Leading the News
DOE Investing Up To $50 Million To Improve Security Of Nation’s Critical Energy Infrastructure.
Breaking Energy (9/18) reports that the Department of Energy is announcing “awards of up to $50 million to DOE’s National Laboratories to support early stage research and development of next-generation tools and technologies to further improve the resilience of the Nation’s critical energy infrastructure, including the electric grid and oil and natural gas infrastructure.” Secretary Perry is quoted saying, “By leveraging the world-class innovation of the National Laboratories and their partners, this investment will keep us moving forward to create yet more real-world capabilities that the energy sector can put into practice to continue improving the resilience and security of the country’s critical energy infrastructure.”
CleanTechnica (9/18, Casey) reports that renewables “take front and center” in the initiative. In fact, the Energy Department announced the new funding program “with a forceful statement in favor of renewables” – the platform for the new program is the Energy Department’s Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium, which will “develop and validate innovative approaches to enhance the resilience of distribution systems – including microgrids – with high penetration of clean distributed energy resources (DER) and emerging grid technologies at regional scale.”
NSF Awards ASEE $473K To Craft Inclusion Training For LGBTQ Engineers.
The Washington Free Beacon (9/18, Harrington) reports that the NSF is spending $587,441 “to create ‘safe zone’ inclusion training so more members of the LGBTQ community become engineers.” The joint study “will not start until January 2018,” and is being conducted by the ASEE, “Rowan University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.” The study aims “to find ways to combat what the researchers call a ‘chilly’ environment for lesbian, gay, and transgender individuals in engineering labs.” Specifically, “a grant worth $473,325 was awarded to the” ASEE.
NSF Grants Cal State LA $465K To Improve STEM Diversity.
Campus Technology (9/18, Bolkan) reports the NSF granted California State University, Los Angeles $464,977 “to help diversify the STEM workforce.” The three-year grant will go toward the university’s “FYrE@ECST” program that aims to “use student cohorts, peer-assisted supplementary mathematics instruction, hands-on labs and a faculty mentor to help promote student success.” The university said “the first-year program was part of a larger California State University initiative aimed at producing more STEM professionals over the next decade and ‘was established to provide more holistic advisement and STEM foundational skills to students, so they can be successful in their majors and be inspired to complete their degrees.’”
Research and Development
Engineering360 (9/18) “Pratt & Whitney says it has completed testing a three-stream fan in an engine with an F135 core as part of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s Adaptive Engine Technology Development (AETD) program. Modern military turbofan engines have two airstreams, one that passes through the core of the engine, and another that bypasses the core.”
PRNewswire (9/18) also provides coverage of the story.
Arecibo Observatory Closed As Hurricane Maria Advances On Puerto Rico.
SPACE (9/18, Cofield) reports that the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico ceased operations Monday in advance of what Hurricane Maria, what the National Hurricane Center has called a “potentially catastrophic category 5 hurricane.” Officials said on Twitter that Arecibo will remain closed through Thursday, and will keep its visitor center closed through Sept. 28. Facility personnel are carrying out storm preparations including efforts to secure the “telescope, physical facilities and research equipment.” The Arceibo Observatory hosts the “second-largest radio telescope in the world,” which is used to “study a wide variety of cosmic phenomena, look for near-Earth asteroids that could potentially collide with the planet and search for signs of alien civilizations.”
DOT Awards Grants For Research To Improve Transportation For People With Disabilities.
METRO Magazine (9/18) reports the Department of Transportation “awarded six application development research contracts, totaling $6.185 million for a period of performance through 2019.” They are under the department’s Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative, “a multimodal departmental effort geared toward identifying and developing transformative transportation applications for all disabilities.”
Scientists Store Light As Sound Waves On Computer Chip For The First Time.
“For the first time ever, scientists have stored light-based information as sound waves on a computer chip – something the researchers compare to capturing lightning as thunder,” ScienceAlert (AUS) (9/18, MacDonald) reports, and “while that might sound a little strange, this conversion is critical if we ever want to shift from our current, inefficient electronic computers, to light-based computers that move data at the speed of light.” Birgit Stiller, a project supervisor at the University of Sydney in Australia, said, “The information in our chip in acoustic form travels at a velocity five orders of magnitude slower than in the optical domain. … It is like the difference between thunder and lightning.” Moritz Merklein, a member of the research team, added, “For [light-based computers] to become a commercial reality, photonic data on the chip needs to be slowed down so that they can be processed, routed, stored and accessed.” The findings were published in Nature Communications.
NSF Grants UT $15M To Explore Materials For Development Of Medical Devices, Electronics Components.
The Austin (TX) Business Journal (9/18, Subscription Publication) reports that under a $15.6 million NSF grant, the University of Texas at Austin “will explore the creation and manipulation of new types of materials that could improve the development of medical devices and electronic components.” Specifically, “the funds will help launch UT-Austin’s Center for Dynamics and Control of Materials” (CDCM). UT professor Edward Yu said the concept “known as dynamic control…can be found in the natural world in applications such as camouflage.” UT-Austin researchers will reportedly “focus on two main streams of research, including nanoparticles, which have applications in drug delivery, water purification and other uses,” and the “other research stream will study the use of illumunation to control the structure of a material and its properties, which has potential applications in communications and information processing technologies.”
