More on Science
1 year ago
Thanks to a recent development, solar energy may prove to be the best energy source.
Perovskite solar cells will revolutionize everything.
Humanity is in a climatic Armageddon. Our widespread ecological crimes of the previous century are catching up with us, and planet-scale karma threatens everyone. We must adjust to new technologies and lifestyles to avoid this fate. Even solar power, a renewable energy source, has climate problems. A recent discovery could boost solar power's eco-friendliness and affordability. Perovskite solar cells are amazing.
Perovskite is a silicon-like semiconductor. Semiconductors are used to make computer chips, LEDs, camera sensors, and solar cells. Silicon makes sturdy and long-lasting solar cells, thus it's used in most modern solar panels.
Perovskite solar cells are far better. First, they're easy to make at room temperature, unlike silicon cells, which require long, intricate baking processes. This makes perovskite cells cheaper to make and reduces their carbon footprint. Perovskite cells are efficient. Most silicon panel solar farms are 18% efficient, meaning 18% of solar radiation energy is transformed into electricity. Perovskite cells are 25% efficient, making them 38% more efficient than silicon.
However, perovskite cells are nowhere near as durable. A normal silicon panel will lose efficiency after 20 years. The first perovskite cells were ineffective since they lasted barely minutes.
Recent research from Princeton shows that perovskite cells can endure 30 years. The cells kept their efficiency, therefore no sacrifices were made.
No electrical or chemical engineer here, thus I can't explain how they did it. But strangely, the team said longevity isn't the big deal. In the next years, perovskite panels will become longer-lasting. How do you test a panel if you only have a month or two? This breakthrough technique needs a uniform method to estimate perovskite life expectancy fast. The study's key milestone was establishing a standard procedure.
Lab-based advanced aging tests are their solution. Perovskite cells decay faster at higher temperatures, so scientists can extrapolate from that. The test heated the panel to 110 degrees and waited for its output to reduce by 20%. Their panel lasted 2,100 hours (87.5 days) before a 20% decline.
They did some math to extrapolate this data and figure out how long the panel would have lasted in different climates, and were shocked to find it would last 30 years in Princeton. This made perovskite panels as durable as silicon panels. This panel could theoretically be sold today.
This technology will soon allow these brilliant panels to be released into the wild. This technology could be commercially viable in ten, maybe five years.
Solar power will be the best once it does. Solar power is cheap and low-carbon. Perovskite is the cheapest renewable energy source if we switch to it. Solar panel manufacturing's carbon footprint will also drop.
Perovskites' impact goes beyond cost and carbon. Silicon panels require harmful mining and contain toxic elements (cadmium). Perovskite panels don't require intense mining or horrible materials, making their production and expiration more eco-friendly.
Solar power destroys habitat. Massive solar farms could reduce biodiversity and disrupt local ecology by destroying vital habitats. Perovskite cells are more efficient, so they can shrink a solar farm while maintaining energy output. This reduces land requirements, making perovskite solar power cheaper, and could reduce solar's environmental impact.
Perovskite solar power is scalable and environmentally friendly. Princeton scientists will speed up the development and rollout of this energy.
Why bother with fusion, fast reactors, SMRs, or traditional nuclear power? We're close to developing a nearly perfect environmentally friendly power source, and we have the tools and systems to do so quickly. It's also affordable, so we can adopt it quickly and let the developing world use it to grow. Even I struggle to justify spending billions on fusion when a great, cheap technology outperforms it. Perovskite's eco-credentials and cost advantages could save the world and power humanity's future.
1 year ago
Twisted device investigates fusion alternatives
German stellarator revamped to run longer, hotter, compete with tokamaks
Tokamaks have dominated the search for fusion energy for decades. Just as ITER, the world's largest and most expensive tokamak, nears completion in southern France, a smaller, twistier testbed will start up in Germany.
