Tag Archives: ultra

NASA jumpstarts the electric airplane industry with ultra-efficient flights – 400 mpg

This story is a bit old (October 2011), but in light of Chip Yates project to create the first all-electric transatlantic flight, is worth reading about:

 

NASA has awarded the largest prize in aviation history, created to inspire the development of more fuel-efficient aircraft and spark the start of a new electric airplane industry. The technologies demonstrated by the CAFE Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, competitors may end up in general aviation aircraft, spawning new jobs and new industries for the 21st century.

The first place prize of $1.35 million was awarded to team Pipistrel-USA.com of State College, Pa. The second place prize of $120,000 went to team eGenius, of Ramona, Calif.

“NASA congratulates Pipistrel-USA.com for proving that ultra-efficient aviation is within our grasp,” said Joe Parrish, NASA’s acting chief technologist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Today we’ve shown that electric aircraft have moved beyond science fiction and are now in the realm of practice.”

The winning aircraft had to fly 200 miles in less than two hours and use less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent in electricity. The first and second place teams, which were both electric-powered, achieved twice the fuel efficiency requirement of the competition, meaning they flew 200 miles using just over a half-gallon of fuel equivalent per passenger.

“Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction,” said Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com. “Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation.”

 

Source: NASA Awards Historic Green Aviation Prize

 

 

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The era of micro-spacecraft is here – ultra small satellites are everywhere

There is big news on the small satellite front. From super-secret agencies to the U.S. military, academia, private firms, world space agencies, and NASA, ultra-small satellites are the big thing.

In sizing up “smallsats,” there are a range of classifications in the less-than-500- kilogram department, be they minisatellites, microsatellites, nanosatellites, picosatellites, palm-size CubeSats, even the diminutive Femto satellite, weighing in at less than 100 grams.

Cornell University has begun to delve into a postage stamp-size “satellite on a chip” design, called Sprite, envisioning a swarm of these tiny probes exploring planetary atmospheres for organic compounds.

“The knowledge of how to make and use smallsats has passed the tipping point,” Matt Bille told SPACE.com. “It exists worldwide and has fostered a global generation of satellite builders and engineers. It used to be only a few organizations could build a satellite. Now, a smart teenager with a CubeSat kit and a soldering iron is a space agency. We’ve only begun to grasp the implications of that.”

“The age of microspacecraft is on solid ground now.”

 

Source: Space.com - Small Satellites Prompt Big Ideas for Next 25 Years

 

 

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Soon cars will be ultra-light-weight and made out of carbon-fibre composites

The race is on to replace steel cars with carbon-fibre cars. All of the major automakers have inked deals to make the switch. The reason being that carbon-fibre is:

Interior view of a production line for carbon fiber heavy tow.

“10 times stronger than regular-grade steel and one-quarter of steel’s weight.”

“Using carbon fiber in lieu of conventional steel can lower the weight of a vehicle component by up to 50 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Cutting a car’s weight by 10 percent can improve fuel economy by as much as 8 percent.”

via Reuters

Weight is a big deal in cars. The heavier the car, the bigger the engine and, typically, the lower the fuel economy. This is especially true for electric cars who face limited mileage on one charge, reduce that weight by 10% and you can go an extra 50 miles.

Currently, carbon-fibre is expensive to make and only really used in racing cars. BMW, the first company to invest heavily in carbon, has already found ways to cut production costs.

“The carbon fiber fabric is placed in a mold, and resin is injected under high pressure and temperature. The process, which once took 20 minutes per part, now requires less than 10 minutes. Robots cut and handle the material and components, which previously were made by hand.

The robots will help BMW achieved big savings. A pound of carbon fiber now costs only a third as much as a pound used in the M3 CSL coupe’s roof when the limited-edition car was introduced in the 2004 model year.”

via c|net

50K carbon fibers can be shaped and cured to produce spars for wind energy blades, golf shafts, compressed natural gas tanks, and pultruded beams.

 

Much of this production will happen in Germany or China, with both Volkswagon and BMW working with Germany’s SGL Carbon and General Motors signing with Teijin Ltd. But, just last month, Dow Chemicals signed a deal with Ford to begin research and production.

It’s exciting to think what this technology can do, not only for cars, but trucks, planes, boats, etc.

Energy researcher Amory Lovins, in this TED talk, thinks that when we fully start using carbon-fibre vehicles fuel economy in cars will shoot up to 200 miles/gallon. He says that halving the weight of the car creates compound effects: lighter car, requires a lighter engine, which makes the car even lighter.

 

Carbon aircraft brake disc.

 

// Photos – SGL Carbon

Blog Design – the ultra-minimalist brigade

When I first started blogging, Jason Kottke, of kottke.org, was a sort-of hero for what I wanted to do. His style of blogging is very similar to mine and so are his design aesthetics.

As time has progressed, I’ve switched from the hero archetype to more of a hopeful-peer. My delusions of equality were boosted when I noticed Jason’s latest redesign of his blog. Where several of the features match the design I created for this blog.

When you read a blog there are so many items for you to click. It’s like you’re in Times Square and everyone wants your attention. That isn’t very Jobsian (Steve Jobs-esque) especially when I only want you to do three things on my blog: read it, share it, and (hopefully) enjoy the ads.

So, I have taken the opposite, ultra-minimalist approach, the only-what-you-need-to-survive style. Everything is gone, links are minimal, and reading is clutter-free.

Jason has taken this approach for years, probably long before I even dreamed of being a blogger, but now he is going for gold. Joining the ultra-minimalist brigade, and several of his updates match mine. While others completely blow me out of the water (mirror on Tumblr?).

It’s a great confidence boost for me, but also leaves me with some things to copy or rather “good artists copy, great artists steal”.

Here is the update in Jason’s own words.

In doing the design, I focused on three things: simplicity, the reading/viewing experience, and sharing.

Simplicity. kottke.org has always been relatively spare, but this time around I left in only what was necessary. Posts have a title, a publish date, text, and some sharing buttons. Tags got pushed to the individual archive page and posts are uncredited (just like the Economist!). In the sidebar that appears on every page, there are three navigation links, other ways to follow the site, and an ad and job board posting, to pay the bills.

Reading/viewing experience. I made the reading column wider (640px) for bigger photos & video embeds and increased the type size for easier reading. But the biggest and most exciting change is using Whitney ScreenSmart for the display font, provided by Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ long-awaited web font service, which is currently in private beta.

The reading experience on mobile devices has also been improved. The text was formerly too small to read, the blue border was a pain in the ass (especially since the upgrade to iOS 5 on the iPhone & iPad changed how the border was displayed when zoomed), and the mobile version was poorly advertised.

Sharing. I’ve always thought of kottke.org as a place where people come to find interesting things to read and look at, and design has always been crafted with that as the priority. A few months ago, I read an interview with Jonah Peretti about what BuzzFeed is up to and he said something that stuck with me: people don’t just come to BuzzFeed to look at things, they come to find stuff to share with their friends. As I thought about it, I realized that’s true of kottke.org as well…and I haven’t been doing a good enough job of making it easy for people to do.

So this new design has a few more sharing options. Accompanying each post is a Twitter tweet button and a Facebook like button.

via kottke.org