Clemson Researcher Develops Tech To Enhance Stem Cell Treatments For Heart Failure.
The Greenville (SC) News (9/18, Osby) reports Clemson bioengineering professor Ying Mei and researchers from the University of South Carolina, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the University of Chicago are investigating ways to use stem cells to treat heart failure. The NIH awarded them $1.5 million to develop “a technology that blends the cells with silicon nanowires, like those used to make computer chips, into a spherical shaped microtissue that can be injected into the heart.” Mei asserted this will allow more stem cells “to remain in the heart as well as for synchronized heart beats and less opportunity for arrhythmia.” The article calls this research “promising,” but “Mei said a new treatment based on the research is at least a decade off.”
NSF Grants Columbus State $293K For Scanning Electron Microscope.
The Columbus (GA) Ledger-Enquirer (9/18, Berson) reports the NSF granted Columbus State University $293,575 “to purchase a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to use in scientific research programs.” The article says the “award will allow students to work directly with faculty and enhance on-going research programs at field sites, museums, herbarium collections and in biology and chemistry laboratories.” Columbus State University professor Kevin S. Burgess said, “The SEM will facilitate outreach opportunities for recruitment as well as the recruitment of high school students to STEM fields.”
Survey Finds Increase In Confidence In Self-Driving Cars With Experience.
The Chicago Tribune (9/18, Mitchell) summarizes a survey by global consulting firm AlixPartners that found 18 percent of respondents “reported personal experience with driver-assist features such as automatic braking, lane keeping and adaptive cruise control.” Among those 18 percent, “49 percent said they are ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ of driverless cars, 21 percent are neutral and 31 percent are not confident.” Yet, “Of respondents with no experience with self-driving features, only 28 percent said they were confident or very confident of driverless cars.” AlixPartners Managing Director Mark Wakefield said conversion to comfort with the technology is quick, once people have experience with it.
Hyperloop Competitions Give Students Opportunity To Impress Musk.
Bloomberg News (9/18, McBride) reports that since Elon Musk’s rocketry firm SpaceX announced its Hyperloop competition two years ago, the company “has found a unique formula for luring talent at little cost. While most companies spend extensively on recruiting, the hyperloop competitions consistently bring in eager, young prospects on their own dime jockeying to show off their abilities.” While winners often get no financial rewards, they do get “a shot at impressing their hero,” Musk.
Honda Investing $267M, Adding 300 Jobs At Two Ohio Factories.
Bloomberg News (9/18, Lippert) reports that “Honda Motor Co. is investing $267 million and adding 300 jobs at two Ohio factories as it begins mass production of the redesigned Accord flagship sedan for 2018.” The investments “include $220 million for hundreds of new welding robots and other upgrades at the company’s Marysville assembly plant, and $47 million for its engine plant in nearby Anna to start building the company’s first turbocharged engine.” Reuters (9/18, Carey) reports that “Honda unveiled the newest-generation Accord in July, one of four re-engineered midsize sedans.” The article quotes Honda Manufacturing Leader for Accord Steve Rodriguez saying the new plant investments mean the company “will have a capacity of 440,000 vehicles a year and can add volume for the Accord as necessary.” The Wall Street Journal (9/18, Roberts, Subscription Publication) also reports.
Analysts Have Mixed Reactions To How Fast Tech Will Change Auto Industry.
Quartz (9/18, Coren) reports that advances in technology could change transportation in the US sooner than some people think, but analysts give mixed reactions to how soon technology will change the auto industry. While one Bay Area think tank called RethinkX predicts that by 2030, “shared, autonomous electric vehicles will account for 95% of all U.S. passenger miles traveled,” Sam Abuelsamid of Navigant consulting says that Seba’s projections for shared autonomous vehicles are “ludicrous.” He said, “I think the RethinkX report is wildly optimistic on virtually all fronts.” Meanwhile, analysts at Deloitte, “who also believe shared autonomous transport will eventually win out, still push that point off well past mid-century.” And Boston-based consulting firm Bain “estimates says only 10% of new vehicles systems will be partly or fully automated by 2025.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Houston’s Limited Zoning Laws Reduced Harvey Damage.
In an opinion piece for U.S. News & World Report (9/18), George Mason University Mercatus Center Policy Research Manager Emily Hamilton argues that Houston would not have fared better after receiving four feet of rain had its zoning laws been more restrictive. Hamilton claims that the city’s “development policy isn’t as different as advertised from that of other major American cities,” adding, “In the ways it does differ, it may allow for denser urban development rather than causing more sprawl into flood-prone areas.” While some Houston laws for building structures and parking lots encourage suburban sprawl, the city reduced the minimum home lot size to 1,400 square feet in 1999, allowing more townhouses to be built downtown. Hamilton suggests that this policy has facilitated Houston’s rapid growth by reducing “pressure for development on the outskirts of the city,” which in term preserves the surrounding prairies that act as a “sponge” for rainfall.
