the overall layout.  Please note the detail and complexity of the overall production.

Astec Plant Layout-3 D Printing(2)

One of the most unique methods used in 3-D printing is the four-bar robotic system.  That system is demonstrated with the JPEG below.   Again, please note the spool of “green” material to the lower left of the JPEG.  This material feeds up and over the equipment to the dispense head shown in the very center of the photograph.

4-Bar 3-D Printer(3)

 This is a marvelous technology and one gaining acceptance as a viable manufacturing technique for component parts as well as prototypes.  I certainly hope this posting will give you cause for further investigation.  Many thanks.


March 14, 2013

The following post is derived from an article written by Jeffery Lumetta, Jabil Circuits and published in Design News, 3.7.2013

Jeffrey Lumetta is the vice-president of technology for Jabil Circuit Inc., based in St. Petersburg, Fla. A 25-year Jabil veteran, Lumetta oversees the global research and design group, helping OEMs develop new technology across a wide range of industries. He holds a BSEE degree from Michigan Technological University.

For decades, vending technology seemingly changed little from an ancient Egyptian device that dispensed holy water at the drop of coin.      Until recently, many modern-day machines still followed the same principle:  Deposit your money and a mechanism releases your candy bar, soda, or bag of chips.     Now, however, consumers are beginning to experience a flurry of innovations that are transforming the face of vending technology, not only in the machines themselves, but in the new kinds of products that are dispensed automatically.  I truly feel that in some cases, the newer vending machines represent marvelous improvements in the technology.  In days gone by, I would deposit my money, push the necessary buttons, wait for the product to drop—wait for the product to drop—wait for the product to drop, shake, shake, bang then tilt.  Then, I would fill out the form necessary to get your money back, which never came.   Vending operators are already unveiling such new concepts as:

  • A pizza-making kiosk mixes dough and cooks your pie to order in just three minutes.
  • Coca-Cola’s Freestyle soda fountains dispense more than 120 flavors.


  • Airport kiosks where you can buy smart phones, earphones, or DVDs on the fly.
  • Pharmaceutical vending machines where patients can get prescriptions filled 24/7.
  • Literary vending machines can choose from 3 million titles and produce a paperback version in five minutes.
  • “Micro-markets” where consumers can select convenience-store products bearing barcodes or RFID tags, checking them out at automated kiosks.

Building blocks of change
This revolution in vending results from the convergence of a long list of dynamically changing technologies over the last 10 to 15 years, starting with the integration of electronics and an increase in computing power. Once a purely mechanical technology, vending machines have become showcases for the latest advances in microcircuits, processors, wireless communications, data storage and transfer, and human interfaces.   Of these technologies, telematics is a particularly fascinating segment. Both through wired communications and wireless media like Bluetooth, WiFi, and cellular, vending operators can closely monitor machine operations and product consumption, which allows them to prevent machine malfunctions, reduce costly repairs, and fine-tune resupply visits.   In addition, with the emergence of large datacenters, vending operators and company marketers can gather and store vast amounts of data in the cloud on how customers use vending machines.   For example, Coke could track regional preferences in soft drink flavors purchased in its 120-flavor Freestyle machines and then use that data in strategies to market targeted products in that area.  Taking this enhanced connectedness a step further, a person’s Facebook friends could be notified when he or she makes a significant vending purchase, which in turn can influence buying trends.   Along with telematics, we are seeing major advances in user interfaces, which are becoming more intuitive. Many incorporate user-friendly navigation designs similar to that of tablet computers, which children in the US learn to use by the age of three. Such interfaces also allow for a great deal more customization in products, as in Coke’s Freestyle machines.

Mobile computing will also change the way consumers will interact with vending machines. It’s already happening at the retail level, where Starbucks customers with prepaid accounts now have an iPhone app that lets them buy products by scanning a barcode displayed on their smartphones. Starbucks publically reports that customers using this mobile app tend to spend more, with a much faster transaction time than cash or credit. There’s no reason why that wireless method couldn’t be applied to vending machine purchases.

