Monthly Archives: September 2020

Coronavirus Vaccine: When Will We Have One?

There are around 40 different coronavirus vaccines in clinical trials – including one being developed by the University of Oxford that is already in an advanced stage of testing. The virus spreads easily, and the majority of the world’s population is still vulnerable to it. A vaccine would provide some protection by training people’s immune systems to fight the virus so they should not become sick. This would allow lockdowns to be lifted more safely, and social distancing to be relaxed.

Research is happening at breakneck speed. About 240 vaccines are in early development, with 40 in clinical trials and nine already in the final stage of testing on thousands of peopleTrials of the Oxford vaccine show it can trigger an immune response, and a deal has been signed with AstraZeneca to supply 100 million doses in the UK alone. The first human trial data back in May indicated the first eight patients taking part in a US study all produced antibodies that could neutralise the virus. A group in China showed a vaccine was safe and led to protective antibodies being made. It is being made available to the Chinese military.

Other completely new approaches to vaccine development are in human trials. However, no-one knows how effective any of these vaccines will be. A vaccine would normally take years, if not decades, to develop. Researchers hope to achieve the same amount of work in only a few months. Most experts think a vaccine is likely to become widely available by mid-2021, about 12-18 months after the new virus, known officially as Sars-CoV-2, first emerged. That would be a huge scientific feat, and there are no guarantees it will work. But scientists are optimistic that, if trials are successful, then a small number of people – such as healthcare workers – may be vaccinated before the end of this year. It is worth noting that four coronaviruses already circulate in human beings. They cause common cold symptoms and we don’t have vaccines for any of them.

https://www.bbc.com/

Electric Road Powers Buses

The city of Tel Aviv is working on creating wireless electric roads to charge and power public transportation in the city. The electric roads are part of a pilot program led by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality in collaboration with ElectReon, a company developing a system that can charge electric vehicles while they are moving, and Dan Bus Company. The project is being funded by a combination of government and private funds, according to a spokesperson for ElectReon, though a full budget has not been released. The roads will span from Tel Aviv University Railway station to Klatzkin Terminal in Ramat Aviv, a route of about 1.2 miles. The electric road itself will be about .37 miles long, a little less than half a mileElectric infrastructure under the road will charge specially-equipped buses. The system consists of a set of copper coils that are placed under the asphalt of the street, according to ElectReon.

Energy is transferred from the electricity grid to the road infrastructure and manages communication with the approaching vehicles,” according to the company’s website.

As for the vehicles, receivers are installed on the floor of the vehicle to transmit energy directly to the battery while driving.

The last few days have been spent constructing the road,” a spokesperson for the city told CNN Business. “Testing and trial runs will be required in the coming weeks before commencing regular operations.”

If the pilot is successful, the municipality of Tel Aviv will look into expanding and using the electric roads to more sections in the city. “Our strategic action plan to prepare for climate change has placed the fight against pollution at the top of the municipality’s environmental agenda,” Ron Huldai, the city’s mayor, said in a press release. “If the pilot is successful, we will evaluate — together with the Ministry of Transportation — its expansion to additional locations in the city.

Relying on direct charging of vehicles from the road itself will remove the need to establish charging stations or be operationally bound to terminals,” Meital Lehavi, the deputy mayor for transportation at the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, commented.

The technology’s testing and integration timeline is expected to take about two months, after which Dan Bus Company will commence regular journeys on the route, transporting passengers who are traveling to and from Tel Aviv University, according to a press release from the municipality of Tel Aviv.

Source: https://www.electreon.com/
AND
https://www.kezi.com/

New Composite Material Boosts Electric Vehicles

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ONRL) used new techniques to create a composite that increases the electrical current capacity of copper wires, providing a new material that can be scaled for use in ultra-efficient, power-dense electric vehicle traction motors.

The research is aimed at reducing barriers to wider electric vehicle adoption, including cutting the cost of ownership and improving the performance and life of components such as electric motors and power electronics. The material can be deployed in any component that uses copper, including more efficient bus bars and smaller connectors for electric vehicle traction inverters, as well as for applications such as wireless and wired charging systems.