Auto Safety Advocate: Americans Right To Be Concerned About Self-Driving Cars.
In a Washington Post (9/18) op-ed, Center for Auto Safety Executive Director Jason Levine writes that although self-driving vehicles potentially represent the greatest step toward vehicular and pedestrian safety since the installation the air bag, Americans are right to be concerned about their adoption in the near future – an attitude reflected in a recent AAA poll showing 78 percent of respondents would not want to ride in an autonomous car. Levine argues that the Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is responsible for regulating vehicle policy, has maintained a lax enforcement of safety features in the past and recently weakened “an existing set of voluntary guidelines on autonomous vehicles.”
Michigan To Divest Power Plant, New Deep-Water Marine Terminal Expected.
U.S. News & World Report (9/18) reports that last week the Michigan Public Service Commission approved a Consumer Energy request “to divest the B.C. Cobb plant in Muskegon” Consumers Energy is set to compensate Forsite Development $1 million to own the property. Forsite is expected to demolish the facility within two years after the deal is finalized. Forsite plans to redevelop the site as “a deep-water marine terminal on Muskegon Lake for cross-Lake Michigan shipping.”
Much Of Texas Power Grid Withstands Hurricane Harvey.
Scientific American (9/18, Lott) reports that according to new data provided by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Hurricane Harvey, more than 10,000 Megawatts of electrical generation capacity were disrupted by high winds and flooding. Despite the disruption, many of the power lines throughout the Texas Gulf Coast remained operational despite 130 mph winds. The state’s grid operator (ERCOT) met “customer electricity demand in those areas not impacted by inoperable power lines, in part because of cooler temperatures in the area,” which ranged in the 70’s and 80’s.
EIA Survey Shows Coal Power Plants Installed Mercury Controls To Meet Compliance Deadlines.
PennEnergy (9/18) reports that EIA’s preliminary annual electric generator survey shows that “several coal-fired electricity generators in the United States installed mercury control equipment using activated carbon injection systems just prior to compliance deadlines.” The nature and timing of control additions “indicate a strategy to maintain the availability of affected coal-fired generators by requesting extensions to compliance deadlines and investing in flexible, low-cost environmental control technology.”
GE Working On Technology That Could Save $200 Billion Worth Of Power.
Bloomberg News (9/18, Hirtenstein) reports General Electric is working on a way “to use artificial intelligence in electricity grids, a technology that it expects will save $200 billion globally by improving efficiency.” Steven Martin, chief digital officer at GE’s energy connections business, is quoted saying, “We’re also putting a lot into the machine learning side. … We have a lot of people working on this.” The technology “would optimize how electricity flows in and out of storage devices such as batteries and points of consumption, in real time.”
California Lawmakers Agree To Spend $895 Million On Clean Vehicle Programs.
KXJZ-FM Sacramento, CA (9/17, Bradford) reports California lawmakers have agreed to devote most of the $1.5 billion of funding generated by the state’s cap-and-trade program “to cutting pollution from the transportation sector.” Under measures passed Friday, the state “will spend $895 million on clean vehicle programs, especially replacing diesel engines in buses, agricultural equipment, and at ports.” Lawmakers also approved “more than $150 million for cleaner farming—including reducing methane from cows. Another $225 million goes to fighting wildfires.” Gov. Jerry Brown “is expected to sign the measures.”
The Imperial Valley (CA) News (9/17) quotes Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) saying, “We were able to acquire $250 million in agricultural program investments, including renewable energy grants as well as vehicle and equipment rebates. The ability to infuse this magnitude of the state’s resources into the rural, agricultural communities I represent will result in enormous economic stimulants and public health benefits.” She added, “This bill package also makes significant strides to reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality which is an issue that hits close to home. Imperial County is reported to have 12,000 children with asthma and more than double the state’s rate of young children’s hospital and emergency room visits for this respiratory illness.”
Justin Salters writes in the Bakersfield (CA) Californian (9/18, Salters, Subscription Publication) that state representatives in the State Senate and Assembly “wrapped up a legislative season on Friday,” but the year was “filled with legislation that hurts the middle class and working poor while doing little to substantively address the causes of poverty or provide opportunities for economic advancement.” Salters says “three of this year’s major legislative ‘accomplishments,’ i.e., transportation funding, Cap and Trade and housing, offer little relief for the Central Valley.” Legislators extended California’s signature “Cap and Trade” program, which he says “has helped accelerate an exodus of middle-class jobs from the state and an increased cost of energy.”
Monday’s Lead Stories
• NASA’s Cassini Mission Comes To A Close.
• NSF Gives University Of Montana $300,000 Grant To Boost Native American STEM Education.
• Polaris Testing Two Driverless Electric Cars In Detroit.
• NYTimes A1: Lurid Lawsuit’s Settlement Illustrates Silicon Valley’s Sexual Misconduct.
• Fitbit Launches Largest European R&D Center.
• UPS Becomes First US Customers Of Mitsubishi Fuso Electric Trucks.
• WSJournal: Solar Panel Tariffs Will Hurt US Solar Industry.