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Artist's impression of new racing wheelchair


Following up on its success at the Sochi Winter Olympics--the U.S. two-man bobsled team took home a bronze medal in a bobsled designed by BMW North America --BMW has announced plans to develop a new racing wheelchair for use by athletes of the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field Team in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.


BMW’s wholly-owned Designworks consultancy headquartered in California will collaborate with the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field team in identifying and addressing the need for potential improvements in the team’s racing wheelchair.


Although still under development, the new wheelchair’s improvements will include a complete redesign of its chassis, application of BMW-developed aerodynamic efficiencies, enhanced athlete restraint, carbon fiber durability and steering and braking advancements. The company reports it has been researching and learning know- how to develop these new machines for over a year. The racing wheelchair is slated to be delivered to U.S. Paralympics track and field elite racers in early 2016 to allow the athletes time to train and practice with their new BMW wheelchair before the September start of the games, which will follow the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.


It’s a big week for interesting U.S. Patent announcements. On Monday I reported on Thoth Technology receiving a patent for an inflatable “space elevator”, a giant structure rising from the ground and enabling payloads to be placed into orbit without having to use rockets

Some of you questioned whether a space plane could indeed land on such a tower as claimed by the patent holder (a good question indeed), but hey, don’t shoot the messenger—I don’t grant these patents, I’m just reporting on them.

Today I want to discuss newly-minted U.S. patent 907661 B2, just granted to Airbus Group, the European airliner and military jet giant. Airbus received this patent for a hypersonic plane that it says could fly from London to New York in 1 hour, and Paris to Tokyo in under three hours, significantly trimming the current 12-hour endurance flight.

The hypersonic plane would take off using two jet engines mounted under the fuselage, which would propel the vehicle to nearly the speed of sound, before retracting into the plane.  Then, rocket boosters mounted in the rear of the aircraft would be used to begin a sharp ascent, attaining the necessary speed to initiate ramjet engine operation.

Ramjets are air-breathing jet engines that use the engine's forward motion to compress incoming air, eliminating the need for an axial compressor. A ramjet-powered vehicle requires an assisted take-off to accelerate it to a speed where it begins to produce thrust.

The Ramjet engines would take the plane up to altitudes of over 100,000 feet as the plane cruises at speeds up to Mach 4.5, or 4.5 times the speed of sound.

As the proposed aircraft lifts off the runway, it would climb almost vertically, like a ballistic missile. By climbing vertically, Airbus engineers believe the plane would avoid the supersonic boom that limited the supersonic airliner Concorde's deployment to the North Atlantic, where for over 20 years it flew at twice the speed of sound.

According to Airbus the Concorde's hydrogen-powered successor would once again use its turbojets to enable landing.

For commercial use the proposed airliner would be limited to carrying only 20 passengers (largely for weight reasons—among other things it has to carry rocket propellant as well as jet fuel). The aircraft manufacturer says the hypersonic jet could also be developed for military applications.

There is no timetable for development, but don’t hold your breath (we’re talking decades here) because lots of technical issues have to be resolved before Airbus’s concept leaves the drawing board.


The notion of a “space elevator”, a giant structure rising from the ground and enabling payloads to be placed into orbit without having to use rockets, is a long-time staple of science fiction. In fact, in his 1979 novel “The Fountains of Paradise,” Arthur C. Clarke described an “orbital tower” 36,000 km (about 22,300 miles) in height linked with a satellite in geostationary orbit.


Clarke would have been amused to learn that about a week ago a Canadian  company, Thoth Technology, Inc., was granted a United States patent for a tall space elevator. The freestanding 20km tall (65.6k ft.), 300-meter (990 ft.) diameter cylindrical space tower would incorporate wall cells that would be pneumatically pressurized and would use active guidance to steer the head of the tower over a point on its base to counteract wind forces. Using this method the lightweight structure would not require guy wires for stabilization. At 20 km above the planet, it would stand more than 20 times the height of the current tallest structures in the world and could also be used for wind-energy generation, communications and tourism.


Commenting on the development its inventor, Dr. Brendan Quine, said astronauts would ascend to 20 km by electrical elevator and space planes could be launched in a single stage to orbit from the top of the tower,  returning to the top of the tower for refueling and further flight.


Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s TITAN is currently the world’s second fastest supercomputer.