If the 16-meter-wide stellarator can match or outperform similar-size tokamaks, fusion experts may rethink their future. Stellarators can keep their superhot gases stable enough to fuse nuclei and produce energy. They can theoretically run forever, but tokamaks must pause to reset their magnet coils.
The €1 billion German machine, Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X), is already getting "tokamak-like performance" in short runs, claims plasma physicist David Gates, preventing particles and heat from escaping the superhot gas. If W7-X can go long, "it will be ahead," he says. "Stellarators excel" Eindhoven University of Technology theorist Josefine Proll says, "Stellarators are back in the game." A few of startup companies, including one that Gates is leaving Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, are developing their own stellarators.
W7-X has been running at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Greifswald, Germany, since 2015, albeit only at low power and for brief runs. W7-X's developers took it down and replaced all inner walls and fittings with water-cooled equivalents, allowing for longer, hotter runs. The team reported at a W7-X board meeting last week that the revised plasma vessel has no leaks. It's expected to restart later this month to show if it can get plasma to fusion-igniting conditions.
Wendelstein 7-X's water-cooled inner surface allows for longer runs.
Both stellarators and tokamaks create magnetic gas cages hot enough to melt metal. Microwaves or particle beams heat. Extreme temperatures create a plasma, a seething mix of separated nuclei and electrons, and cause the nuclei to fuse, releasing energy. A fusion power plant would use deuterium and tritium, which react quickly. Non-energy-generating research machines like W7-X avoid tritium and use hydrogen or deuterium instead.
Tokamaks and stellarators use electromagnetic coils to create plasma-confining magnetic fields. A greater field near the hole causes plasma to drift to the reactor's wall.
Tokamaks control drift by circulating plasma around a ring. Streaming creates a magnetic field that twists and stabilizes ionized plasma. Stellarators employ magnetic coils to twist, not plasma. Once plasma physicists got powerful enough supercomputers, they could optimize stellarator magnets to improve plasma confinement.
W7-X is the first large, optimized stellarator with 50 6- ton superconducting coils. Its construction began in the mid-1990s and cost roughly twice the €550 million originally budgeted.
The wait hasn't disappointed researchers. W7-X director Thomas Klinger: "The machine operated immediately." "It's a friendly machine." It did everything we asked." Tokamaks are prone to "instabilities" (plasma bulging or wobbling) or strong "disruptions," sometimes associated to halted plasma flow. IPP theorist Sophia Henneberg believes stellarators don't employ plasma current, which "removes an entire branch" of instabilities.
In early stellarators, the magnetic field geometry drove slower particles to follow banana-shaped orbits until they collided with other particles and leaked energy. Gates believes W7-X's ability to suppress this effect implies its optimization works.
W7-X loses heat through different forms of turbulence, which push particles toward the wall. Theorists have only lately mastered simulating turbulence. W7-X's forthcoming campaign will test simulations and turbulence-fighting techniques.
A stellarator can run constantly, unlike a tokamak, which pulses. W7-X has run 100 seconds—long by tokamak standards—at low power. The device's uncooled microwave and particle heating systems only produced 11.5 megawatts. The update doubles heating power. High temperature, high plasma density, and extensive runs will test stellarators' fusion power potential. Klinger wants to heat ions to 50 million degrees Celsius for 100 seconds. That would make W7-X "a world-class machine," he argues. The team will push for 30 minutes. "We'll move step-by-step," he says.
W7-X's success has inspired VCs to finance entrepreneurs creating commercial stellarators. Startups must simplify magnet production.
Princeton Stellarators, created by Gates and colleagues this year, has $3 million to build a prototype reactor without W7-X's twisted magnet coils. Instead, it will use a mosaic of 1000 HTS square coils on the plasma vessel's outside. By adjusting each coil's magnetic field, operators can change the applied field's form. Gates: "It moves coil complexity to the control system." The company intends to construct a reactor that can fuse cheap, abundant deuterium to produce neutrons for radioisotopes. If successful, the company will build a reactor.