To produce a lighter weight conductive material with improved performance, ORNL researchers deposited and aligned carbon nanotubes on flat copper substrates, resulting in a metal-matrix composite material with better current handling capacity and mechanical properties than copper alone.

Incorporating carbon nanotubes, or CNTs, into a copper matrix to improve conductivity and mechanical performance is not a new idea. CNTs are an excellent choice due to their lighter weight, extraordinary strength and conductive properties. But past attempts at composites by other researchers have resulted in very short material lengths, only micrometers or millimeters, along with limited scalability, or in longer lengths that performed poorly.

The ORNL team decided to experiment with depositing single-wall CNTs using electrospinning, a commercially viable method that creates fibers as a jet of liquid speeds through an electric field. The technique provides control over the structure and orientation of deposited materials, explained Kai Li, a postdoctoral researcher in ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division. In this case, the process allowed scientists to successfully orient the CNTs in one general direction to facilitate enhanced flow of electricity.

The team then used magnetron sputtering, a vacuum coating technique, to add thin layers of copper film on top of the CNT-coated copper tapes. The coated samples were then annealed in a vacuum furnace to produce a highly conductive Cu-CNT network by forming a dense, uniform copper layer and to allow diffusion of copper into the CNT matrix.

Using this method, ORNL scientists created a copper-carbon nanotube composite 10 centimeters long and 4 centimeters wide, with exceptional properties. Researchers found the composite reached 14% greater current capacity, with up to 20% improved mechanical properties compared with pure copper.

By embedding all the great properties of carbon nanotubes into a copper matrix, we are aiming for better mechanical strength, lighter weight and higher current capacity. Then you get a better conductor with less power loss, which in turn increases the efficiency and performance of the device. Improved performance, for instance, means we can reduce volume and increase the power density in advanced motor systems,” said Tolga Aytug, lead investigator for the project.

The findings are reported in the journal ACS Applied Nano Materials.

Source: https://www.ornl.gov/

Airbus Reveals Hydrogen Aircraft For 2033

Airbus has unveiled conceptual designs for a potential zero-emission commercial aircraft, which it believes could be developed for service entry in the next 15 years. All three of the preliminary designs – branded as ‘ZEROe’ aircraft – would use hydrogen as the main power sourceAirbus’s most radical proposition is a blended-wing body concept, seating up to 200 passengers, which would have a range of up to 2,000nm (3700 km). It has also shown off a more conventional-looking turbofan idea – with a similar range – which would be fitted with modified hydrogen-fuelled gas-turbine combustion engines. This concept would involve storing liquid hydrogen in tanks behind the aft pressure bulkhead. Its third proposal is a 100-seat turboprop, also using modified gas turbines, able to operate over a range of at least 1,000nm. Airbus says hydrogenholds exceptional promise” as a fuel for zero-emission transport.

It is likely to be a solution for aerospace and many other industries to meet their climate-neutral targets,” it adds. The airframer claims the aircraft outlined could potentially enter service by 2035 – a date which has been suggested by the French government for development of highly-efficient regional aircraft and an Airbus A320 successor. These targets had been included in a recent €15 billion aid package from the French government to the country’s aeronautical sector. Its strategy, based on improved fuel consumption and examining the potential of zero-emission hydrogen-based technology, suggests an initial demonstrator could be produced by 2026-28 and enter service in 2033-35.

Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury says the concepts offer a “glimpse of our ambition” to “drive a bold vision” for zero-emission flight. “I strongly believe that the use of hydrogen, both in synthetic fuels and as a primary power source for commercial aircraft, has the potential to significantly reduce aviation’s climate impact,” he adds. But he warns that, for such designs to be validated and eventually materialise, the transition to hydrogen power will require “decisive action from the entire aviation eco-system”. “In order to tackle these challenges, airports will require significant hydrogen transport and refuelling infrastructure to meet the needs of day-to-day operations,” adds Airbus, pointing out that government support to meet the objectives will be essential.

