Building the World

February 18, 2021
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ENERGY: Genie in a Bottle

“Genie in a Bottle,” from Stripped Tour, Christina Aguilera Image: wikimedia.

February 18, 2021. It’s National Battery Day. What is this genie in a bottle that we call a battery?

Lithium-ion batteries are making news. It’s a technology popularized in 1991, when rechargeable lithium-ion batteries were first used in hand-held camcorders. A decade later, Apple began using these batteries in smartphones. When electric cars entered the market (Edison worked on one, before Henry Ford invented the gasoline-driven automobile), batteries became the way to power the future. SEMATECH introduced a new industry, and now two new semiconductor materials – gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SIC) are now being used in EV batteries. With General Motors (GM) pledging a full transition from gas and diesel to electric vehicles by 2035 (Ford, Tesla, Volkswagen and others in similar quests), the race is on.

“Tesla Model S at a Supercharger station.” Image: wikimedia.

Who’s Who (a partial list) in Electric-Vehicle Batteries:

CATL or Contemporary Amperex Technology Col, Limited, founded in 2011 in China, announced an increased investment of $4.5 billion on 4 February 2021. CATL will open a new plant in Zhaoqing, Guangdong Province, upgrade a plant in Yibin, Sichuan Province, and expand a joint venture plant with automaker China FAW Group. A new plant in Germany is also under construction. (300750:CH)

LG Chem in South Korea, world’s biggest EV battery manufacturer, just announced its battery division would now be a stand-alone business. LG counts GM, Geely Automotive Holdings Shanghai Maple Guorun Automobile Co., Hyundai Motor Group, and Tesla among its customers. Tentative name for the new business: LG Energy Solutions. (LGCLF)

Nissan Motor Co. and American Electric Power are competitors with a different strategy: reusing old EV batteries with a technology to extend lithium-ion battery life by over 30%. The experiment uses Nissan Leaf expired-batteries with a method developed by Melbourne-based Relectrify. BMW AG and Toyota are also reusing cells in EV charging. (NSANY)

Novonix is working with Dalhousie University on battery material research, noting new deals with Tesla on synthetic graphite. (NVNXF)

Panasonic. Tesla is in talks with Indonesia to build a battery cell factory with Panasonic. (PCRFY)

QuantumScape is introducing solid-state batteries lithium-metal batteries, offering a faster charge, longer life, and increased safety. The San Jose, California company filed with the SEC for a new development on 1 February 2021. (QS)

Tesla. Bringing battery production in-house has been a goal for Elon Musk who introduced a ‘tab-less’ battery called 4680 that will produce a 16% increase in range for the company’s electric vehicles. They new cells measure 46 millimeters by 80 millimeters. (TSLA)

Zinc Copper Voltaic Pile. Image: wikimedia.

The oldest battery known to history was found in Baghdad: a clay pot containing a metal tube and rod. But when Alessandro Volta discovered that zinc and coper, placed in a saline or acid solution, could transform zinc into a negative pole and copper into a positive pole, the action began. Chevrolet named one of its early EV models a “Volt.”

Will batteries advance hydroelectric power? Image: Hoover Dam, wikimedia.

Battery storage may transform hydroelectric power In Chile, a 50 megawatt-hour (MWh) battery energy storage project (think the equivalent of 5 million iPhones) will be paired with a hydroelectric facility, to store generated energy without need to construct a dam or reservoir. Will the Hoover Dam explore this technology, with consideration to drought affecting Lake Mead? It was hydroelectric power that first fascinated Nikola Tesla who, looking at a photo of Niagara Falls, said: “Someday I’ll harness that power.”

Battery Council International. “It’s national battery day.” www.batterycouncil.org

Hareyan, Armen. “Rumor says Tesla may have completed 1st round of Indonesia battery talks involving Panasonic.” 12 February 2021. Torque News. https://www.torquenews.com/1/rumor-says-tesla-may-have-completed-1st round-indonesia-battery-talks-involving-panasonic

Hawkins, Andrew J. “Tesla announces ‘tabless’ battery cells that will improve the range of its electric cars.” 22 September 2020. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2020/9/22/21449238/tesla-electric-car-battery-tabless-cells-day-elon-musk

Kawakami, Takashi. “EV-battery giant CATL to boost capacity with $4.5bn investment.” 4 February 2021. NikkeiAsia.com. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Automobiles/EV-battery-giant-CATL-to-boost-capacity-with-4.5bn-investment

Kubik, Marek. “Adding Giant Batteries To This Hydro Project Creates A ‘Virtual Dam’ with Less Environmental Impact.” 23 May 2019. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/marekkubik/2019/05/23/adding-giant-batteries-to-this-hydro-project-creates-a-virtual-dam-with-less-environmental-impact

Schmidt, Bridie. “EV battery material firm Novonix strengthen ties with Dalhousie University.” 15 February 2021. The Driven. https://thedriven.io/2021/02/15/ev-battery-material-firm-novonix-strengthen-ties-with-dalhousie-university

