118. Kite Energy Productions, TAE’s Nuclear Fusion Reactor, Reviving Pig Organs

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Show Notes:

Startup's new stunning kite can pull energy from the sky | Interesting Engineering (01:07)

  • Several kite power companies are attempting to pull energy out of the sky, and they are succeeding.

  • Kitekraft, a Munich-based company developing a kite power system is one of those companies working on this technology

  • Their co-CEO and chief technology officer, Florian Bauer, commented on the tech:

    • “It’s cheaper to manufacture, cheaper to transport, and also has higher efficiency … If you have all those advantages, why would anyone build a conventional wind turbine?”

  • How does the technology called airborne wind actually work? Three-step approach:

    • Rigid enough to withstand high winds

    • Has the form of a sailplane, and 4 propellers are only needed for taking off and landing.

    • Designed to move quickly and effortlessly

    • Connects the kite to the ground

    • Transforms the pull force from the kite to the ground-station generator.

      • A kite flies across the wind it pulls against the tether and unwinds the winch, driving a generator that produces electricity.

    • Durable and can be exposed to varying environmental conditions such as moisture and UV light.

    • Converts the tractive force from the tether to electricity.

    • A control system is found in the ground station and makes sure all flights are conducted safely and efficiently.

    • 1. The kite is a specially designed aircraft composed of composite materials.

    • 2. The Tether

    • 3. The ground station

  • So far, Kitemill, another kite power company, claims that their system can produce an average power of >1 hour of operation with continuous cycles at 5.5 kW.

    • The airborne wind is currently in its infancy.

  • The industry will have to overcome many hurdles, such as proving that it is safe and reliable and does not cause any noise pollution.

    • Right now, none of the kite companies have produced energy in the megawatt scales required to compete with other renewable energy sources.

How balloons could one day detect quakes on Venus | Science News (07:32)

  • Back on December 14, 2021, a tiny device dangling beneath the large, transparent balloon recorded sudden, jerky fluctuations in air pressure: echoes of an earthquake more than 2,800 kilometers away.

    • Became the first network of devices to monitor an earthquake from the air.

  • The finding could help scientists track earthquakes in remote areas on Earth.

    • Opens the door to one day sending specially equipped balloons to study the geology of other worlds, including our closest planetary neighbor, Venus.

  • When the ground shakes, it releases low-frequency sound waves that can travel long distances in the atmosphere.

    • The military, who first tried this back in the 1940s, planned on using the microphones to pick up on the sound of the ground shaking from a nuclear explosion.

    • Project was eventually deemed too expensive and dropped

  • Now back to Venus, the reason the idea of balloons to take measurements on the planet is due to the extreme heat and pressure on the surface.

    • The dense atmosphere means that the planet’s surface has about the same pressure as Earth’s deep ocean.

    • No current lander/rover could withstand

  • For the project to even go forward, scientists have to show that they could design devices small enough to be carried by balloons but sensitive enough to pick up earthquakes far below.

    • In 2021, that is what they did

    • They attached micro-barometers to 16 balloons launched from the Seychelles Islands, off the coast of East Africa

    • The researchers were able to use the changes in air pressure to pinpoint the epicenter of the earthquake and calculate its 7.3 magnitude.

  • Although the surface of Venus is an extremely hostile environment, at about 50 kilometers above the surface the atmosphere of Venus is the most earth-like environment (other than Earth itself) in the solar system.

  • Paul Byrne, a planetary scientist at Washington University in St. Louis believes, even if they can’t detect Venus quakes, the balloons, if designed to survive in the Venusian atmosphere, might be able to detect changes in air pressure that reveal clues about the planet’s volcanic eruptions and mysterious highlands.

  • The researchers are hoping that earthquake-detecting balloons will feature in the next major mission

    • Believing their data could help researchers understand why Earth and Venus — alike in size and distance from the sun, relative to the other planets — have gone down such different paths.

TAE's planned billion-degree, hydrogen-boron nuclear fusion reactor | Interesting Engineering & New Atlas (13:02)

  • TAE Technologies today announced recently that it has secured strategic and institutional investments to fund the construction of its next research reactor, 'Copernicus.’

    • ​​This is after achieving temperatures greater than 135 million degrees Fahrenheit (75 million degrees Celsius)

    • While also demonstrating unmatched real-time control of plasma with its cutting-edge fusion research reactor, dubbed 'Norman.'

  • The non-radioactive method used by TAE, hydrogen-boron fusion, is the quickest, most feasible, and most cost-effective way to supply the grid with large amounts of carbon-free electricity.

    • Reminder fusion is banging the nuclei of two atoms together hard enough, they can fuse together to create a different element.

    • Resulting fused atom will weigh less than the two banged together

  • Why does fusion release a lot of energy?

    • The difference in mass from the fusion will be released as energy, as predicted by Einstein's famous E=MC2 equation. C2 – the square of the speed of light – is a rather large number, so a small mass of fuel can produce a large release of energy.