To ensure that the United States maintains a leadership position in High-Performance Computing (HPC) President Obama has issued an Executive Order establishing the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI), whose charter will be to advance core technologies to solve difficult computational problems and foster increased use of these capabilities in the public and private sectors.


Among the initial tasks assigned to NSCI will be to oversee development of the world's fastest computer by 2025. The proposed supercomputer would be capable of making one quintillion (a billion billion) calculations per second (known as one exaflop, or 1018 operations per second), as well as manage and analyze data sets of up to one exabyte (1018 bytes). This supercomputer would be 20 times faster than the current leading machine, which is in China.

The supercomputer being planned could give clinicians tools to better understand the complex biological mechanisms underlying a patient’s disease, and to better predict the most effective treatments via the ability to process large volumes of health and genomic data. As DNA sequencing technology improves, the volume of data will continue to increase and so, too, will the computational requirements. NSCI’s efforts could shorten the time it takes to sequence samples and improve accuracy.

The twin goals of exaflop computing ability and exabyte storage capacity should also enable more precise simulation of weather patterns that can be coupled with actual observations from weather satellites. A recent study commissioned by NASA determined that machines able to sustain exaflop-level performance also could incorporate full modeling of turbulence, as well as more dynamic flight conditions, in their aviation simulations.


If you’re a gearhead your idea of a fun video is watching a properly driven Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche blast off the line at a racetrack while onlookers calculate 0 to 60 mph acceleration times.  The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, for example, with over 1,000 horsepower on tap has been clocked doing 0-60 mph in just 2.4 seconds. Ferrari’s fastest, the La Ferrari reports in at 2.6 seconds for the 0 to 60 run and the recently upgraded Tesla Model S EV, operating in what the company calls “Ludicrous Mode” (their term) can make the 0-60 mph dash in 2.8 seconds

These sprints seem pretty fast until you consider that a group of students from the University of Stuttgart, who call themselves the “GreenTeam Formula Students” created a single seat electric vehicle that demonstrated it can reach 62mph (100kph) from a standstill in only 1.779 seconds when driver Priska Schmid, a student at the university, accomplished the feat during tests at the Jade Weser Airport in northwest Germany. And that qualifies them for Guinness World Book of Records recognition.

The car’s actual power output is only 134bhp, much less output than the bespoke vehicles I mentioned in the first paragraph. But it has three major advantages going for it: First it is very light, weighing just 160kg including its 6.62kWh battery, which gives it a power to weight ratio of 1.6 kg / kW which is in Formula 1 race car territory (the aforementioned Bugatti Veyron Super Sport offers 2.08 kg / kW). Second, as an EV it can access all if its power almost immediately, while conventionally-powered vehicles generally have to reach high revs before obtaining peak power and finally the four electric motors on the University of Stuttgart's E0711-6 electric car produce a locomotive-like 1200 Nm of torque with four wheel drive traction and very sticky racing-type tires.

The student’s effort bested that of a group of Swiss engineers which set the previous world record last year in an electric vehicle called Grimsel, which achieved acceleration from a standing start to 62 mph in 1.785 seconds.



With a performance of 33.86 petaflop/s (quadrillions of calculations per second) on the Linpack benchmark, Tianhe-2, a supercomputer developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology (Changsha, China), has retained its position as the world’s No. 1 supercomputer, according to the 43rd edition of the twice-a-year TOP500 list. The Linpack benchmark requires a computer to solve a dense system of linear equations.

In second place was Titan, a Cray supercomputer based at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The survey marked the fifth consecutive six-month period that China’s Tianhe-2 computer has topped the list, and the sixth time overall since 2010 that a Chinese machine has been designated number one.

The United States remains the top country in terms of overall systems represented on the list with 233, down from 265 in November 2013. The number of Chinese systems on the list rose from 63 to 76, and Japan increased its showing, up to 30 from 28 on the previous list.

Sixty-two systems on the list are using accelerator/co-processor technology, up from 53 in November, 2013. Forty-four of these use NVIDIA chips, two use ATI Radeon, and there are now 17 systems with Intel Xeon Phi technology. The average number of accelerator cores for these 62 systems is 78,127 cores/system. The No. 1 system, Tianhe-2, and the No. 7 system on the list, Stampede, use Intel Xeon Phi processors to speed up their computational rate. The No. 2 system, Titan, and the No. 6 system, Piz Daint, use NVIDIA GPUs to accelerate computation. Intel continues to provide the processors for the largest share (85.4 percent) of TOP500 systems. The number of supercomputers on the list using  IBM Power processors remains at 8 percent, while the AMD Opteron family is used in 6 percent of the systems, down from 9 percent on the previous list.