Semiconductor Review. “How Semiconductor Advancements Impact EV Batteries.” 26 October 2020. Semiconductor Review. https://www.semiconductorreview.com/news/how-semiconductor-advancements-impact-ev-batteries-nwid-124.html

Stringer, David and Kyunghee Park. “Top Electric-Car Battery Maker Wins Approval for Company Split.” 30 October 2020. Bloomberg News and Transport Topics. https://www.ttnews.com/articles-top-electric-car-battery-maker-wins-approval-company-split

Stringer, David. “Companies Explore Using Old Electric Car Batteries to Cut Costs.” 24 January 2020. Transport Topics. https://www.ttnews.com/articles/companies-explore-using-old-electric-car-batteries-cut-costs

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

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February 12, 2021
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Lunar New Year: Postcard from Mars

Year of the Ox. Image: wikimedia commons.

Lunar New Year and Spring Festival usually bring families together, but in this time of social distancing, many greetings are sent from afar. How about from a distance of 33,000 miles? Year of the Metal Ox occasioned a notable message from Mars: Tianwen-1 celebrated Lunar New Year as China National Space Administration (CNSA) released two videos.

Ingenuity, helicopter for Mars. Image: artist’s rendering for NASA/JPL.

Mars is busy this season because the chance to reach the Red Planet comes only every 26 months. This past summer, China launched Tianwen-1; United Arab Emirates sent the Hope probe, and United States’ Perseverance rover set off for Mars in July with a first made-for-Mars helicopter named Ingenuity. UAE’s Hope will position in orbit to give a complete picture of the planet as a whole system along with its atmosphere. NASA‘s Ingenuity will be the first test flight on another planet, evaluating flying in an atmosphere thinner than Earth’s, preparing for spaceflight when humans venture beyond the moon.

Mars (animated simulation). wikimedia.

Earth and Mars are close neighbors, in terms of space distancing: Earth is the third closest planet to the sun and Mars is the fourth. Earth moves at 67,000 miles per hour around the sun, yielding a 365-day orbit or year. Maris is slower, so Martian year is 687 days. But every 26 months, the alignment of the two planets is optimal. Expect to learn a lot about Mars in the near future.  Suitably named, Tianwen means “questions to heaven” and references a poem by Qu Yuan, poet of ancient China.

Mars missions may be a good venture for the Year of the Metal Ox. The lunar new year system revolves around twelve animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig; and five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. With their separate rotations (similar to Earth and Mars),  animals line up with a particular element only every 60 years. The qualities of the Metal Ox symbolize devotion, diligence, excellence, honesty, and perseverance.

Qi, Lin. “China Post to issue Year of the Ox stamps.” 31 December 2020. China Daily. https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202012/31/WS5fed379fa31024ad0ba9fc8a.html.

Strickland, Ashley. “This summer, multiple spacecraft are launching to Mars. Here’s why.” 29 July 2020. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/27/world/mars-mission-launches-summer-2020-scn/index.html.

Xinhua. “China’s first Mars exploration mission named Tianwen-1.” 24 April 2020. Xinhuanet.com. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020=04/c_139004464.htm.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

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January 28, 2021
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TRANSPORT/SPACE: Can the Internet fly?

Google/Alphabet Loon. Image: wikimedia

Wave Goodbye to Loon. The visionary project, to beam down the Internet from floating balloons, called it quits. For nine years, Google/Alphabet sent up as many as 35 floating globes – the size of tennis courts – with the goal of transmitting internet capability to areas where land-based infrastructure is not feasible. Of course, the balloons used Google autonomous navigation technology to steer themselves. But this week, the start up wound down. In 2017, when Hurricane Maria wiped out Puerto Rico’s telecommunications system, Loon helped to get the island back online. Another good outcome: Telkom, a telecommunications company in Kenya, inked a deal to bring 4G to remote areas. Because almost half the world does not yet have internet access, it’s a big market. Land-based technologies picked low-lying fruit, but there is still room for growth – above.

Starlink satellites stacked and ready to launch. Image: SpaceX and wikimedia commons.

Flying internet is a rapidly developing sector. Since early days of COMSAT, satellites are proving better vehicles for connectivity, even to what some call “notspots” (Kleinman 2021) with a vision of bringing the whole world online. It’s a movement that recalls the achievements such as the telephone and telegraph (connections were laid under the tracks of the Transcontinental Railroad). Here are some satellite enterprises delivering broadband internet today – and tomorrow:

FLYING INTERNET PROVIDERS

Apple – A plan to develop their own satellites prompted Apple to recruit two Google satellite experts: John Fenwick and Michael Trela will work with Greg Duffy, Dropcam founder who joined Apple recently. Apple may partner with Boeing to launch more than 1,00 low-orbit satellites.

Starlink –  Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink will require 42,000 satellites. SpaceX launched 60 satellites on 20 January 2021 to tally 1,015 so far (only 951 are still in orbit). In 2020, SpaceX carried out 14 launches. Possible subscription: $99 monthly fee + $499 for hardware.

