Endless nuclear power can be found in the seas

Climate change is such an urgent issue that despite problems with radioactive waste, nuclear power is once again viable until renewable solutions like solar and wind are more widely adopted. The ocean is a good source of uranium fuel, but it exists in such small quantities that extracting it hasn’t been economically feasible. However, Stanford researchers have developed a new technique that can capture up to three times more, meaning we might soon get a new source of uranium that could help keep CO2 in check.

A surprising amount of uranium exists in the ocean in the form of positively charged uranyl ions (no jokes please). The total is estimated at 4.5 billion tons, enough to power current plants for around 6 millenia. However, there’s only around a grain of salt per quart (three parts per billion) and so far, it’s been too time-consuming and expensive to extract it in decent quantities.

The best way to get uranium out of salt water is to dip plastic fibers coated with an organic chemical called amidoxime into seawater. The uranyl ions stick to the amidoxime, and can later be extracted and refined into uranium fuel. The key to its practicality is how quickly ions can be capture, how much sticks and how often the fibers can be reused.

Chong Liu examines a carbon-amidoxime electrode before assembling it into the flow device.

Researcher Chong Liu examines a carbon-amidoxime electrode (Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News)

The Stanford team came up with a conductive hybrid carbon and amidoxime fiber prototype that’s better in all three of those areas. By sending electric pulses down the fiber, it was able to absorb up to nine times as much uranyl as previous fibers without becoming saturated. Over an 11-hour test at Half Moon Bay, the team captured three times as much uranium and the fibers had thrice the lifespan of standard amidoxime.

In 2012, a Japanese team estimated that their seawater extraction technique, using previous tech, could be developed for about $300 per kilogram. That was about three times the commercial price at that point, but right now, the price is around half of that. "We have a lot of work to do still, but these are big steps toward practicality," said the paper’s co-author, Li Cui. "For much of this century, some fraction of our electricity will need to come from sources that we can turn on and off. I believe nuclear power should be part of that mix."

Source: Stanford

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Samsung will reportedly sell ‘refurbished’ Galaxy Note 7s

Even though Samsung has established a cause for those Galaxy Note 7 flare-ups, the device’s story is not over. Korean outlet Hankyung reports that the company will sell the "refurbished" phones, but with smaller, less-explodey batteries inside. It doesn’t sound like the devices will be returning to US or European markets (it’s tough to imagine regulators reversing course on bans after the first recall and reissue), but they could be sold in India or Vietnam instead.

According to the report, Samsung has some 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7s left over after using 20,000 or so up in testing to determine the cause of the problem. The refurbished devices will have new cases, and batteries with a capacity between 3,000 and 3,200mAh (the phones initially contained a 3,500mAh battery). Reuters reported last month that the sale of refurbs is a possibility, and ZDNet Korea says it will also help the company avoid trouble with the government over junking all of the unused and returned phones.

Source: ZDNet Korea, Hankyung

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Qualcomm chip promises phone data that’s faster than fiber

Just because true 5G wireless is edging closer doesn’t mean that 4G’s peak speeds can’t improve in the meantime. Qualcomm has unveiled a new LTE modem, the Snapdragon X20, that promises 1.2Gbps download speeds on mobile devices. That’s 20 percent faster than the company’s previous best, and enough to make even landline services like Google Fiber seem a bit pokey. The X20 manages the feat through more aggressive carrier aggregation (which bonds carrier frequency ranges) that lets it download 12 unique data streams of up to 100Mbps each. Upload speeds are healthy, too, at 150Mbps.

There are a few other party tricks. Qualcomm’s new chip supports the 3.5GHz airspace used by Citizens Broadband Radio Service in the US, which opens the door to private LTE networks. It can also handle high-quality LTE phone calls on dual SIM phones, which is particularly handy in China and other countries where dual-line phones are relatively commonplace.

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to wait to see what this modem can do. Samples of the X20 are available to device makers now, but the first shipping products aren’t expected until the first half of 2018. It’s just as well, though, when the most advanced LTE networks tend to stop at ‘just’ hundreds of megabits per second these days. And of course, the likelihood of hitting 1.2Gbps on a compatible carrier will be small unless you’re close to an uncongested cell tower. It’s better to think of this as laying groundwork for a transition — Qualcomm will be ready to tide you over with breakneck LTE speeds while you wait for meaningful 5G coverage.

Source: Qualcomm

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Boeing plans to build 3D-printed modular satellites

Boeing is known for building huge, high-end satellites that cost roughly $150 million each, but that could change in the future. The aerospace corporation plans to adopt new production practices that involve the use of modular 3D-printed parts and far fewer workers than it’s used to, according to The Wall Street Journal. Its current procedures that require customized manual assembly cost too much and take far too long — apparently, you can count the number of satellites it builds in a year on two hands. Boeing’s satellite business chief Paul Rusnock told the WSJ that the company can’t continue what it’s been doing and remain competitive.

Companies that maker smaller, cheaper satellites are already using modular components to save costs and pump out as many as possible. Airbus and a startup called OneWeb (a venture founded by Richard Branson’s Virgin and Qualcomm), for instance, are in the midst of building an automated assembly line in Florida. It’ll be capable of cranking out hundreds of small satellites a year that cost roughly $500,000 each.