HP has the lead in systems and now has 182 systems (36 percent) on the list compared to IBM with 176 systems (35 percent). Cray remains third with 10 percent (50 systems).

Ninety-six percent of the systems use processors with six or more cores and 83 percent use eight or more cores.

The rate of performance development for supercomputers seems to be slowing. The TOP500 organizers confirm that the last two years have seen historically low year-over-year performance increases.


Artist's impression of the JUICE mission to Jupiter


Even before the giddiness wears off from the successful New Horizons fly-by of Pluto space scientists are planning new explorations of the solar system. This week the European Space Agency (ESA) selected Airbus Defence & Space as its prime industrial contractor for the JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) mission to Jupiter and its satellites: volcanic Io, icy Europa, rocky/icy Ganymede and Callisto. The contract covers the industrial activities for the design, development, integration, test, launch campaign and in-space commissioning of the spacecraft, which will be launched in 2022 from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on an Ariane 5 rocket, arriving at Jupiter in 2030 to spend at least three years making detailed observations.


With Europa, Ganymede and Callisto all believed to have internal oceans, the mission will study the moons as potential habitats for life in an ongoing attempt to determine the conditions needed for planet formation as well as looking for clues as to how life emerges and how the Solar System works. JUICE will make the first measurements of the thickness of Europa’s icy crust and try to identify candidate sites for future spacecraft landings. It will continuously observe Jupiter’s atmosphere and magnetosphere, and the interaction of the moons with the gas giant planet.


JUICE will be equipped with 10 instrument packages, including spectrometers, cameras, radar to penetrate ice, an altimeter and sensors to monitor magnetic fields and charged particles. The Jovian moons Callisto and Ganymede will assist JUICE as their gravity will be used to modify the spacecraft's trajectory to enable two Europa flybys to determine the composition of non-water-ice material on its frozen surface. Callisto’s gravity will be also employed to raise the orbital inclination of the spacecraft so as to observe Jupiter's polar regions.


A high gain antenna about 3m in diameter will provide at least 1.4 Gb of daily data downlink. Because of the distance to Earth back-and-forth signals from the spacecraft will take up to 1h 46 m, meaning the spacecraft must be capable of a certain amount of autonomous operation.


NASA also hopes to study the Jovian moon Europa, NASA’s fiscal year 2016 budget request includes $30 million to formulate a mission to Europa in the 2020s. The mission would send a solar-powered spacecraft into a looping orbit around the gas giant Jupiter to perform repeated close flybys of Europa over a three-year period at altitudes ranging from 25 km to 2,700 km. Earlier this year the space agency selected nine science instruments to investigate whether the mysterious icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life. The payload of selected science instruments includes cameras and spectrometers to produce high-resolution images of Europa’s surface and determine its composition. Ice penetrating radar will determine the thickness of the moon’s icy shell and search for subsurface lakes similar to those beneath Antarctica. The mission also will carry a magnetometer to measure the strength and direction of the moon’s magnetic field, which will allow scientists to determine the depth and salinity of its ocean.


Are we there yet? After a nine-and-a-half year voyage the answer on July 14 will finally be “Yes!” as the New Horizons spacecraft passes just inside the orbit of Pluto’s moon Charon and to within 12,500 km (7,750 mi.) of the dwarf planet’s surface (when New Horizons launched from Cape Canaveral on Jan. 19, 2006 Pluto was considered a full-fledged planet, proving once again that a lot can happen in a decade).


The payload that this spacecraft carries is comprised of seven scientific instruments, which will make hundreds of observations and collect an estimated 70 gigabytes of data in the period before, during and after closest approach; at 1,000-4,000 kilobytes per second it will take about a year and a half for all of this data to make the 4 billion mile trek back to Earth.


Among the questions scientists hope New Horizons will help to answer include the composition of Pluto’s atmosphere, what its surface looks like (including major geological features) and to determine its atmospheric pressure and temperature. To do this the New Horizons science payload includes three optical instruments, two plasma instruments, a dust sensor and a radio science receiver/radiometer.