OneWeb – Founded in 2014 by Greg Wyler, OneWeb re-emerged from potential bankruptcy with help from Bharti Global and UK government. 648 satellites will form OneWeb network constellation. Development of terminals is with Intellian Technologies and Collins Aerospace. Customers? While at first it was rural folks (OneWeb promises they won’t be overlooked), now it is telecom companies. Second generation satellites will include intelligence and security capabilities. New funding from SoftBank Group Corp and Hughes Network Systems/EchoStar tallied $1.4 billion in funding to put first-generation fleet in place in 2022.

Project Kuiper Constellation  – Funded by Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s satellite project plans to launch 3,236 satellites. In March 2019, Project Kuiper filed with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and Federal Communications Commission. The satellite array will orbit at three altitudes: 784 satellites at 367 miles (590 kilometers); 1,296 satellites at 379 miles (610 kilometers), and 1,156 satellites at 391 miles (630 kilometers). The plan is to provide coverage from latitude 56 degrees north to 56 degrees south – that’s where 95% of the world’s people live. (Boyle 2019)

Telesat – With priority Ka-band spectrum rights and a fifty-year history of technical prowess, Telesat Low Earth Orbit (LEO) will link to customer terminals and electronically steered antennas (ESAs) for commercial, government, and military use. The first launch happened in January 2018.

LeoSat – The vision was a constellation of 78 -108 satellites but in 2019 the company laid off its 13 employees after investors dropped support. The investors were Hispasat, Spanish satellite operator, and Sky Perfect JSat of Japan. LeoSat still exists but for now is dormant.

Viasat – This satellite system offers internet access from geosynchronous orbit. New entrants like Starlink, OneWeb, Kuiper, Telesat will use Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for lower latency and lower cost.

03b – Using medium Earth orbit (MEO), this constellation offers fiber-equivalent connection. The prime contractor is Arianespace for the operator SES Networks.

Athena Facebook filed with the Federal Communications Commission to launch Athena to provide broadband access to “unserved and underserved” areas of the world. The filing included a new name: PointView Tech LLC.

Boeing – The aerospace giant plans to launch and operate 147 satellites for a broadband constellation. Apple may help.

Satellites: a traffic jam in the sky? Can astronomers still see the stars? Image: Starlink, initial phase  – wikimedia.

PROBLEMS: Are satellite constellations the new Milky Way, or are we creating the same kind of traffic jam above that we suffer from on land? Some astronomers already report difficulty in seeing the sky. Negative comments from astronomers caused Starlink satellites to come up with a visor that prevents sun reflection, reducing glare – its a sub-company called VisorSat. OneWeb chair Sunil Bharti Mittal pledges environmental stewardship, working with astronomers on issues like reflectivity. (Amos, 2020) And then there is the problem of space debris: getting satellites up is easier than getting them down,

OPPORTUNITIES: Why are so many players entering the flying internet competition. Opportunity: Morgan Stanley projected that “the global space industry could generate revenue of $1.1 trillion or more in  2040, up from $350 billion today.” (Conroy 2019) Of that, $410 billion will come from satellite-based internet services.

GPS Constellation. Image: wikimedia

Amos, Jonathan. “OneWeb satellite company launches into new era.” 18 December 2020. BBC.com

Boyle, Alan. “Amazon to offer broadband access from orbit with 3,236-satellite ‘Project Kuiper’ Constellation.” 4 April 2019. GeekWire. https://www.geekwire.com/2019/amazon-project-kuiper-broadband-satellite/

Foust, Jeff. “SpaceX surpasses 1,000-satellite mark in latest Starlink launch.” 20 January 2021. SpaceNews.com. https://spacenews.com/spacex-surpasses-1000-satellite-mark-in-latest-starlink-launch/

Henry, Caleb. “LeoSat, absent investors, shuts down.” 13 November 2019. SpaceNews.com. https://spacenews.com/leosat-absent-investors-shuts-down/

Kleinman, Zoe. “Satellites beat balloons in race for flying internet.” 25 January 2020. BBC.com/Tech. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-55770141

Matsakis, Louise. “Facebook Confirms It’s Working on a New Internet Satellite.” 28 July 2018. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-confirms-its-working-on-new-internet-satellite/

OneWeb. “OneWeb Secures Investment from Softbank and Hughes Network Systems.” 15 January 2021. https://www.oneweb.world/media-center/oneweb-secures-investment-from-softbank-and-hughes-network-systems

Raymundo, Oscar. “Apple is reportedly looking to put broadband-beaming satellites into orbit.” 21 April 2017. Macworld. https://www.macworld.com/article/3191474/apple-is-reportedly-looking-to-put-broadband-beaming-satellites-into-orbit.html

Yan Huang, Michelle, Bob Hunt, David Mosher. “What Elon Musk’s 42,000 Starlink satellites could do for – and to – planet Earth.” 9 October 2020. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/how-elon-musk-42000-starlink-satellites-earth-effects-stars-2020-10

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January 21, 2021
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CITIES: WASHINGTON, D.C.

“Presidential Inauguration 1905.” Library of Congress, image.