Boeing likely won’t be able to achieve the same level of productivity since it’s working on bigger satellites, but it’ll be able to build a lot more units in a year. Rusnock says there’s nothing stopping the company from "realizing huge reductions in production schedules." Its ultimate goal is to find a way for its spacecraft business to replicate its aircraft division’s speed: it only takes the company 11 days to build a whole 737.

The private space corporation has already begun implementing 3D printing and some of its other new manufacturing processes in its Los Angeles facility. It’s now looking for ways to use them for select commercial projects, and it’s also working on adapting them for its different models. The downside to modular satellites is that they can only last around 7 to 8 years, half the 15-year lifespan of their highly customized hand-assembled counterparts. However, that might not exactly be a bad thing: Boeing’s clients are already talking about launching new satellites with upgraded technologies more regularly. The cheaper, modular versions will give them the opportunity to reach that goal.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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AMD returns to high-end gaming CPUs with Ryzen 7

AMD has largely ceded the performance processor space to Intel in recent years. You typically get one of its chips inside a budget PC, not an all-out gaming rig. At last, though, you might have reason to get excited: AMD is launching Ryzen 7, a desktop CPU line based on its much-ballyhooed Zen architecture. The key is a dramatic improvement in the number of instructions the chip can handle at once. A Ryzen 7 CPU can do 52 percent more work every cycle than a similarly-clocked predecessor thanks to a newer 14-nanometer manufacturing process, five times the bandwidth and some overdue architectural upgrades. This is AMD’s first processor with simultaneous multithreading (Hyper-Threading in Intel speak), so each core can execute two code paths at the same time.

Depending on what you get, you might even get a relatively quiet, efficient system. AMD claims the 3GHz Ryzen 7 1700 is the lowest-power 8-core desktop chip you can buy, with a 65W thermal design target. And if you snag the new Wraith Spire cooler (included with the 1700), you’ll have a relatively silent system with a 32dB noise level.

The initial range arrives both by itself (including compatible motherboards) and in pre-assembled systems on March 2nd, and it unsurprisingly focuses on higher-end systems. AMD is still promising a lot of value for your money. though. Your selection starts off with the Ryzen 7 1700, which at $329 is supposed to beat Intel’s slightly pricier Core i7 7700K in multithreaded chip tests. The 3.4GHz 1700X reportedly outperforms the Core i7 6800K at a lower $399 price tag, and the 3.6GHz 1800X can just edge out a not-quite-top-tier Core i7 6900K while costing less than half as much, at $499.

These are lofty claims, and there’s good reason to be skeptical. AMD’s performance claims largely revolve around one benchmark (Cinebench R15), and it’s so far saying only that you can get a "comparable" 4K gaming experience. You’ll likely have to wait until Ryzen 7 ships to see how it fares in real-world tests, which could easily be less flattering. Still, the fact that AMD is even in the same ballpark as Intel is a huge deal — this promises real competition that gives you better choices, and could force Intel to lower prices.

Source: AMD

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Verizon’s 5G Broadband Goes Into Testing by Mid-2017 in 11 Markets

verizon logo

Verizon announced this morning that it will deliver 5G broadband connectivity to select customers later this year on their “newly built 5G network.” In total, 11 markets will gain access as a part of this pre-commercial pilot. 

Verizon’s initial goal will be to offer 5G to pilot customers in Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bernardsville (NJ), Brockton (MA), Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Seattle, and Washington, DC. They are calling this pre-commercial 5G, as they work to fully commercialize broadband (or fixed) wireless 5G connections to both homes and businesses.

While not wireless in terms of being a 5G connection directly to your phone like you have through LTE today, this implementation of 5G should help take us steps closer to that reality.

Via:  Verizon | Samsung

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GM, Lyft could deploy “thousands” of autonomous Bolts in 2018

An array of Bolt EVs

An array of Bolt EVs

Martin Klimek for Chevrolet

On Friday afternoon, Reuters reported that two sources familiar with GM’s plans said the automaker would deploy thousands of Chevrolet Bolts equipped with self-driving equipment in 2018. The move would be in partnership with ride-hailing service Lyft.

GM has said it won’t sell autonomous vehicles to individuals. Instead, the automotive giant is targeting fleets for private companies and ride-hailing companies. The American automaker partnered with Lyft a year ago to work on driverless autos, and it even purchased a Lyft and Uber rival called Sidecar after that startup closed down.

GM announced yesterday that its in-house car-sharing service, called Maven, would launch 100 Bolts for rental in the city of Los Angeles. Those electric vehicles won’t be autonomous, but Lyft drivers will be able to take advantage of the Maven cars and use them as their work vehicle for a fee.

According to Reuters’ sources, the autonomous Bolts to be used by Lyft will be primarily located in San Francisco. Uber tried a similar thing this winter—the ride hailing service deployed a handful of autonomous Ubers in the Northern California city in December. The test program picked up Uber passengers after informing them that the car coming to get them would be a self-driving car supervised by an Uber engineer. The state of California requested that Uber end its test after regulators realized Uber hadn’t applied for a permit under DMV rules.

Uber defied the state’s DMV and argued that its autonomous system is indistinguishable from an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS), which does not need a special permit to be on California roads. When California ordered Uber to cease its operations, Uber took its test program to Arizona rather than apply for the DMV permitting.

GM has already applied for a permit to operate on California roads, and it has posted videos of autonomous Bolts on the streets of San Francisco, created in partnership with Cruise Automation.

GM told Reuters on Friday afternoon that it doesn’t provide specific details on future products.

Listing image by Martin Klimek for Chevrolet

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