Similarly, new generations of cellphones will contain near-field communications (NFC) chips that will allow consumers to wave or “bump” their phone in front of a vending machine to make a purchase, rather than using cash, credit, or debit cards. The Google Wallet mobile app already lets consumers tap their smartphones on an NFC terminal at checkout and pay with a designated credit or debit card.

With such technologies in place, you can also expect to see the spread of micro-markets that cater to today’s fast-paced, 24/7 lifestyles. First deployed in 2010, these outlets may one day compete with traditional convenience stores. Located in places like gas stations, these micro-markets require no interaction at all with a clerk. You simply choose your products and go to a kiosk, where a scanner recognizes the RFID tag or barcode on items you buy. Once again, you’ll see payment options such as prepaid loyalty cards, credit cards, and mobile apps based on NFC technology. Such outlets are a natural progression for future electric vehicle charging stations.

Among other advancements, engineers are already working on technologies that will enable vending machines to identity the voice, face, or gestures of the customer standing in front of it. With those innovations, you won’t have to take your smartphone out of your pocket or even contact a touchscreen. Once you’re recognized, the machine can deliver customized messages to you, drawing from cloud-based data on your past purchases and preferences. The machine may even suggest other products you might need, as well as the locations of vending outlets that offer those items. Within five years, these technologies could be quite common.

New frontiers for vending

The combination of electronics, precision robotics, telemetry, and greater computing power is also taking vending to locations and applications never seen before. Because of high precision mechatronics, which can incorporate vision technology, sophisticated actuators, sensors, and closed-loop motion control, vending machines can now mimic human movements.

In 2008, for example, consumer electronics giant Best Buy launched its Express kiosks in major airports. The assortment of products available in those automated outlets include MP3 players, cellphone and computer accessories, digital cameras, Flash drives, other portable storage devices, and more. This application calls for a robust, intelligent robotics system that can select and handle a variety of complex shapes reliably. Express kiosks can now be found in more than 200 locations, including resorts, colleges, and malls.

To rival dough-twirling pizza chefs, Netherlands-based A1 Concepts is distributing a highly complex vending kiosk called Let’s Pizza. Launched in Europe in 2009 and now being introduced in the US, the machine contains enough fresh ingredients to make 200 pizzas. It automatically mixes and shapes dough, dispenses sauce and a variety of toppings, and bakes the pie in an infrared oven — all in about three minutes. To ensure a hygienic environment, the kiosk contains a refrigerator unit to hold perishable ingredients and automatically discards unused dough. Featuring a network of sensors, the kiosk transmits operational data over the Internet to the vendor operator. If this kind of system delivers the level of quality that consumers demand, you may well see other foods, such as hamburgers, delivered in automated environments.


For retailers, all these examples of vending technology offer an alternative to brick-and-mortar locations, allowing companies to extend their brands beyond traditional stores. And the underlying technology is increasingly being applied to items not traditionally found in vending machines — from consumer electronics to shoes. Minneapolis-based InstyMeds now dispenses pharmaceuticals 24/7 from machines in about 200 US locations, primarily hospitals and urgent-care clinics. Using a touchscreen, a user enters a prescription code and pays by credit or debit card. Thinking about future medical applications, it’s not far-fetched to envision a machine that would administer a flu shot and take your basic vital signs.


End-to-end technical solutions
Inventors, vending operators, OEMs, and retailers that want to embrace this new era of automated merchandising face the daunting challenge of blending the full gamut of engineering technologies into autonomous machines that must operate independently for days at a time. This is where experienced design engineering teams, like those at Jabil, can help. They can update a customer’s existing machine, design a specific system within a complex vending machine, or do a complete turnkey design featuring the very latest technologies. With all these advancements in technology, it’s clearly a very exciting time for the vending industry.


I always marvel at the pace of technology and how that technology fills a definite need for products only dreamt of previously.   We all have heard that “necessity is the mother of invention” well, I believe that to a tee.  We need it, we can’t find it, no one makes it, let’s invent it.  This is the way adults solve problems.