Washington, D.C., setting of two distinctly disparate 2021 events on 6 January and 20 January, was designed for public gatherings in wide open spaces. Major Pierre L’Enfant, born in France but an ardent supporter of the American Revolutionary War who volunteered to serve in the Corps of Engineering of the Continental Army, met George Washington and proposed himself as the designer of the country’s new capital. In L’Enfant’s vision, wide avenues would radiate from the house of Congress and the house of the President. L’Enfant sketched 15 open spaces for gatherings and monuments: L’Enfant stated that open spaces were as important as buildings.

Washington Mall, site of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech of 1963, and of 200,000 flags heralding the Biden-Harris Inauguration of 2021. Image: “National Mall, Washington, D.C.” wikimedia.

L’Enfant may have been influenced by the design of a renovated Paris, France, by Georges-Eugène Haussmann, who enlarged the boulevards for two reasons: better air circulation to lessen the spread of viral disease, and large public gathering spaces. Paris still benefits from these two reasons, as does Washington.

“L’Enfant’s Plan of Washington, D.C., 1887.” National Register of Historic Places: 97000332. Image: Library of Congress.

L’Enfant ‘s grand vision was almost lost. Apparently there was a dispute, and L’Enfant fled the city with the detailed plans. Enter Benjamin Banneker. Bannekar, who had attended a one-room school while studying independently with his grandmother, was known for mathematical brilliance when he came to work with Major Andrew Ellicott as a surveyor to establish the District of Columbia’s official capital borders.

Benjamin Banneker, from Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum. Wikimedia.

Among Banneker’s considerable talents was a photo-perfect memory. L’Enfant’s design was imprinted on the surveyor’s mind and, according to some reports, soon reproduced for completion by Benjamin Banneker.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture site, in Washington, D.C., is within an area now named Benjamin Banneker Park. Banneker also wrote an almanac, with an inaugural publication entitled: Benjamin Banneker’s Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Almanack and Ephemeris, for the Year of Our Lord 1792. Banneker corresponded with Thomas Jefferson, and published abolitionist material advocating a vision in part realized, in the capital he helped design, with the inauguration of Barack Obama on 20 January 2009, and 20 January 2021, the inauguration day of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Washington, D.C., joins a small group of designed cities in history. Baghdad was created from a drawing of three concentric circles etched by sword in the sand. Abuja, Nigeria’s new capital, was influenced by Haussman’s Paris, as well as Washington, D.C., and Brasília was the first city designed to be seen from the air, and shaped like an airplane when seen from that vantage point. Capital cities are an iconic kind of urban center, embodying ideals of government and national values. In The New Science of Cities (2013), Michael Batty proposed that we see cities as systems of networks and flows. Arnold Toynbee, in Cities of Destiny, stated that cities, led with vision, may become incubators of art, culture, and science.

As Washington, D.C., takes on a new character in 2021, encouraged by inaugural address values of respect and unity, and led by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, how might L’Enfant’s and Banneker’s design give what Lawrence Durrell called the “spirit of place” to a new spirit of nation?

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Vice President Kamala D. Harris. inaugurated in Washington, D.C., on 20 January 2021. 

Batty, Michael. The New Science of Cities. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780262019521

Bedini, Silvio A. The Life of Benjamin Banneker. Rancho Cordova, CA: Landmark Enterprises, 1984.

Durrell, Lawrence. Spirit of Place: Letters and Essays on Travel. edited by Alan G. Thomas. Open Road: Integrated Media.

Keene, Louis. “Benjamin Banneker: The Black Tobacco Farmer Who Presidents Couldn’t Ignore.” White House Historical Association.

National Museum of African American History & Culture. “The NMAAHC Museum Site,” https://nmaahc.si.edu/nmaahc-museum-site.

Reston, Maeve. “Biden: ‘Democracy has prevailed.'” 20 January 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/20/politics/joe-biden-presidential-inauguration/index.html

Tan, Shelly, Youjin Shin, and Danielle Rinder. “How one of American’s ugliest days unraveled inside and outside the Capitol.” 9 January 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/interactive/2021/capitol-insurrection-visual-timeline/

Toynbee, Arnold. editor. Cities of Destiny. London: Thames & Hudson, 1967.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

 

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January 11, 2021
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ENERGY: Renewing Hope in 2021

Winds of change are in the air. Literally.

“Vestas V90-3MW Wind Turbine of Kentish Flats Offshore Wind Fram, Thames Estuary, UK” by Phil Hollman, 2006. Wikimedia Commons.Wind Power innovator BladeBUG may aid maintenance of marine turbines, now 40% of the cost of these energy generators. If offshore wind were more affordable and reliable, it could increase its energy contribution by 18 times. BladeBug, a drone-based innovation founded by Chris Cieslak, won recognition from ORE Catapult (Offshore Renewable Energy in Blyth, UK) and will now integrate with MIMRee (Multi-Platform Inspection Maintenance and Repair in Extreme Environments). Both are part of a consortium led by Plant Integrity.

“CLT-plate with three layers of spruce” by Pañh, 2018. Wikimedia Commons.