Renaissance Fusion, situated in Grenoble, France, raised €16 million and wants to coat plasma vessel segments in HTS. Using a laser, engineers will burn off superconductor tracks to carve magnet coils. They want to build a meter-long test segment in 2 years and a full prototype by 2027.
Type One Energy in Madison, Wisconsin, won DOE money to bend HTS cables for stellarator magnets. The business carved twisting grooves in metal with computer-controlled etching equipment to coil cables. David Anderson of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, claims advanced manufacturing technology enables the stellarator.
Anderson said W7-X's next phase will boost stellarator work. “Half-hour discharges are steady-state,” he says. “This is a big deal.”
11 months ago
Can space-based solar power solve Earth's energy problems?
Better technology and lower launch costs revive science-fiction tech.
Airbus engineers showed off sustainable energy's future in Munich last month. They captured sunlight with solar panels, turned it into microwaves, and beamed it into an airplane hangar, where it lighted a city model. The test delivered 2 kW across 36 meters, but it posed a serious question: Should we send enormous satellites to capture solar energy in space? In orbit, free of clouds and nighttime, they could create power 24/7 and send it to Earth.
Airbus engineer Jean-Dominique Coste calls it an engineering problem. “But it’s never been done at [large] scale.”
Proponents of space solar power say the demand for green energy, cheaper space access, and improved technology might change that. Once someone invests commercially, it will grow. Former NASA researcher John Mankins says it might be a trillion-dollar industry.
Myriad uncertainties remain, including whether beaming gigawatts of power to Earth can be done efficiently and without burning birds or people. Concept papers are being replaced with ground and space testing. The European Space Agency (ESA), which supported the Munich demo, will propose ground tests to member nations next month. The U.K. government offered £6 million to evaluate innovations this year. Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, and U.S. agencies are working. NASA policy analyst Nikolai Joseph, author of an upcoming assessment, thinks the conversation's tone has altered. What formerly appeared unattainable may now be a matter of "bringing it all together"
NASA studied space solar power during the mid-1970s fuel crunch. A projected space demonstration trip using 1970s technology would have cost $1 trillion. According to Mankins, the idea is taboo in the agency.
Space and solar power technology have evolved. Photovoltaic (PV) solar cell efficiency has increased 25% over the past decade, Jones claims. Telecoms use microwave transmitters and receivers. Robots designed to repair and refuel spacecraft might create solar panels.
Falling launch costs have boosted the idea. A solar power satellite large enough to replace a nuclear or coal plant would require hundreds of launches. ESA scientist Sanjay Vijendran: "It would require a massive construction complex in orbit."
SpaceX has made the idea more plausible. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket costs $2600 per kilogram, less than 5% of what the Space Shuttle did, and the company promised $10 per kilogram for its giant Starship, slated to launch this year. Jones: "It changes the equation." "Economics rules"
Mass production reduces space hardware costs. Satellites are one-offs made with pricey space-rated parts. Mars rover Perseverance cost $2 million per kilogram. SpaceX's Starlink satellites cost less than $1000 per kilogram. This strategy may work for massive space buildings consisting of many identical low-cost components, Mankins has long contended. Low-cost launches and "hypermodularity" make space solar power economical, he claims.
Better engineering can improve economics. Coste says Airbus's Munich trial was 5% efficient, comparing solar input to electricity production. When the Sun shines, ground-based solar arrays perform better. Studies show space solar might compete with existing energy sources on price if it reaches 20% efficiency.
Lighter parts reduce costs. "Sandwich panels" with PV cells on one side, electronics in the middle, and a microwave transmitter on the other could help. Thousands of them build a solar satellite without heavy wiring to move power. In 2020, a team from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) flew on the Air Force's X-37B space plane.
NRL project head Paul Jaffe said the satellite is still providing data. The panel converts solar power into microwaves at 8% efficiency, but not to Earth. The Air Force expects to test a beaming sandwich panel next year. MIT will launch its prototype panel with SpaceX in December.