Researchers have just published documentation relative to a new technology that will definitely fill a need.  Let’s take a look.


Researchers at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in Korea have developed an imprintable and bendable lithium-ion battery they claim is the world’s first, and could hasten the introduction of flexible smart phones that leverage flexible display technology, such as Samsung’s Youm flexible OLED.

Samsung first demonstrated this display technology at CES 2013 as the next step in the evolution of mobile-device displays. The battery could also potentially be used in other flexible devices that debuted at the show, such as a wristwatch and a tablet.

Battery Configuration

Ulsan researchers had help on the technology from Professor John A. Rogers of the University of Illinois, researchers Young-Gi Lee and Gwangman Kim of Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, and researcher Eunhae Gil of Kangwon National University. Rogers was also part of the team that developed a breakthrough in transient electronics, or electronics that dissolve inside the body.

The Korea JoongAng Daily newspaper first reported the story, citing the South Korea Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, which co-funded the research with the National Research Foundation of Korea.

The key to the flexible battery technology lies in nanomaterials that can be applied to any surface to create fluid-like polymer electrolytes that are solid, not liquid, according to Ulsan researchers. This is in contrast to typical device lithium-ion batteries, which use liquefied electrolytes that are put in square-shaped cases. Researchers say this also makes the flexible battery more stable and less prone to overheating.

“Conventional lithium-ion batteries that use liquefied electrolytes had problems with safety as the film that separates the electrolytes may melt under heat, in which case the positive and negative may come in contact, causing an explosion,” Lee told the Korean newspaper. “Because the new battery uses flexible but solid materials, and not liquids, it can be expected to show a much higher level of stability than conventional rechargeable batteries.”

This potential explosiveness of the materials in lithium-ion batteries — which in the past received attention because of exploding mobile devices — has been in the news again recently in the case of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which has had several instances of liquid leaking lithium-ion batteries. The problems have grounded Boeing’s next-generation jumbo jet until they are investigated and resolved.

This is a very short posting but one I felt would be of great interest to my readers.  New technology; i.e. cutting-edge stuff, etc. is fun to write about and possibly useful to learn.  Hope you enjoy this one.  Please give me your comments.



March 6, 2013

The following resources were used to write this blog: 1.) “Vortex Tubes—Theory and Application”, by iProcessSmart; copyright 1999 and 2.) “The Ranque-Hilsch Vortex Tube”, by Giorgio De Vera, March 2010.

If you follow my postings and read any of my work, you know I mainly stay within subjects involving education and technology.  Sometimes I tackle subject matter off the “beaten path” but STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) get most of my ink.

Recently, I was asked to get involved with specifying a vortex tube.  The application was very specific and frankly quite fascinating.  Well, with that said, I had to go back to school on this one.  Let’s take a look.



The vortex tube was invented quite by accident in 1928. George Ranque, a French physics student, was experimenting with a vortex-type pump he had developed when he noticed warm air exhausting from one end and cold air from the other. Ranque soon forgot about his pump and started a small firm to exploit the commercial potential for this strange device that produced hot and cold air with no moving parts. However, it soon failed and the vortex tube slipped into obscurity until 1945 when Rudolph Hilsch, a German physicist, published a widely read scientific paper on the device.

Much earlier, the great nineteenth century physicist, James Clerk Maxwell postulated that since heat involves the movement of molecules, we might someday be able to get hot and cold air from the same device with the help of a “friendly little demon” who would sort out and separate the hot and cold molecules of air.

Thus, the vortex tube has been variously known as the “Ranque Vortex Tube”, the “Hilsch Tube”, the “Ranque-Hilsch Tube”, and Maxwell’s Demon“. By any name, it has in recent years gained acceptance as a simple, reliable and low cost answer to a wide variety of industrial spot-cooling problems.