Another renewable natural resource set to develop increased importance: wood. Can timber help to lessen the carbon impact of concrete and steel in the building industry? A form of ultra-thick plywood termed Cross-laminated Timber (CLT)  can be used for walls and floors. While the Eiffel Tower may not be redesigned, France recently ruled that all new commercial buildings must have solar or green rooftops, and has now legislated that all new public buildings be constructed with at least 50% timber. Enter a new term in architecture: “plyscraper.” Leading manufacturers that investors are watching: Stora Enso, KLH Massivholz GmbH, Binderholz, Mayr-Meinhof Holz Group, Hasslacher.

“Beautiful Sunset,” Reem78, 2015. Wikimedia Commons.

Ever since Peter G. Glaser patented solar power satellites, energy from the sun has proven efficient and relatively inexpensive as technologies for solar panels improve. But until Glaser’s innovation can be pursued, solar panels still collect only one/fifth of what is possible. Oxford PV is employing silicon with perovskite that increases solar panel efficiency by 29.52%, setting a new world record. The company originated at Oxford University, where the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was developed.

Will COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland herald a new era for climate and cooperation? Image: “University of Glasgow, Scotland, 1900” Library of Congress image ppmsc.07600

Brilliant medical and scientific researchers created Covid vaccine innovations through rapid cooperative response to a world crisis that some likened to the Manhattan Project. Climate change is another world crisis. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that has championed causes of public health, sees hope for 2021, noting the November United Nations COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, as catalyst for nations to pledge responses to climate change. With new administrations in the United States, new political definitions of the United Kingdom and European Union, increased commitments to energy neutrality by China and others, there is reason for hope. What do you think will be the most important advances in 2021?

For more:

BladeBUG. https://bladebug.co.uk

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk. “Up on a Roof,” 13 November 2015. Building the World Blog. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2015/11/13/up-on-a-roof/

Glaser, Peter. “Space Solar Power.” 1999 MA Space Grant Consortium Public Lecture. MIT. VIDEO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03x_Q4DGfel

Heap, Tom. “Why I’m feeling hopeful about the environment in 2021.” 4 January 2021. BBC Radio 4.

Hutchins, Mark. “Oxford PV retakes tandem cell efficiency record.” 21 December 2020, PV Magazine. https://www.pv-magazine.com/2020/12/21/oxford-pv-retakes-tandem-cell-efficiency-record/

Jaffe, Paul. “Power Beaming & Space Solar Innovation: Peter Glaser.” 30 July 2020. HDIAC Webinars. VIDEO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhFaLgmJsk

IMARC Group. “Top 5 Cross-Laminated Timber Manufacturers Worldwide.” 4 October 2017. https://www.imarcgroup.com/top-cross-laminated-timber-manufacturers-worldwide

OE Digital. “Spider-like Robot to Change Offshore Wind Blade IMR Game.” 28 April 2020. OEDigital. https://www.oedigital.com/news/277974-spider-like-robot-to-change-offshore-wind-blade-imr-game

Souza, Eduardo, translated by José Tomás Franco. ArchDaily. 20 May 2018. “Cross Laminated Timber (CLT): What It Is and How To Use It.” https://www.archdaily.com/893442/cross-laminated-timber-clt-what-it-is-and-how-to-use-it

Voytko, Lisette. “Bill Gates Has Big, Scientific Hopes for 2021. Here’s Why.” 22 December 2020. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisettevoytko/2020/12/22/bill-gates-has-scienfitic-hopes-for-2021-heres-why/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

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December 31, 2020
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ENERGY: 2020 by the Numbers

The year 2020 will go down in history for many reasons, including climate change. Temperatures were 1.08 degrees Fahrenheit (0.6 Celsius) warmer than the 1981-2010 average and 2.25 degrees Fahrenheit (1.25 Celsius) above pre-industrial times. Rising temperatures have consequences. In January of 2020, Australia suffered wildfires burning an area bigger than Florida. In summer, Atlantic hurricane season brought 30 named storms, carrying more water (warming oceans produce more water, higher waves, increased flooding). Western United States areas like California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington witnessed fires that destroyed 10.3 million acres. In the Arctic, data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service showed the region is warming faster than feared, more than twice the pace as the rest of the globe, with 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius). Environmental scientists noted that 2020 set a record for carbon dioxide concentrations, rising to 413 ppm (parts per million) in May of 2020, even with Covid-19 lockdowns. (Kann and Miller, 2021)

“Wildfire in Santa Clarita, California.” Image: wikimedia.

Price tag? $95 billion. And that’s just for U.S. climate-related damage, according to Munich Re, insurance company to other insurance firms that covered damage from Atlantic storms and California wildfires. Chief climate scientist of Munich Re Ernst Rauch warned that building in high-risk areas added to losses. Hurricanes  were significant in damage, causing $43 billion in losses. Convective storms (like hailstorms and tornadoes) caused $40 billion. Wildfires added up to $7 billion including destruction of crops, endangering food security. Residential and business properties sustained damage and claimed insurance losses, over 4000 properties in Oregon and many more in California. According to Donald L. Griffin of American Property Casualty Insurance Association, “We can’t, as an industry, continue to just collect more and more money, and rebuild and rebuild and rebuild in the same way.” (Flavelle, 2021) Beyond the United States, the numbers are just as dire. Cyclone Amphan struck Bangladesh and India in May, resulting in $14 billion in damage. Asia sustained $67 billion in losses from natural disasters.