As a satellite orbits, the PV side of sandwich panels sometimes faces away from the Sun since the microwave side must always face Earth. To maintain 24-hour power, a satellite needs mirrors to keep that side illuminated and focus light on the PV. In a 2012 NASA study by Mankins, a bowl-shaped device with thousands of thin-film mirrors focuses light onto the PV array.
International Electric Company's Ian Cash has a new strategy. His proposed satellite uses enormous, fixed mirrors to redirect light onto a PV and microwave array while the structure spins (see graphic, above). 1 billion minuscule perpendicular antennas act as a "phased array" to electronically guide the beam toward Earth, regardless of the satellite's orientation. This design, argues Cash, is "the most competitive economically"
If a space-based power plant ever flies, its power must be delivered securely and efficiently. Jaffe's team at NRL just beamed 1.6 kW over 1 km, and teams in Japan, China, and South Korea have comparable attempts. Transmitters and receivers lose half their input power. Vijendran says space solar beaming needs 75% efficiency, "preferably 90%."
Beaming gigawatts through the atmosphere demands testing. Most designs aim to produce a beam kilometers wide so every ship, plane, human, or bird that strays into it only receives a tiny—hopefully harmless—portion of the 2-gigawatt transmission. Receiving antennas are cheap to build but require a lot of land, adds Jones. You could grow crops under them or place them offshore.
Europe's public agencies currently prioritize space solar power. Jones: "There's a devotion you don't see in the U.S." ESA commissioned two solar cost/benefit studies last year. Vijendran claims it might match ground-based renewables' cost. Even at a higher price, equivalent to nuclear, its 24/7 availability would make it competitive.
ESA will urge member states in November to fund a technical assessment. If the news is good, the agency will plan for 2025. With €15 billion to €20 billion, ESA may launch a megawatt-scale demonstration facility by 2030 and a gigawatt-scale facility by 2040. "Moonshot"
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8 months ago
Is Venture Capital a Good Fit for Your Startup?
5 VC investment criteria
I reviewed 200 startup business concepts last week. Brainache.
The enterprises sold various goods and services. The concepts were achingly similar: give us money, we'll produce a product, then get more to expand. No different from daily plans and pitches.
Most of those 200 plans sounded plausible. But 10% looked venture-worthy. 90% of startups need alternatives to venture finance.
With the success of VC-backed businesses and the growth of venture funds, a common misperception is that investors would fund any decent company idea. Finding investors that believe in the firm and founders is the key to funding.
Incorrect. Venture capital needs investing in certain enterprises. If your startup doesn't match the model, as most early-stage startups don't, you can revise your business plan or locate another source of capital.
Before spending six months pitching angels and VCs, make sure your startup fits these criteria.
Likely to generate $100 million in sales
First, I check the income predictions in a pitch deck. If it doesn't display $100M, don't bother.
The math doesn't work for venture financing in smaller businesses.
Say a fund invests $1 million in a startup valued at $5 million that is later acquired for $20 million. That's a win everyone should celebrate. Most VCs don't care.
Consider a $100M fund. The fund must reach $360M in 7 years with a 20% return. Only 20-30 investments are possible. 90% of the investments will fail, hence the 23 winners must return $100M-$200M apiece. $15M isn't worth the work.
Angel investors and tiny funds use the same ideas as venture funds, but their smaller scale affects the calculations. If a company can support its growth through exit on less than $2M in angel financing, it must have $25M in revenues before large companies will consider acquiring it.
Aiming for Hypergrowth
A startup's size isn't enough. It must expand fast.
Developing a great business takes time. Complex technology must be constructed and tested, a nationwide expansion must be built, or production procedures must go from lab to pilot to factories. These can be enormous, world-changing corporations, but venture investment is difficult.
The normal 10-year venture fund life. Investments are made during first 3–4 years.. 610 years pass between investment and fund dissolution. Funds need their investments to exit within 5 years, 7 at the most, therefore add a safety margin.