The tube itself is a mechanical device that separates compressed air into an outward radial high temperature region and an inner lower region. It operates as a refrigerating machine with a simplistic geometry and no moving parts.   It is used commercially in CNC machines, cooling suits, refrigerators, airplanes, etc. Other practical applications include cooling of laboratory equipment, quick startup of steam power generators, natural gas liquefaction, and particle separation in the waste gas industry.  Two JPEGs show the configurations are as follows:

Vortex Configuration



Representation of Counter-Flow Type

Vortex Configuration(2)

Representation of Uni-Flow Type

A vortex tube uses compressed air as a power source, has no moving parts, and produces hot air from one end and cold air from the other. The volume and temperature of these two airstreams are adjustable with a valve built into the hot air exhaust. Temperatures as low as -50°F (-46°C) and as high as +260°F (127°C) are possible.


Theories abound regarding the dynamics of a vortex tube. Here is one widely accepted explanation of the phenomenon as follows:

Compressed air is supplied to the vortex tube and passes through nozzles that are tangent to an internal counterbore. These nozzles set the air in a vortex motion. This spinning stream of air turns 90° and passes down the hot tube in the form of a spinning shell, similar to a tornado. A valve at one end of the tube allows some of the warmed air to escape. What does not escape, heads back down the tube as a second vortex inside the low-pressure area of the larger vortex. This inner vortex loses heat and exhausts thru the other end as cold air.  One airstream moves up the tube and the other moves down the tube while both rotate in the same direction at the same angular velocity.    That is, a particle in the inner stream completes one rotation in the same amount of time as a particle in the outer stream. However, because of the principle of conservation of angular momentum, the rotational speed of the smaller vortex might be expected to increase. (The conservation principle is demonstrated by spinning skaters who can slow or speed up their spin by extending or drawing in their arms.) But in the vortex tube, the speed of the inner vortex remains the same. Angular momentum has been lost from the inner vortex. The energy that is lost shows up as heat in the outer vortex. Thus the outer vortex becomes warm, and the inner vortex is cooled.


There are two classifications of the vortex tube. Both of these are currently in use in the industry. The more popular is the counter-flow vortex tube.    The hot air that exits from the far side of the tube is controlled by the cone valve. The cold air exits through an orifice next to the inlet.

Counterflow Vortex Tube



On the other hand, the uni-flow vortex tube does not have its cold air orifice next to the inlet.

Uni-Flow Vortex Tube


Instead, the cold air comes out through a concentrically located annular exit in the cold valve. This type of vortex tube is used in applications where space and equipment cost are of high importance. The mechanism for the uni-flow tube is similar to the counter-flow tube. A radial temperature separation is still induced inside, but the efficiency of the uni-flow tube is generally less than that of the counter-flow tube.

This is a very very brief explanation of vortex tubes but hopefully, one which will pique interest for further study.  I welcome your comments.

Industry Week, February 25, 2013 was the resource for this posting

Asia to Acquire Almost 10,000 Planes Over 20 Years —Airbus predicts the region will account for 35% of aircraft deliveries worldwide and 40% of the market in terms of value during the next 20 years.” 

That’s the headline and comment by Airbus.   Their production forecast for the Middle-East and the Pacific Rim through the next twenty years.   In my opinion, this is a significant forecast and one that would indicate a drop in North American power and an increase in Middle and Far Eastern power.  It is a changing world.

Asia-Pacific carriers will take delivery of 9,870 new passenger and cargo aircraft valued at $1.6 trillion over the next 20 years, European plane manufacturer Airbus said Monday.

The region will account for 35% of aircraft deliveries worldwide and 40% of the market in terms of value during the period, putting it ahead of Europe and North America, Airbus said.

Airbus expects a total of 28,200 new aircraft deliveries globally with a market value of $4.0 trillion in the next 20 years.

“Everything is going to grow, but the shift to Asia-Pacific in terms of market share and market presence is going to be enormous,” said Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy.

“Growing economies, bigger cities and increasing wealth will see more people flying, driving the need for larger and more efficient aircraft,” he said.

Emerging markets like China and India as well as the growing middle class in the region are powering demand for new aircraft, Leahy said, with Asia-Pacific carriers favoring wide-body models.  NOTE:  This is a significant departure for aircraft requirements flown “state-side”.  The wide-body models are thought to be difficult for some airports and more conventional configurations will be employed.