Cyclone Amphan May 2020. Image: wikimedia commons.

What does this mean for 2021? Following the money and perhaps led by the insurance industry, new ways to rebuild may lead us into the New Year. We’ll take a look at some hopeful trends, next.

American Property Casualty Insurance Association. https://www.apci.org

Flavelle, Christopher. “U.S. Disaster Costs Doubled in 2020, Reflecting Costs of Climate Change.” 7 January 2021. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/07/climate/2020-disaster-costs.html?referringSource=articleShare

Kann, Drew and Brandon Miller. “2020 was tied for the hottest year ever recorded — but the disasters field by climate change set it apart.” 8 January 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/08/weather/2020-global-temperatures-tied-for-warmest-on-record-copernicus/index.html

Munich Re. https://www.munichre.com/en.html

Thanks to Jason W. Lusk for editorial guidance and suggestions.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

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December 21, 2020
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SPACE: Rock Hounds bring Finds to Earth

There’s a goddess on the moon and she’s a rock collector. China’s lunar explorer, Chang’e 5, named after the lunar deity, returned four pounds of rocks to Earth this week.

“The Moon Goddess Chang E.” Ming Dynasty Scroll, Metropolitan Museum of Art Acquisition number 1981.4.2. Image: Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

It’s been 44 years between rock collecting expeditions: for the first time since 1976 (Soviet Union’s Luna 24 returned 6 ounces (170 grams), humans reached the lunar surface, collected samples, and headed home with prize specimens. The USA returned moon rocks in 1972. Since making its first lunar landing in 2013, China has achieved notable milestones including the first space probe landing on the far side of the moon in 2019. Change’e 5 brought 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) of lunar material back, landing in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region landing site on 16 December 2020. Some was surface rock, but a probe mechanism also collected material from 6.5 feet (2 meters) underground.

“Chang’e 5 Assembly, leaving CZ-5 rocket.” China News Agency. Image: wikimedia.

We may be in what some call a “golden age” of sampling from space. In addition to moon samples, we have retrieved interplanetary material from NASA‘s Stardust that returned samples from the tail of Comet 81P/Wild 2, and Genesis mission that sampled solar wind. JAXA’s Hayabusa that brought samples from asteroid Ryugu in December 2020; NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex visit to asteroid Bennu will return material (in 2023). Meanwhile, in 2021, we expect China’s Rianwen-1 to reach Mars, and Russia’s Lunar-24 to revisit the moon. JAXA’s Martian Moon Exploration (MMX) mission will soon return samples from Martian moon Phobos.

Hayabusa in hover mode. Image: JAXA. Wikimedia commons.

What did Chang’e find on the moon? The legendary goddess told a tale of global warming involving the heat of 10 suns. Perhaps rocks from the moon may shed light on Earth’s plight. As for the Chang’e mission, Pei Zhaoyu deputy director of China National Space Administration (CNSA) stated: “We hope to cooperate with other countries to build the international lunar scientific research station, which could provide a shared platform for lunar scientific exploration and technological experiments. ” Earlier, Johann-Dietrich Woerner, then director general of European Space Agency (ESA) suggested building a village on the far side of the moon to replace the aging International Space Station: “Partners from all over the world contributing to this community with robotic and astronaut missions and support communications satellites.” Frank P. Davidson, co-founder of Camp William James of the CCC, envisioned a program called Lunar U. Should there be a lunar study-abroad program for students, too?

“Moon and International Space Station.” That’s ISS in the lower right of the photo. Image: NASA.gov. Wikimedia.

Elin Urrutia, Doris. “We may be in a ‘golden age’ of sample-return space missions.” 5 December 2020. Space.com. https://www.space.com/golden-age-space-sample-retrieval-missions.html

Hauser, Jennifer and Zamira Rahim, “China’s Chang’e-5 lunar probe successfully delivers moon samples to Earth.” 16 December 2020. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/16/asia/china-lunar-probe-intlindex.html

Quirke, Joe. “European Space Agency proposes village on far side of the moon.” 15 July 2015. Global Construction Review. https://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/european-spa8ce-age6ncy-8p0r6o4p2os8e0s6-4v2i0l8la/

Xinhua. “China’s Chang’e-5 spacecraft brings home moon samples.” 17 December 2020. www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-12/17/c_139595181.htm

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

 

 

There are plans in development for lunar base establishment; some aspects will be scientific, other may be commercial.

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December 10, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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SPACE: Treasure Box Tamatebako delivered by Peregrine Falcon

“A peregrine falcon,” by photographer jam.mold 2015. Image: wikimedia commons.

