3D-Printed Nuclear Reactor

Re-Bloggted From WUWT

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are refining their design of a 3D-printed nuclear reactor core, scaling up the additive manufacturing process necessary to build it, and developing methods to confirm the consistency and reliability of its printed components.

The Transformational Challenge Reactor Demonstration Program‘s unprecedented approach to nuclear energy leverages advances from ORNL in manufacturing, materials, nuclear science, nuclear engineering, high-performance computing, data analytics and related fields.

The lab aims to turn on the first-of-its-kind reactor by 2023. The program has maintained its aggressive timeline during the COVID-19 pandemic, using remote work to continue design and analysis efforts. [TCR video]

“The nuclear industry is still constrained in thinking about the way we design, build and deploy nuclear energy technology,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said. “DOE launched this program to seek a new approach to rapidly and economically develop transformational energy solutions that deliver reliable, clean energy.”

Reactor development and deployment have traditionally relied on materials, fuels and technology pioneered in the 1950s and ’60s, and high costs and decades-long construction times have limited the United States to building only one new nuclear power plant in the last 20 years.

TCR will introduce new, advanced materials and use integrated sensors and controls, providing a highly optimized, efficient system that reduces cost, relying on scientific advances with potential to shape a new path in reactor design, manufacturing, licensing and operation.

The TCR program has completed several foundational experiments including selection of a core design, and a three-month “sprint” that demonstrated the agility of the additive manufacturing technology to quickly produce a prototype reactor core.

Researchers will now focus on refining the selected design and the processes that will ensure an optimal and reliable energy system. Monitoring technologies continually assess the manufacturing process, providing live data streams that enable real-time qualification of the printed material and performance analysis through artificial intelligence. The team also conducts extensive post-build testing to assess component performance and establish links between the behavior of each unique part and its live manufacturing data.

“We have been aggressively developing the capability to make this program a reality over the last several months, and our effort has proven that this technology is ready to demonstrate a 3D-printed nuclear reactor core,” said Kurt Terrani, the TCR technical director. “The current situation for nuclear is dire. This is a foundational effort that can open the floodgates to rapid innovation for the nuclear community.”

As part of deploying a 3D-printed nuclear reactor, the program will also create a digital platform that will help in handing off the technology to industry for rapid adoption of additively manufactured nuclear energy technology.

“The entire TCR concept is made possible because of the significant advances in additive manufacturing process technology,” Terrani said. “By using 3D printing, we can use technology and materials that the nuclear community has been unable to capitalize on in the last several decades. This includes sensors for near autonomous control and a library of data and a new and accelerated approach to qualification that will benefit the entire nuclear community.”

Through the TCR program, ORNL is seeking a solution to a troubling trend. Although nuclear power plants provide nearly 20 percent of U.S. electricity, more than half of U.S. reactors will be retired within 20 years, based on current license expiration dates.

“The TCR program will provide a new model for accelerated deployment of advanced nuclear energy systems,” Zacharia said. “If cost and construction times are not addressed in the very near future, the United States will eventually lose its single largest source of emissions-free power.”

ORNL is partnering with Argonne and Idaho national laboratories and engaging with industry to enable rapid adoption for commercial use.

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Researchers, Lawmakers Cry Foul After Harvard Quietly Edits Study Suggesting Pollution Leads To More COVID Deaths

Chris White, From The Daily Caller – Re-Blogged From WUWT

  • Maryland Rep. Andy Harris wants the Environmental Protection Agency to review a Harvard University study suggesting pollution could create an 8% increase in the United States’s coronavirus death rate. 
  • One top critic of the study told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the university’s research is unfounded and relies on faulty modeling and testing. 
  • The university’s researchers initially claimed that people in certain areas of the country are 15% more likely to die of the virus, but quietly edited the study to dramatically change the nature of the study’s findings.

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Doctors Are Cloning COVID Patients’ Antibodies For New Treatment

By Dan Robitzski – Re-Blogged From Futurism

Can a “pharmaceutical cocktail,” made from the antibodies of a recovered patient, protect against the coronavirus?