The size of the middle class in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to increase fivefold from 746 million in 2011 to 3.4 billion in 2031, according to estimates cited by Airbus.   In contrast, the number of people making up the middle class in North America is expected to drop while a modest increase is predicted for Europe during the 20-year period.

Domestic travel in the United States, which currently holds the largest share of world passenger traffic, is also expected to be matched by travel within China in 2031 at 10.4% of the global total.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013


March 3, 2013

The following post used as a resource:  Biofuels Digest:  “Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference, 2013”:  Washington D.C., April 15—17, 2013

Did you know there is a mandate from our federal government for the production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022?   In looking at production in 2013, we must ask the question—Is there anyway that can be accomplished?  Anyway at all?

In Washington, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) released a map and commentary on its website this week — indicating the spread of commercial-scale cellulosic biofuels, while cautioning that “EIA’s forecasts and projections to date have proven to be too optimistic, as volumes have been below expectations.”

EIA went on to state: “Looking forward, important challenges remain for cellulosic biofuel production. Total production costs for many of these first-of-a-kind projects remain higher than the cost of petroleum-based fuels on both a volumetric and energy-content basis. Cellulosic ethanol also faces the same market and regulatory challenges to increasing its share of the fuel market that is faced by other types of ethanol.”    I feel that one key factor in all of this is the cost of biofuels production relative to the cost of petroleum-based fuels.  When these costs are equivalent or less, we just may have a ballgame.  The jury is still out on this one.

At the same time, the EIA map detailed the growth of the cellulosic biofuels sector from 20,000 of production in 2012, to 5 million gallons in 2013 and an expected 250 million gallons in nameplate capacity by 2015.  Let’s take a look at the map given below:



These numbers, while reflecting impressive growth rates, are going to be well short of original targets set back in 2007, which aimed for 1 billion gallons of (ethanol equivalent) capacity by 2013.

Which raises the question — is there any way here on Earth that anyone could develop a scenario under which the advanced biofuels pool could reach anywhere near its 21 billion gallon target by 2022?   Critics say no, and have called for a fundamental rethink of the Renewable Fuel Standard — not only in its volumetric targets, but in its mechanisms — in fact, several bills introduced in this Congress and the last have called for outright repeal.  That repeal, depending upon economic conditions, is still being considered.

What exactly would a scenario look like under which the advanced biofuels pool could come anywhere near 21 billions gallons — in the face of scale-up challenges, timing problems, capital shortages, the ethanol blend wall, and lack of acceptance of the higher ethanol blends available on the market today (such as E85).

Well, actually, there is one. The key is to look closely at the targets — which aim for 21 billion gallons of “Ethanol-equivalent volume” on an energy content basis. Because they have higher energy densities, biobutanol, biodiesel and renewable diesel and gasoline count for a multiple of gallons (1.3. 1.5, 1.7 and 1.5 respectively) when calculating compliance.  This is a very significant statement.  The energy content of certain biofuels can be almost twice the content of petroleum-based fuels.  Very important consideration indeed.

And, it’s worth noting that obligated parties have an extra year for compliance under RFS2 rules — meaning that they could hit their targets in 2023 and meet their obligations under RFS2.

How would such a scenario work? Keep in mind, scenarios are scenarios — and in this case we are looking far down the track on early-stage technologies. Some of the companies we mention may come well short of their potential — others could emerge and substantially over-deliver on today’s expectations.

Scenario time

Here’s one compliance scenario and commentary on the likelihood of each sub-sector target being reached.



Biodiesel. 4 billion gallons by 2022. That’s a stretch target all right — but the sector has been growing fast. Up from sub-500 million gallons a few years back — the NBB is forecasting that the industry’s production is expected to reach as high as 1.5 billion gallons this year, up 50 percent over 2012. At those growth rates, it’s a no-brainer to hit 4 billion gallons — the constraining element is going to be sourcing affordable feedstock. That’s an awful lot of waste oils — though crude jatropha oil is expected to be on world markets at scale by 2022 at prices as low as $99 per barrel — prices that SG Biofuels are consistently affirming.