Longer exit times reduce ROI. A 2-fold return in a year is excellent. Loss at 2x in 7 years.
Lastly, VCs must prove success to raise their next capital. The 2nd fund is raised from 1st fund portfolio increases. Third fund is raised using 1st fund's cash return. Fund managers must raise new money quickly to keep their jobs.
Branding or technology that is protected
No big firm will buy a startup at a high price if they can produce a competing product for less. Their development teams, consumer base, and sales and marketing channels are large. Who needs you?
Patents, specialist knowledge, or brand name are the only answers. The acquirer buys this, not the thing.
I've heard of several promising startups. It's not a decent investment if there's no exit strategy.
A company that installs EV charging stations in apartments and shopping areas is an example. It's profitable, repeatable, and big. A terrific company. Not a startup.
This building company's operations aren't secret. No technology to protect, no special information competitors can't figure out, no go-to brand name. Despite the immense possibilities, a large construction company would be better off starting their own.
Most venture businesses build products, not services. Services can be profitable but hard to safeguard.
Probable purchase at high multiple
Once a software business proves its value, acquiring it is easy. Pharma and medtech firms have given up on their own research and instead acquire startups after regulatory permission. Many startups, especially in specialized areas, have this weakness.
That doesn't mean any lucrative $25M-plus business won't be acquired. In many businesses, the venture model requires a high exit premium.
A startup invents a new glue. 3M, BASF, Henkel, and others may buy them. Adding more adhesive to their catalogs won't boost commerce. They won't compete to buy the business. They'll only buy a startup at a profitable price. The acquisition price represents a moderate EBITDA multiple.
The company's $100M revenue presumably yields $10m in profits (assuming they’ve reached profitability at all). A $30M-$50M transaction is likely. Not terrible, but not what venture investors want after investing $25M to create a plant and develop the business.
Private equity buys profitable companies for a moderate profit multiple. It's a good exit for entrepreneurs, but not for investors seeking 10x or more what PE firms pay. If a startup offers private equity as an exit, the conversation is over.
Constructed for purchase
The startup wants a high-multiple exit. Unless the company targets $1B in revenue and does an IPO, exit means acquisition.
If they're constructing the business for acquisition or themselves, founders must decide.
If you want an indefinitely-running business, I applaud you. We need more long-term founders. Most successful organizations are founded around consumer demands, not venture capital's urge to grow fast and exit. Not venture funding.
if you don't match the venture model, what to do
VC funds moonshots. The 10% that succeed are extraordinary. Not every firm is a rocketship, and launching the wrong startup into space, even with money, will explode.
But just because your startup won't make $100M in 5 years doesn't mean it's a bad business. Most successful companies don't follow this model. It's not venture capital-friendly.
Although venture capital gets the most attention due to a few spectacular triumphs (and disasters), it's not the only or even most typical option to fund a firm.
Other ways to support your startup:
Personal and family resources, such as credit cards, second mortgages, and lines of credit
bootstrapping off of sales
government funding and honors
Private equity & project financing
collaborating with a big business
Including a business partner
Before pitching angels and VCs, be sure your startup qualifies. If so, include them in your pitch.
Ren & Heinrich
9 months ago
200 DeFi Projects were examined. Here is what I learned.
I analyze the top 200 DeFi crypto projects in this article.
This isn't a study. The findings benefit crypto investors.
A set of data
I analyzed data from defillama.com. In my analysis, I used the top 200 DeFis by TVL in October 2022.
Total Locked Value
The chart below shows platform-specific locked value.
14 platforms had $1B+ TVL. 65 platforms have $100M-$1B TVL. The remaining 121 platforms had TVLs below $100 million, with the lowest being $23 million.
TVLs are distributed Pareto. Top 40% of DeFis account for 80% of TVLs.
Ethereum's blockchain leads DeFi. 96 of the examined projects offer services on Ethereum. Behind BSC, Polygon, and Avalanche.