A peregrine (Hayabusa is named after the falcon) flew 3.25 billion miles from Earth to explore asteroid Ryugu and carry back a certain treasure box that may open the secrets of the Solar System and the origins of Earth.

Leaving Earth in December 2014, Hayabusa2 first explored Ryugu from orbit, then scraped the surface to comb some samples, and finally sent small explosives into the asteroid’s rocky surface to blast a crater, collecting sub-surface samples. The precious pieces of debris were deposited into a capsule: that’s the treasure box. In December 2020, Hayabusa2 swooped over Woomera, South Australia, dropped the treasure box capsule, and proclaimed “I’m home.”

“Hayabusa2 seen with Earth in background.” 2018. Image: wikimedia.

After six years, it’s now a rush job to get the capsule back to JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) before any Earth air might leak in, because “There is no perfect sealing,” according to Dr. ShigoTachibana, principal investigator. First stop on the way home? A field lab on an Australian Airforce Base, reached via helicopter from capsule touchdown site. There, a special instrument extracts from the capsule any gases that may have been shaken out of the rock bits by the jarring flight and landing. Then, the treasure box continues via jet plane to JAXA’s lab. Eventually, samples will be shared around the scientific world.

Why all this interest in asteroids? They’re not even mentioned in the Outer Space Treaty. Asteroids are relics from billions of years ago – same time Earth was being formed. Asteroids are bits that didn’t latch onto any planet but instead just continued to spin out into space. There are millions of asteroids in a belt between Mars and Jupiter. Asteroids like Ryugu could tell us how life on Earth began, and how the Solar System evolved. Some asteroids may have commercial value: one is thought to contain platinum, worth $50 billion.

“The Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter contains millions of asteroids.” Image: wikimedia.

JAXA’s not the only rock hound in space. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx explored and sampled asteroid Bennu recently; those samples will arrive in 2023. Scientists from both Bennu and Ryugu teams plan to meet, compare findings, and share samples. Other scientists around the world will participate: “Different labs contribute different expertise, which all helps in understanding the material collected and what that tells us about the formation and evolution of the Solar System,” stated Dr. Sarah Crowther of Manchester University. Professor Sara Russell, of the planetary materials group at London’s Natural History Museum, commented: “We think that this asteroid may have organic material and water which can give us information about how these things were delivered to the early Earth.” (Rincon, 2020) Hayabusa2 is not finished: after coming within 125 miles of Earth to drop the capsule, the peregrine flew towards its next destination – 1998 KY26, an asteroid discovered in 1998 and so tiny it completes a rotation day  every 10.7 minutes. While mainly a fly-by,  KY26 may yet yield treasure: the falcon kept one probe, just in case. For a video of Hayabusa2 and the mission, watch here.

“Urashina Tarō hand scroll showing the winter side of the palace Ryūgū-jō.” Origin: Japan. Image: Bodleian Library, Oxford University. wikimedia commons.

Flying a robotic intelligent vessel billions of miles, taking measurements and readings and tiny precise samples from far away rotating celestial locations, may be a mythic feat. Mythic feats deserve mythic names. Ryūgū-jō is the palace of Ryūjin, dragon king of the deep sea. In the Japanese myth of Urashina Tarō, a human fisher rescues a turtle, who gives the rescuer magic gills, and brings the fisher to the Ryūgū-jō. The turtle then transforms into a princess. Princess Otohime gives Tarō a tamatebako or “treasure box” upon the human’s return to Earth. In this space odyssey re-enactment, asteroid Ryugu is the palace, and we’re about to find out what’s in that treasure box.

“A Treasure Chest” 2009, graphic design by badaman. Wikimedia commons.

Chang, Kenneth. “Japans’s Journey to an Asteroid Ends With a Hunt in Australia’s Outback.” 5 December 2020, updated 7 December 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/05/science/japan-asteroid-hayabusa2-woomera.html?referringSource=articleShare

Edwards, Jim. “Goldman Sachs: space-mining for platinum is ‘more realistic than perceived.'” 6 April 2017. Business Insider. https://www.insider.com/goldman-sachs-space-mining-asteroid-platinum-2017-4.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). “Video for the extended mission.” https://www.hayabusa2.jaxa/jp/en/topics/20201116_extMission/

Lang, Kenneth R. “1998 KY26.” 2010. Tufts University. https://ase.tufts.edu/cosmos/view_picture.asp?id=749

Lies, Elaine. “Asteroid sample arrives in Japan after six-year space odyssey,” 8 December 2020. Reuters.com. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-space-exploration-japan-layabusa2-idUSKBN2810NU.

Lusk Brooke, Kathleen and Zoë Quinn. “Space: Hayabusa touchdown on Ryugu.” 21 September 2018. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2018/09/21/space-hayabusa-touchdown-on-ryugu/

Redd, Nola Taylor. “Asteroid Belt: Facts & Formation.” 5 May 2017. Space.com. https://www.space.com/16105-asteroid-belt.html.