Biobutanol. 7.5 billion gallons by 2022. In our scenario, we have converted over 50 percent of the US ethanol fleet (which has nearly 15 billion in production capacity). With at least four conversion technologies expected to be available (Green Biologics, Cobalt, Gevo and Butamax) — and with a compelling business case and the ethanol blend wall to consider — the conversion numbers are not themselves all that daunting. Plus, there are more than a dozen plants already in early adopter groups or making the conversion.

Renewable diesel. In our scenario, we looked for as much as 1.5 billion gallons of capacity to be available globally and supplying fuels to the US. Certainly the capacity-building scenario is feasible enough. The industry will complete nearly 800 million gallons in capacity in the 2010-2013 period when Diamond Green Diesel opens later this year. Issues will be acceptance of palm oil as a feedstock, and fuel cost. If affordable jatropha oil indeed comes on the market by 2022 in large quantities, this could well be a no-brainer — and we rate that a toss-up.

Cellulosic ethanol – POET’s network. POET-DSM certainly has the technology now, and says it could install up to 1 billion gallons of capacity in its own network by 2022 — and hopes to add-on 1 billion more through licensing technology to third parties. These numbers are contained in POET’s own long-range plan.

Cellulosic ethanol – others. ZeaChem, Fulcrum, Bluefire, Beta Renewables, Mascoma, DuPont, Fiberight, INEOS and Abengoa are expected to complete first commercials by 2015. Our 1 billion scenario here would require each of those companies (or others coming along) to build just north of 100 million gallons in capacity, each, by 2022. That’s 2-4 more projects each, depending on capacity. Certainly that’s do-able. Certainly there’s enough cellulosic feedstock for these kinds of volumes.

Not to mention a scenario like the Sweetwater cellulosic-ethanol option — in which that company supplies renewable cellulosic sugars to be fermented at conventional ethanol refineries. Two customers already signed up there. All comes down to finance.

KiOR cellulosic biofuels. KiOR hopes to build 250 million gallons in capacity by mid-decade in Mississippi alone — in our scenario, we looked for 1 billion gallons from this company. Rob Stone at Cowen & Company has modeled KiOR’s capacity at 2.3 billion gallons by 2022.

Other drop-in diesels. There’s a lot of other companies targeting drop-in fuels — heading for scale by 2022. Sapphire Energy, for example, is aiming for 1 billion gallons by 2025. There’s Cool Planet and Joule Unlimited coming along, too, just to name two closely-followed companies. And Amyris or Solazyme, for example, could be producing fuels to add in to the totals here. Our scenario calls for 1.5 billion gallons by 2022. That would require each of the above-mentioned companies to deliver 300 million gallons in fuel capacity by 2022. That’s do-able — though we may see this sector in particular embracing the joys of high-value chemicals.

Brazilian sugarcane ethanol. Brazilian ethanol counts towards RFS2 totals in the advanced biofuels pool. Brazil is expected to be ramping up capacity and is targeting exports. Another path here might well me added capacity from US ethanol plants, using a combination of sorghum feedstocks and energy from biogas to qualify as an advanced biofuel.

Summing it up

So, what did we come up with?  8 sub-sectors with stretch targets but no moon shots.

Overall, the scenario requires 11.5 billion gallons of ethanol distribution and 7.5 billion gallons of biobutanol. We see that as fully achievable using the existing E10 blending limits, and a 16 percent waiver in the case of biobutanol. Biodiesel would be blending at just north of 5 percent, and that’s expected to be compliant with what infrastructure will tolerate by then. The remainder comes in the form of drop in fuels.

The Bottom line

The target is a real stretch, but feasible. No miracle technologies required — all of the projects cited are well along in their development, and there are no hail-Mary expectations from any of them. It will come down less to construction timelines and more to affordable capital and feedstock.

Those remain big question marks.



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