Source: https://www.flightglobal.com

Coronavirus Breathalyzer Test Gives Results In 30 Seconds

An Israeli company is developing a coronavirus breathalyzer test that gives results in 30 seconds, billing it as a “front-line” tool that can help restore a sense of normality during the pandemic. NanoScent, the firm making the test kits, said an extensive trial in Israel for the presence of live virus delivered results with 85 percent accuracy, and the product could receive regulatory approval within months. Chief Executive Officer Oren Gavriely told Agence France-Presse the breathalyzer would not replace lab tests, but was a mass screening tool that could help people gain “the confidence to go back and act as normal.” NanoScent has been operating for several years, specializing in rapid recognition technology, including for medical purposes.

Gavriely said that while visiting the United States in January, he sensed his firm’s expertise might be needed to help confront the novel virus circulating in Asia that appeared to be spreading to the West.

We said we’ll invest one week into it and see what’s happening, and this one week never stopped,” he explained. The test begins with a few short questions about COVID-19 exposure and symptoms, displayed on the phone of the person administering the procedure. Test subjects then inhale through the nose, hold their breath, close one nostril and exhale through the other, pushing breath through a handheld tube into a small bag called the “Air Trap.”

The tube is then plugged into the “Scent Reader“, a small rectangular device that whirs softly as it sucks the air out of the bag. Within seconds the results – “COVID-19 negative” during AFP’s visit – appear on the phone.

Source: https://news.cgtn.com/

China: Explosive Growth In The Digital Economy

China has over 110 million 5G users and is expected to have more than 600,000 5G base stations by the end of this year, covering all cities at prefecture level and above, according to the 5G Innovation and Development Forum held on Sept 15 during the Smart China Expo Online in southwest China’s Chongqing municipality.

Since 5G licenses for commercial use for more than one year were issued, the country has made steady progress in the construction of its 5G network infrastructure, said Han Xia, director of the telecom department at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, adding that Chinese telecommunications companies have already built over 500,000 5G base stations with over 100 million 5G internet terminals.

So far, 5G has been deployed in sectors and fields including ports, machinery, automobiles, steel, mining and energy, while 5G application has been accelerated in key areas such as industrial internet, Internet of Vehicles, medical care, and education, Han noted.

The value of the country’s industrial internet hit 2.13 trillion yuan last year, Yin Hao, an academician from the Chinese Academy of Sciences said at the forum, adding that the figure is expected to exceed 5 trillion yuan in 2025.

The integrated development of “5G plus industrial internet” can create new products, generate new models and new forms of business, reduce enterprises’ operating costs, improve their production efficiency, and optimize their resource allocation, Yin noted.

According to Chen Shanzhi, vice president of the China Information and Communication Technologies Group Corporation (CICT), the combination of 5G and other emerging information technologies, including artificial intelligence, cloud computing and big data, will help accelerate the integrated development and innovation of other sectors and bring about explosive growth in the digital economy.

http://global.chinadaily.com.cn/

Chinese Covid-19 Vaccine Ready For Public By November

Chinese manufacturers have been bullish about development, with companies Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm even putting their vaccine candidates on display at a trade fair in Beijing this month. A China-developed coronavirus vaccine could be ready for the public as early as November, a Chinese official has told state television, as the global race to clear the final round of trials heats up.

Representatives of the firms told AFP that they hope their vaccines will be approved after phase 3 trials as early as year-end.

And on late Monday, the chief biosafety expert at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control told state broadcaster CCTV that a vaccine would be available to the general public “around November or December.”
https://medicalxpress.com/

Life On Venus?

Astronomers may have found a signature of life on Venus. Evidence indicates phosphine, a gas associated with living organisms, is present in the habitable region of Venus’ atmosphere. The search for life beyond Earth has largely revolved around our rocky red neighbor. NASA has launched multiple rovers over the years, with a new one currently en route, to sift through Mars’ dusty surface for signs of water and other hints of habitability.