  • The goal of the 'Copernicus' reactor is to show that the company's advanced beam-driven field-reversed configuration (FRC) can generate net energy.

    • Will be built in a 100,000-square-foot (1,076,391 m2) facility in Irvine, California.

    • The last step on the road to commercializing clean fusion power.

  • The 'Norman' reactor, which was developed by TAE to maintain plasma at 54 million degrees Fahrenheit (30 million degrees Celsius), was unveiled in 2017.

    • Has demonstrated the ability to retain stable plasma at a temperature of more than 135 million degrees Fahrenheit (75 million degrees Celsius),

    • 250% greater than its initial aim

  • Why does TAE want to achieve hydrogen-boron fusion? CEO of TAE Technology, Michl Binderbauer, explains to New Atlas:

    • "There's no radioactivity involved in the input or the output. The output is helium, chemically inert, about as benign as you can get. Boron's made by the metric ton today. It's used in detergents, it's a commodity product. So there's no scarcity, it's found everywhere; there's no sort of Saudi Arabia of boron."

  • He continues to explain:

    • “People have shied away from boron historically because fusion is already darn hard … But it turns out that if you design your fusion reactor around tritium, you get some serious defects, along with a big disconnect from the commercial world where cost is important."

  • TAE has raised a total of $1.2 billion for its commercial fusion development.

    • The company recently closed its Series G-2 financing round, in which it secured $250 million from investors in the energy, technology, and engineering sectors.

  • The company's most recent investors include Chevron, Google, Reimagined Ventures, Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, and TIFF Investment Management, as well as a sizable mutual fund manager with headquarters on the West Coast of the United States and a sizable U.S. pension fund.

  • Sandro Hasegawa, General Manager, Energy Innovation Initiative Americas at SCOA, explains:

    • “We look forward to being a partner in bringing TAE’s clean energy solutions to the APAC market, which will be paramount to sustaining local economies without impacting our planet … We are pleased to support TAE’s groundbreaking fusion technology to create safe, sustainable energy sources across multiple industries and applications.”

Treating Chronic Pain With Sound Plus Electrical Body Stimulation | SciTechDaily (21:01)

  • Researchers have found that electrical stimulation of the body combined with sound activates the brain’s somatosensory or “tactile” cortex.

    • This increases the potential for using the technique to treat chronic pain and other sensory disorders.

    • The non-invasive technique was tested on animals and the team is planning clinical trials on humans in the near future.

  • During the experiments, the scientists played broadband sound while electrically stimulating different parts of the body in guinea pigs.

    • They discovered the combination of the two activated neurons in the brain’s somatosensory cortex.

    • This is the area that is responsible for touch and pain sensations throughout the body.

  • The scientists hope that their results will lead to a therapy for chronic pain that’s safer and more accessible than drug treatments.

  • Cory Gloeckner Ph.D, lead author on the paper, explains:

    • “Chronic pain is a huge issue for a lot of people, and for most, it’s not sufficiently treatable … Right now, one of the ways that we try to treat pain is opioids, and we all know that doesn’t work out well for many people. This, on the other hand, is a non-invasive, simple application. It’s not some expensive medical device that you have to buy in order to treat your pain. It’s something that we think would be available to pretty much anyone because of its low cost and simplicity.”

How Scientists Revived Organs in Pigs an Hour After They Died | Singularity Hub (23:59)

  • Oxygen is the elixir of life. Stop its flow—during a stroke, heart attack, or death—and the body’s tissues respond in a biological storm that eventually leads to their death.

    • Not great for organ transplants. They are deprived of oxygen, they rapidly lose their function.

  • Upon death, the heart stops pumping, meaning all tissues are starved of oxygen and nutrients, and even after reperfusion with blood, they wither away.

    • Their protective membranes break down.

    • Organs lose their structural integrity.

  • In a new study, using an external circulation system, a team of scientists partially revived organs in pigs hours after their deaths.

    • The system, dubbed OrganEx, works like an alternative circulatory system.

    • Pumps a synthetic substitute to trick the body into thinking it’s still somewhat alive.

  • The trick to keeping tissue healthy is a special fluid called cryoprotective perfusate.

    • Think of it as an incredibly nutritious smoothie that goes straight into your blood circulation.

  • The cells in the pig’s heart, liver, and kidneys repaired themselves while on the system.

    • Based on multiple molecular analyses.

  • Dr. Robert Porte at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, who was not involved in the study, wrote, “The achievement poi nts to ways to improve transplants and the treatment of strokes and heart attacks.”

  • Another Doctor not involved in the study, Dr. Sam Parnia at New York University wrote, “This is a truly remarkable and incredibly significant study. It demonstrates that after death, cells in mammalian organs (including humans) such as the brain do not die for many hours.”

  • For now, the study suggests that tissues and organs have a surprising ability to regenerate after being deprived of blood.

    • The researchers stated, “Overall, further optimization and expansion of our technology will be needed to fully understand its broader effects on ischemic tissues and recovery.”

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