Let’s take a closer look at key elements of the instrument package:



“Ralph,” the main eyes of New Horizon, will provide the closest images we have ever seen of Pluto when the spacecraft arrives at the dwarf planet. Ralph is not an acronym, but instead is named after the TV character Ralph Kramden of the 1950s sitcom, "The Honeymooners". Ralph consists of three panchromatic (black-and-white) and four color imagers inside its Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), as well as an infrared compositional mapping spectrometer called the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA). LEISA is an advanced, miniaturized short-wavelength infrared (1.25-2.50 micron) spectrometer provided by scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Ralph is designed to help scientists map the surface geology of Pluto and its moons, and investigate Kuiper Belt objects. Ralph weighs only 23 pounds and operates on approximately seven watts. The device is designed to function in the 220 K (-60 degrees F) cold darkness of the outer solar system. Ralph was developed by the Ball Aerospace Corporation, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the Southwest Research Institute.


“Alice” is an ultraviolet imaging spectrometer designed to probe the composition and structure of Pluto’s atmosphere. Like its “Honeymooners” namesake it is the companion to Ralph. It consists of a compact telescope, a spectrograph, and a sensitive electronic detector. Alice is designed to probe the composition and structure of Pluto’s atmosphere. The instrument will try to detect a variety of chemicals in Pluto’s atmosphere, and determine their relative abundance. Alice weighs 9.9 lbs. and was developed by the Southwest Research Institute.


Weighing just 3.5oz., REX is the smallest instrument on the spacecraft. REX is an acronym for Radio Science Experiment. REX consists of a small printed circuit board containing signal-processing electronics integrated into the New Horizons telecommunications system. Because the telecom system is a critical component of New Horizons, the spacecraft carries two REX copies. REX will use an occultation technique to probe Pluto’s atmosphere and to search for an atmosphere around Charon. After New Horizons flies by Pluto, its 2.1-meter (83-inch) dish antenna will point back at Earth. On Earth, transmitters in NASA’s Deep Space Network will beam radio signals to the spacecraft as it passes behind Pluto. The radio waves will bend according to the average molecular weight of gas in the atmosphere and the atmospheric temperature. REX will also measure the weak radio emissions from Pluto and other bodies the spacecraft flies by, such as Charon. Scientists will use the data to derive day-side and night-side temperature measurements. Also, by using REX to track slight changes in the spacecraft’s path, scientists will measure the masses of Pluto and Charon and possibly the masses of additional Kuiper Belt Objects. REX was developed for the mission by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and Stanford University.


LORRI, (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) is essentially a digital camera with a large telephoto telescope. The panchromatic high-magnification imager consists of a telescope with an 8.2-inch (20.8-centimeter) aperture that focuses visible light onto a charge-coupled device (CCD). LORRI images of Pluto have already surpassed Hubble-quality resolution as the spacecraft has travelled toward the dwarf planet. LORRI images will give scientists an unprecedented look at the geology on Pluto and its moons– including the number and size of craters on each surface, revealing the history of impacting objects. LORRI has no color filters or moving parts – operators take images by pointing the LORRI side of the spacecraft directly at their target. LORRI was developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.


The Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument will measure interactions of Pluto with the solar wind – the stream of fast-charged particles flowing from the Sun. By measuring how the solar wind is perturbed by the interaction with Pluto’s escaping atmosphere, SWAP will determine the escape rate of atmospheric material from Pluto. SWAP was developed by the Southwest Research Institute.


The Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation (PEPSSI), from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, is the most compact, lowest-power directional energetic particle spectrometer ever flown on a space mission. It will search for neutral atoms that escape Pluto’s atmosphere and become charged by their interaction with the solar wind. It will detect materials such as  molecular nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane, which break up into ions and electrons after absorbing the Sun’s ultraviolet light, and stream away from Pluto as “pickup” ions carried by the solar wind. PEPSSI can measure energetic particles up to 1,000 kiloelectron volts (keV), many times more energetic than what SWAP can measure.


Designed and built by students at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Student Dust Counter (SDC) detects microscopic dust grains produced by collisions among asteroids, comets, and even Kuiper Belt Objects during New Horizons’ long journey. SDC is the first science instrument on a NASA planetary mission to be designed and built by students. When interplanetary dust hits the 18 X-12-in. detector, the student-built unit’s electronics register its mass and velocity. SDC will also be used to search for dust in the Pluto system, generated by impacts on Pluto’s small moons.