Five platforms used 10+ blockchains. 36 between 2-10 159 used 1 blockchain.
Use Cases for DeFi
The chart below shows platform use cases. Each platform has decentralized exchanges, liquid staking, yield farming, and lending.
These use cases are DefiLlama's main platform features.
Which use case costs the most? Chart explains. Collateralized debt, liquid staking, dexes, and lending have high TVLs.
The DeFi Industry
I compared three high-TVL platforms (Maker DAO, Balancer, AAVE). The columns show monthly TVL and token price changes. The graph shows monthly Bitcoin price changes.
Each platform's market moves similarly.
Probably because most DeFi deposits are cryptocurrencies. Since individual currencies are highly correlated with Bitcoin, it's not surprising that they move in unison.
This analysis shows that the most common DeFi services (decentralized exchanges, liquid staking, yield farming, and lending) also have the highest average locked value.
Some projects run on one or two blockchains, while others use 15 or 20. Our analysis shows that a project's blockchain count has no correlation with its success.
It's hard to tell if certain use cases are rising. Bitcoin's price heavily affects the entire DeFi market.
TVL seems to be a good indicator of a DeFi platform's success and quality. Higher TVL platforms are cheaper. They're a better long-term investment because they gain or lose less value than DeFis with lower TVLs.
1 year ago
A Gun-toting Teacher Is Like a Cook With Rat Poison
Pink or blue AR-15s?
A teacher teaches; a gun kills. Killing isn't teaching. Killing is opposite of teaching.
Without 27 school shootings this year, we wouldn't be talking about arming teachers. Gun makers, distributors, and the NRA cause most school shootings. Gun makers, distributors, and the NRA wouldn't be huge business if weapons weren't profitable.
Guns, ammo, body armor, holsters, concealed carriers, bore sights, cleaner kits, spare magazines and speed loaders, gun safes, and ear protection are sold. And more guns.
And lots more profit.
Guns aren't bread. You eat a loaf of bread in a week or so and then must buy more. Bread makers will make money. Winchester 94.30–30 1899 Lever Action Rifle from 1894 still kills. (For safety, I won't link to the ad.) Gun makers don't object if you collect antique weapons, but they need you to buy the latest, in-style killing machine. The youngster who killed 19 students and 2 teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, used an AR-15. Better yet, two.
Salvador Ramos, the Robb Elementary shooter, is a "killing influencer" He pushes consumers to buy items, which benefits manufacturers and distributors. Like every previous AR-15 influencer, he profits Colt, the rifle's manufacturer, and 52,779 gun dealers in the U.S. Ramos and other AR-15 influences make us fear for our safety and our children's. Fearing for our safety, we acquire 20 million firearms a year and live in a gun culture.
So now at school, we want to arm teachers.
Consider. Which of your teachers would you have preferred in body armor with a gun drawn?
Miss Summers? Remember her bringing daisies from her yard to second grade? She handed each student a beautiful flower. Miss Summers loved everyone, even those with AR-15s. She can't shoot.
Frasier? Mr. Frasier turned a youngster over down to explain "invert." Mr. Frasier's hands shook when he wasn't flipping fifth-graders and fractions. He may have shot wrong.
Mrs. Barkley barked in high school English class when anyone started an essay with "But." Mrs. Barkley dubbed Abie a "Jewboy" and gave him terrible grades. Arming Miss Barkley is like poisoning the chef.
Think back. Do you remember a teacher with a gun? No. Arming teachers so the gun industry can make more money is the craziest idea ever.
Or maybe you agree with Ted Cruz, the gun lobby-bought senator, that more guns reduce gun violence. After the next school shooting, you'll undoubtedly talk about arming teachers and pupils. Colt will likely develop a backpack-sized, lighter version of its popular killing machine in pink and blue for kids and boys. The MAR-15? (M for mini).
This post is a summary. Read the full one here.