Rincon, Paul. “Hayabusa-2: Rocks from an asteroid set for delivery to Earth.” BBC.com. 6 December 2020.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

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November 30, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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WATER: Art and Environment

“Coral Reef” by photographer Jim Maragos, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Image: wikimedia.

As coral reefs around the world suffer effects of climate change, BlueLab Preservation Society has responded to “combine art and science to address issues of sustainability,” according to art director Ximena Caminos. The result: an ‘art-ificial’ reef, designed by artists, for Miami Beach, to stretch seven miles along the coast. Some compare ReefLine to the High Line in Manhattan, but instead of walking shoes, one traverses the area with fins – both piscatorial and human. While the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has lost 50% of its coral, and reefs worldwide are similarly damaged, Florida hopes to re-establish marine life with the underwater art installation. Some have noted that Pantone’s color of the year in 2019 was “Living Coral.” It quickly became a hair color of choice. Can fashion and art play a role in raising environmental awareness?

“The Silent Evolution” in Cancún’s MUSA. Image: wikimedia.

“Ocean Siren,” an underwater sculpture for the Great Barrier Reef by conservationist artist Jason deCaires Taylor, was the first art to be included in Australia’s Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA). “Ocean Siren,” modeled after 12-year old Takoda Johnson, member of the Wulgurukaba People, changes color in response to varying ocean temperatures. Jason deCaires Taylor was also the architect for Mexico’s Museo Subacuático de Arte or Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA), with 500 statues between Cancún and Isla Mujeres, with the goal of protecting the Mesoamerican Reef, largest in the Western Hemisphere. The sculptures are made with a neutral PH cement surface to promote coral tissue growth. Florida’s ReefLine will feature works by artists Shigematsu, Ernesto Neto, and Agustina Woodgate.

Coral reefs: locations. Image: wikimedia.

While some environmentalists may question the practice of drawing more tourists to visit delicate coral reefs, others may find ways of raising awareness of the importance of marine life helpful. Perhaps the movement towards biodegradable beach flip-flops and other products replacing plastic endangering our oceans will accompany Florida’s initiative. What do you think about underwater art and artificial coral reefs?

Blue Lab Preservation Society. https://www.instagram.com/bluelab_preservation_society/?hl=en

DeCaires Taylor, Jason. “An underwater art museum, teeming with life.” TED Talk. VIDEO: https://www.ted.com/talks/jason_decaires_taylor_an_underwater_art_museum_teeming_with_life

Hutchinson, Carrie. “An underwater museum is opening inside the world’s most famous reef.” 29 April 2020. cnbc.com. Includes VIDEO. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/29/museum-of-underwater-art-to-open-inside-australia-great-barrier-reef.html

Palumbo, Jacqui. “An otherworldly underwater sculpture park will open in Miami.” 26 November 2020. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/style/article/reef-line-miami-underwter-sculpture-park/index.html

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November 19, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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ENERGY: Fueling the Future

Electric Green Camo. Photographer warcow112; image: wikimedia.

After 2030, you won’t be able to buy a diesel or gasoline car or van in Britain. That’s five years earlier than planned, but not a minute too late. “We must use the extraordinary powers of invention to repair the economic damage from Covid-19, and to build back better. Now is the time to plan for a green recovery with high-skilled jobs that give people the satisfaction of knowing they are helping to make the country cleaner, greener, and more beautiful,” stated Boris Johnson, Prime Minister. It’s part of a plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050: Britain was the first G7 country to put that goal into law, in 2019.  New green jobs are expected to number 250,000, supported by $16 billion (12 billion Pounds) in government funds, tripled in contribution by industry. Britain plans on EV tech in the Midlands, advanced fuel specialists in the Wales, agroforestry practitioners in Scotland: those who train for new green jobs will be certified with a Lifetime Skills Guarantee. It’s a 10 point plan:

Ten from Number 10 Downing.

One – Wind

Two – Hydrogen

Three – Nuclear

Four – Electric vehicles (EV)

Five – Public transport including cycle lanes

Six –  Aircraft (and ships) of zero emission

Seven – Greener homes, schools, hospitals

Eight – Carbon capture and storage

Nine – Planting and rewilding

Ten – Energy innovation fund.

CCC Poster by Albert Bender, 1935. Let’s update the wording to “Everyone’s Opportunity.” Image: wikimedia.

Britain’s plan may provide an example of using post-pandemic funds to fuel a new economy. What will other countries do? In the United States, after the great depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched the Civilian Conservation Corps to build a new vision with jobs in infrastructure that transformed the nation. Is it time now for a new CCC – Climate Conservation Corps? In another time of dire circumstances, the Manhattan Project garnered resources that led to a new form of energy. Now, as we approach 2021, how can American recovery and stimulus funds transform education, industry, and infrastructure?

Johnson, Boris. “Green Jobs,” 18 November 2020, Financial Times. http://www.ukpol.co.uk/boris-johnson-2020-article-in-financial-times-on-green-jobs/

Twidale, Susanna. “Britain to ban new petrol cars by 2030 on road to net zero emissions.” 17 November 2020. Reuters, ESC Environment. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-britain-idUSKBN27X220

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

 

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