With television content delivered largely via cable, satellite or the Internet (streaming media), it is easy to forget that the over-the-air television broadcast model is still a very efficient method of reaching large numbers of people, not only with entertainment programming but also, in times of emergencies, when you need a reliable means of disseminating critical information.


As broadcasters look to develop new services and evolve to accommodate the shifting viewing habits of the public--which increasingly involves “second screen” devices such as smartphones and tablets-- the first step in the process is to develop new standards.  One of these standards, ATSC 3.0, aims to send hybrid content services to fixed (such as traditional large-screen living room and bedroom TV sets), mobile (vehicular screens), and portable handheld receivers seamlessly and simultaneously, combining both over-the-air transmission and broadband delivery.


Last week I had an opportunity to join a group of journalists, analysts and broadcast professionals touring several Cleveland locations to witness how this next-generation broadcast TV system could reach mobile viewers, connect viewers with Internet content and provide 4K Ultra High-Definition TV content delivered over-the-air using the soon to be ratified ATSC 3.0 physical layer standard.


The system, dubbed “Futurecast” by proponents GatesAir, LG and Zenith and being tested in Cleveland on a rainy, nasty Thursday is designed to demonstrate how ATSC 3.0 will be able to deliver 4K Ultra HD content and two robust mobile TV streams in a single 6-Megahertz channel, while optimizing indoor reception and providing broadcast spectrum efficiency.


Under an experimental broadcast license from the FCC, Tribune Broadcasting’s WJW-TV provided a TV transmitter, tower and 6-MHz channel for the ATSC 3.0-related field testing, the first conducted since a similar effort in Madison, WI in mid-May.


The demonstrations involved simultaneous transmission of three data pipe configurations, ranging from a high bit rate lower robustness stream (14.2 dB Threshold of Visibility [ToV]) carrying 15.7 Mbps 4K UHD signals to a fixed receiver to more robust, lower bit rate signals such as a 3.3 db ToV, 720p HD pipe aimed at reception by a mobile device (in this case a bus traveling around downtown Cleveland) to a 480p standard definition data pipe with -1.3 db ToV (the negative number indicates that the noise level is actually higher than the signal level) designed for reception by handheld devices.


The LG/GatesAir/Zenith ATSC 3.0 technologies that were field tested in Cleveland demonstrated:

  • Data throughput increases of 30 percent and improved multipath performance (compared with the current DTV standard) for fixed and portable TV reception;
  • Enhanced indoor TV signal penetration for mobile reception thanks to flexible system parameter choices;
  • State-of-the-art error correction coding and signal constellations.


Another demonstration hosted by local CBS affiliate WOIO-TV, a Raycom Media station, utilized AWARN (the Advanced Warning and Response Network) to deliver broadcast emergency announcements to TV sets along with rich media, maps, graphics, video, text, and audio.


Overall the tests in Cleveland were said to be even more encouraging than the previous tests, with improved signal acquisition for mobile TV reception in fast-moving vehicles (the bus reached 50mph) at locations ranging from downtown’s concrete canyons to areas several miles from the transmitter.



With the population of mobile devices such as laptops and tablets increasing like jackrabbits on a fertility drug, organizations are increasingly implementing bring-your-own device (BYOD) policies in the workplace to gain a competitive edge and reduce costs. But the benefits of mobility can be lost if laptops and tablets are not adequately protected against security threats.


Recently a four-man team from Tel Aviv University’s LEISec (Laboratory for Experimental Information Security) proved one could hack these devices by nonintrusively measuring electromagnetic emanations for a few seconds from a distance of 50 cm., using cheap components that simply monitor the signals given off when a nearby device’s CPU was processing data. And they did so using a device small enough to be concealed within a serving of pita bread.

The key factor in their efforts to see if they could steal data was the discovery that different data crunching operations in a computer--such as decrypting files or playing games--had a characteristic pattern of radio activity. The CPU’s different power demands while it was working gave further rise to these tell-tale signals. The attack sent a few carefully-crafted ciphertexts, and when these are decrypted by the target computer, they triggered the occurrence of specially-structured values inside the decryption software. These special values caused observable fluctuations in the electromagnetic field surrounding the laptop, in a way that depends on the pattern of key bits (specifically, the key-bits window in the exponentiation routine). The secret key can be deduced from these fluctuations, through signal processing and cryptoanalysis.