To develop a preventative treatment for the coronavirus, doctors are enlisting thousands of patients who have already recovered.

Or, more specifically, they’re enlisting the coveted antibodies that those patients’ immune systems generated in response to the virus.

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MIT Invents $6 COVID-19 Test Using CRISPR

By Dan Robitzski – Re-Blogged From Futurism

[The test is only to see if you now have COVID. It does not test for antibodies. –Bob]

They hope it can help solve the testing crisis in the US.

A new coronavirus test uses gene-hacking tech to determine whether someone is sick with COVID-19 — and it only costs $6 to make.

Because there are still too few tests to go around, a pair of MIT researchers set out to build something to be as low-cost and self-contained as possible, The New York Times reports. The result is a two-step test that uses CRISPR to scan a patient’s saliva or nasal swab for signs of the coronavirus’ genetic code.

“We’re excited that this could be a solution that people won’t have to rely on a sophisticated and expensive laboratory to run,” said Feng Zhang, a researcher at MIT and the Broad Institute who developed the test, told the NYT.

The test’s website makes it very clear that it’s not approved for clinical use yet. As the NYT reports, the test performed well in early experiments, but their scope was limited — the researchers only administered it to 12 sick patients and a control group of five healthy people.

Here’s how it works: The patient’s nasal swab or saliva is deposited into a tube with chemicals that rip open viruses. The concoction is then dropped into a second tube full of CRISPR molecules that search for the coronavirus. In order to work, that second tube needs to stay at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for a full hour.

The test gives results similar to those of an at-home pregnancy test, the NYT reports. A strip of paper is dipped in, and if two lines appear, the test was positive.

The researchers behind the test told the NYT that they’re talking to manufacturers to mass-produce a one-vial version, which they hope can help solve the testing crisis in the U.S.

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Scientists Create Jet Engine Powered by Only Electricity

Clean Air

A prototype jet engine can propel itself without using any fossil fuels, potentially paving the way for carbon-neutral air travel.

The device compresses air and ionizes it with microwaves, generating plasma that thrusts it forward, according to research published Tuesday in the journal AIP Advances. That means planes may someday fly using just electricity and the air around them as fuel.

Scaling Up

There’s a long way to go between a proof-of-concept prototype and installing an engine in a real plane. But the prototype was able to launch a one-kilogram steel ball 24 millimeters into the air. That’s the same thrust, proportional to scale, as a conventional jet engine.

“Our results demonstrated that such a jet engine based on microwave air plasma can be a potentially viable alternative to the conventional fossil fuel jet engine,” lead researcher and Wuhan University engineer Jau Tang said in a press release.

Air Jet

Air travel represents a small but not insignificant portion factor of climate change. The New York Times reported in September that commercial air is responsible for 2.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions — though that excludes military jets.

“The motivation of our work is to help solve the global warming problems owing to humans’ use of fossil fuel combustion engines to power machinery, such as cars and airplanes,” Tang said in the release. “There is no need for fossil fuel with our design, and therefore, there is no carbon emission to cause greenhouse effects and global warming.”

READ MORE: Fossil fuel-free jet propulsion with air plasmas [American Institute of Physics]

More on jet propulsion: Get Ready For Low-Cost Jet Engines That Reach Space Without Burning Fossil Fuels

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Rice genetically engineered to resist heat waves can also produce up to 20% more grain

By Erik Stokstad– Re-Blogged From Science

This Startup’s Computer Chips Are Powered by Human Neurons

By Victor Tangermann – Re-Blogged From Futurism

Biological “hybrid computer chips” could drastically lower the amount of power required to run AI systems.

Australian startup Cortical Labs is building computer chips that use biological neurons extracted from mice and humans, Fortune reports.

The goal is to dramatically lower the amount of power current artificial intelligence systems need to operate by mimicking the way the human brain.

According to Cortical Labs’ announcement, the company is planning to “build technology that harnesses the power of synthetic biology and the full potential of the human brain” in order to create a “new class” of AI that could solve “society’s greatest challenges.”

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