Now, in a surprising twist, scientists at MIT, Cardiff University, and elsewhere have observed what may be signs of life in the clouds of our other, even closer planetary neighbor, Venus. While they have not found direct evidence of living organisms there, if their observation is indeed associated with life, it must be some sort of “aerial life-form in Venus’ clouds — the only habitable portion of what is otherwise a scorched and inhospitable world. Their discovery and analysis is published today in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The astronomers, led by Jane Greaves of Cardiff University, detected in Venus’ atmosphere a spectral fingerprint, or light-based signature, of phosphine. MIT scientists have previously shown that if this stinky, poisonous gas were ever detected on a rocky, terrestrial planet, it could only be produced by a living organism there. The researchers made the detection using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii, and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) observatory in Chile.

Source: https://news.mit.edu/

All of Human Knowledge in a Tablespoon of DNA

A tiny strand of DNA has an amazing ability to store some pretty big data. In fact, researchers estimate that all of the world’s digital data could fit into just 20 grams (a little more than a tablespoon) of DNA.

Every time we do anything on the internet, such as upload a photo or send an email, we generate data — which means we generate a lot of data. Most of our data is stored in the “cloud” — which really just means massive data centers around the worldLast year, all of Wikipedia was stored in a few strands of DNA.

However, these centers take up a lot of space, are costly to maintain, and account for nearly 2% of U.S. energy consumption. Plus, we’re going to keep generating more and more.) data, and existing centers won’t be able to store it all. We’ll either need to start discarding a bunch of potentially useful information, or we’ll need to think smaller and figure out how to store more information in less space.

Information in DNA is consistently sequenced, synthesized, copied, and stored… just like the information on your phone or computer’s hard drive. However, when it comes to storage, DNA has some considerable advantages. Aside from being extremely dense, it’s also extremely durable: it can survive passively for millennia. We were able to decode information from the DNA found in the 5,300-year-old corpse of Otzi the Iceman.

That’s clearly not the case with silicon microchips or magnetic tape, which tend to degrade and need replacing every few years. Last year, researchers announced that they had stored the English-version of Wikipedia (yes, all of it!) into a few strands of DNA. This year, we’ve used DNA to store the Wizard of Oz and an episode of Biohackers (a Netflix series). There’ve also been other random works of art saved, too: War and Peace, Shakespeare sonnets, and an OK Go music video.

While you and I won’t be buying synthetic DNA hard drives, considerable efforts are underway to make this a viable storage system for those who need to store a bunch of important, but rarely accessed, archival data (i.e., governments and big corporations). Researchers expect that more consumer-friendly options are at least a decade away.

In order to retrieve the information, you’ll need a DNA sequencing machine (the same machines used for sequencing human genomes), and that’s one of the hurdles to making this a household technology. As CNET points out, one of the machines “would fit easily in your house if you first got rid of your refrigerator, oven and some counter space.”

Another hurdle is the time it takes to retrieve the information. Last year, it took 21 hours to retrieve the word “Hello” (roughly 5 bytes of data) from DNA. If we’re going to use DNA as a storage system, we’ll have to make it many orders of magnitude faster.

Source: https://www.freethink.com/

Robot Dogs Attack

It looked like a scene from science fiction. Emerging from United States Air Force planes, four-legged robot dogs scampered onto an airfield in the Mojave Desert, offering a possible preview into the future of warfare. But the exercise conducted last week, one of the US military‘s largest ever high-tech experiments, wasn’t a movie set.
Flying into a possibly hostile airstrip aboard an Air Force C-130, the robot dogs were sent outside the aircraft to scout for threats before the humans inside would be exposed to them, according to an Air Force news release dated September 3.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

Tech. Sgt. John Rodiguez, 321st Contingency Response Squadron security team, patrols with a Ghost Robotics Vision 60 prototype at a simulated austere base during the Advanced Battle Management System exercise on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Sept. 3, 2020. The ABMS is an interconnected battle network – the digital architecture or foundation – which collects, processes and shares data relevant to warfighters in order to make better decisions faster in the kill chain.

In order to achieve all-domain superiority, it requires that individual military activities not simply be de-conflicted, but rather integrated activities in one domain must enhance the effectiveness of those in another domain. The electronic canines are just one link in what the US military calls the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS). It uses artificial intelligence and rapid data analytics to detect and counter threats to US military assets in space and possible attacks on the US homeland with missiles or other means.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com