The attack can be executed using a consumer-grade radio receiver or a Software Defined Radio USB dongle. After demonstrating that the attack worked in the lab, the group created a mobile version called the Portable Instrument for Trace Acquisition, or PITA for short. Assembly of the PITA device required the purchase of an SDR device. The leakage signal is modulated around a carrier around 1.7 MHz, located in the range of the commercial AM radio frequency band. The researchers also managed to use a plain consumer-grade radio receiver to acquire the desired signal. They then recorded the signal by connecting it to the microphone input of an HTC EVO 4G smartphone.


During their follow-up test, they were able to prove that their technology worked from a distance of about a half meter, grabbing keys used in several widely used encryption programs and algorithms used to protect data. Popular implementations of RSA and ElGamal encryptions are vulnerable to this attack, including those that implement the decryption using modern exponentiation algorithms. The team successfully extracted keys from laptops of various models running GnuPG (a popular open source encryption software implementing the OpenPGP standard).

The group will formally present their findings at the Workshop on Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems (CHES) 2015 in September.


(a) A low-magnification tunneling electron microscope (TEM) image of Gr–Si nanoparticle (NP). (b) A higher-magnification image for the same Gr–Si NP from the white box in a. (Insets) The line profiles from the two red boxes indicate that the interlayer spacing between graphene layers is ~3.4 Å, in good agreement with that of typical graphene layers based on van der Waals interaction. (c) A high-magnification TEM image visualizing the origins (red arrows) from which individual graphene layers grow. (d) A schematic illustration showing the sliding process of the graphene coating layers that can buffer the volume expansion of Si.

Silicon is receiving considerable attention as an active material for next- generation lithium-ion battery anodes because of its gravimetric capacity--a measure in mAh/g of the total charge capacity stored by the cell or battery, per gram of the battery's weight.


Unfortunately, the large volume change of silicon during charge–discharge cycles has in the past weakened its competitiveness. Recently, however, a research group from Samsung reported in the publication Nature Communications that using direct graphene growth over silicon nanoparticles without silicon carbide formation resulted in a near doubling of run-time by expanding energy density-- the amount of stored power in a given area -- to 1.8 times that of current batteries.


The graphene layers anchored onto the silicon surface accommodate the volume expansion of silicon via a sliding process between adjacent graphene layers. When paired with a commercial lithium cobalt oxide cathode, the silicon carbide-free graphene coating allows the full cell to reach volumetric energy densities of 972 and 700 Wh l−1 at first and 200th cycle, respectively, 1.8 and 1.5 times higher than those of current commercial lithium-ion batteries.


This observation suggests that a two-dimensional layered structure of graphene and its silicon carbide-free integration with silicon can serve as a prototype toward advancing silicon anodes to commercially viable technology.


Detecting explosives at a “standoff” distance—defined as a meter or two--remains an important, yet elusive, capability requirement of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in their effort to protect government facilities. Currently, vehicle screening methods consist of visual inspections and occasional random security officer or canine inspections. Although these measures offer substantial deterrence value, they provide very limited discrimination capabilities against harmless items. Furthermore, such screening methods are manpower intensive and time consuming. Throughput and safety concerns limit or even prohibit the use of currently available commercial screening technologies.

The Standoff Explosives Trace Detection Program aims to develop technologies to enable and/or improve screening for explosives concealed in or on vehicles from a safe range before vehicles enter parking areas at federal facilities. Toward that goal on Monday officials of the DHS in Washington released a solicitation for the Standoff Explosives Detection on Vehicles (SED-V) component of the full Standoff Explosives Trace Detection program.  Specifically, DHS is reaching out to industry for detection systems that will allow non-contact, near real-time screening against person-borne and vehicle-borne threats; a capability not currently available.

This Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) addresses the advancement of standoff detection techniques for explosive residues on external vehicle surfaces. It should be noted that techniques requiring sample collection and/or pre-concentration for subsequent analysis will be considered non-responsive. For example, vapor collection techniques with subsequent analysis are not considered “standoff”, even though direct contact with a subject is not necessary.

Other key requirements:

  • Range:   

Variable from 0.25 to 2m



  • System shall not significantly impair normal business operations. A fixed site capability is desired to retrofit existing entry control points at federal facilities.


  • Detection Sensitivity

Thumbprint quantities (<250 μg/cm2)


The SED-V project has three phases: a 12-to-18-month advanced feasibility demonstration and preliminary design review; a 12-to-18-month safety validation and critical design review; and a 12-to-18-month prototype completion and test readiness review.

It's pretty well known that for mould to flourish it needs a wet and warm environment. So what better place than a Food & Beverage plant where you can find high pressure washers, fluctuating temperatures and organic substances.


We know this is not a revelation to the Food and Beverage industry; hence the stringent hygiene requirements that are rightfully put in place to ensure factories meet the standards we expect as consumers.


However what F&B manufacturers may not be aware of is the common growth of mould found on the very common PVC control cables (SY, YY, CY) used to power many of these factories (See image below for an example of a mouldy SY cable).


Due to its porous nature PVC will eventually absorb the moisture from the atmosphere which results in degradation of the material. In cable terms this would cause the cable to become hard and brittle and eventually break down the outer sheath. Surprisingly at Lapp Group we have seen these changes in as little as 6 months.


We know what you are thinking - damage from hydrolysis is not necessarily classed as mould. However it is the initial process of the formation of bacteria amongst PVC cables.


The growth of mould is not caused solely by a humid atmosphere but with the added presence of organic substances found naturally amongst this industry. With the combination of these environmental factors a material like PVC will not withstand the build up of microbes; the one thing Food and Beverage manufacturers work so hard to avoid.


So is it fair to say: The presence of harmful bacteria in our food plants is not acceptable so the same should go for the bacteria on cables within these factories themselves?

Lapp Group along with many manufacturers believes this to be the case.




As a result Lapp Group have designed a range of microbe resistant cables with non-porous qualities estimated to last up to 10 times longer then the standard SY, CY, YY cables.


Manufacturers in the UK & Ireland supporting this include Coca Cola, Arla Dairies and Guinness all of which specify ÖLFLEX® ROBUST, our full range of polyurethane sheathed cables and stainless steel cable glands.


All of the above are made from bacteria resistant, water resistant and oil resistant materials ideal for the Food & Beverage industry.

  Mouldy SY extracted from a Food Plant after 6 months

airbus-e-fan-2-paris-air-show (1).JPG

Mockup of E-plane  version 2.0


The E-fan plane from Airbus Group is a fully electric aircraft that operates exclusively via twin 30kw fan engines powered by 120 lithium polymer batteries stored in its 31 ft. wings. Built of carbon fiber composites it weighs only 1100 pounds and can stay aloft from 45 to 60 minutes. Its batteries can be recharged in one hour, according to Airbus. The two-seater is CO2 emission-free and nearly silent in flight. Since its first flight on 11 March 2014, the E-fan plane has now performed 100 test flights with more than 49 flight hours in total. Its most recent demonstrator flight was at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, north of Paris, on Friday, June 19.

An electric motor placed on the aft main wheel provides power for taxiing. Take off speed of the two seater is 68 mph, cruise speed is 99 mph and the aircraft has a maximum speed of 136 mph. A cockpit mockup for the production two-seat E-fan, designated version 2.0, also was on display at Paris. The mockup featured a new carbon-fiber shell and a “Connected Cockpit” panel. Adjustment for a pilot’s height is achieved using a movable bar for the rudder pedals, one of the few moving parts in the cockpit.

Airbus says it is only building E-fan jets for entry-level pilot training and to that end the new instrument panel in v 2.0 has a fixed primary flight display on the left side and a plug-in computer tablet on the right, called the navigation and training display (NTD). When removed from the cockpit, the NTD can serve as either an interactive training device or a debriefing tool to enable the pilot to review or prepare for a flight with an instructor.

Airbus has established a subsidiary named Voltair to build the aircraft in a new factory in the city of Pau in southwestern France. The E-fan 2.0 is scheduled to fly in 2016 for delivery beginning in 2017.

Our Engineering a Connected World geocaching campaign has caught the eye of a few media outlets since it launched last week. They include:


Power Systems Design - element14 kicks off geocaching treasure hunt

Electronics Purchasing Strategies - element14 Kicks Off Geocaching Treasure Hunt


Stay tuned for more!

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