“We’re Hoping to Build the Tricorder”

Google X is creating a system for early detection of disease that involves ingesting specially “painted” nanoparticles that target various molecular harbingers of disorder. If the nanoparticles find these microscopic malefactors, they send out signals that will be picked up by wristbands. The early alerts means that potentially deadly ailments might be apprehended soon enough to be dispatched by minimal treatments. Conrad thinks that everybody, healthy or not, will be popping those pills and wearing those devices or something like it in the not-distant future.

via “We’re Hoping to Build the Tricorder” — Backchannel — Medium.

Solar power from 18 cents/kwh down to 9 over 15 years

In sunny states like California, solar power from Solar City is at an unsubsidized 18 cents per kwh. However, is subsidized which brings it down to 12-15 cents per kwh for many locations. This is cheaper than the lowest tier of PG and E electricity at 15.5 cents. There are four pricing tiers and they increase and usage increases and go up to about 25 cents per kwh. In 15 years, Solar Cities scaling and technology plans could bring the unsubsidized price of home solar electricity down to about 9 cents per kwh. This would be lower than the average price of US electricity at 12 cents per kwh. Elon Musk also plans to provide batteries for power storage so that the solar power does not burn off as heat at the feeder stations on the one way power grid. 


via Elon Musk Solar Scaling plans could enable solar power to go from unsubsidized 18 cents per kwh to 9 cents.

Extreme Graphene

What makes the discovery of graphene so important is all of its unusual properties. It is a pure form of carbon that is very thin, very strong and very expensive.

  • SUPER THIN – It is only one atom thick, so it is almost transparent.
  • SUPER STRONG – Graphene is the strongest material ever discovered, 100 times stronger than diamond, and 200 times stronger than steel, and yet flexible and even stretchable.
  • SUPER CONDUCTOR – It conducts heat and electricity faster at room temperature than any other known material. It also charges and discharges electrically up to 1000x faster than traditional batteries.
  • SUPER EXPENSIVE – Even using the most advanced processes for manufacturing it, graphene still runs around about $100,000 per square meter.

These unusual attributes have made graphene the most exciting new material in all of science. Since its discovery, a total of 8,413 patents were granted by February 2013 in areas such as super computing, electronics, energy storage, telecommunications, renewable power, health care, and telecommunications.

Over the coming years, the price of graphene will go through an exponential price drop similar to Moore’s Law.

It’s these distinctive attributes that make it valuable in so many different industries.

Here are ten examples:

1. Super Capacitors – Angstron Material’s 2010 patent for graphene-based super capacitors has been receiving lots of attention. Dr. Bor Jang explains, “This type of supercapacitor is especially attractive for electric vehicle where the pairing of supercapacitors with fuel cells or batteries could provide a hybrid system capable of delivering high power acceleration and energy recovery during braking.”

2. Energy Storage – Dr. Bor Jang’s super capacitor patents may also hold the keys to our coming energy storage revolution. Researchers at Korea’s Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology have already demonstrated graphene-based super capacitors that can charge 100% in just 16 seconds and repeat the charge-discharge cycle over 10,000 times without a significant reduction in capacitance. This could translate into charging your phone in 30 seconds, or your electric car in a few minutes.

3. Wireless Power – Battelle’s February 2013 patent on using graphene to develop a more efficient Tesla Coil, where the graphene would wrap around the wires of the coil to act as protection against unwanted eddy currents, makes these coils far more suitable for wireless power transmission. Nikola Tesla’s dream of wireless power is still alive and well, living inside the power of graphene.

4. Super Sensitive Touch Screen – Samsung’s March 2014 patent describes using graphene to give all touch screens the ability to differentiate between weak and strong touch.

5. Ultra Thin Batteries – Apple’s June 2013 thin battery patent is focused on using graphene as a heat sink in batteries. In order to adequately cool a battery, a graphite coating is normally 30 millimeters thick. The graphene heat sink drops it to less than one.

6. Controlling Epileptic Seizures – Neurologists at the University of Washington have determined that cooling the brain by 1.2 degrees Celsius will inhibit epileptic seizures. Cooling is achieved by replacing a small piece of the thermally insulating human skull with thermally conductive graphene, allowing heat to flow from the brain to the cooler scalp. This technique has been demonstrated to prevent seizures before they occur.

7. Instant Deicing of Aircraft – In a February 2013 patent, Saab describes how to apply a graphene layer to aircraft wings to remove ice from the wings during cold weather, and eliminate the need for the ‘chemical spray’ used today.

8. Nano-Scale Transistors – A January 2013 patent by IBM explains how they’ve manage to mitigate many of the challenges of nano-scale electronics by removing the parasitic capacitance and resistance through a simple reengineering of the geometry of the transistor with graphene.

9. Thermo-Conductive Lubricants – A November 2012 patent by Angstron Materials describes dispersing single-layer nano graphene platelets in oil to provide improved thermal conductivity and reduce friction. In addition, it offers viscosity stabilization, and thermal conductivity values are the highest ever recorded for fluid materials.

10. Highly Efficient Water Filtration and Desalinization – Water and graphene have an unusual relationship. Water can pass through it, but almost nothing else can. Aluminum-oxide, currently used in many water filtration applications, becomes instantly outdated by graphene’s strength and rigidity. Researchers at Lockheed claim a graphene filter will reduce energy costs of reverse osmosis desalination by 99%. 

via FuturistSpeaker.com – A Study of Future Trends and Predictions by Futurist Thomas Frey » Blog Archive » Extreme Graphene and the Coming Super Materials Gold Rush.

“Now May Be A Time To Panic” For US Shale Oil

Shale oil has an almost horizontal cost curve around $80 … a whopping 11,000 kbls/day are available as long as Brent is above $85, which is a clear “red line” for all OPEC producers. At a price below low $80’s production starts to become uneconomic, and below high-$70’s the total US Shale Oil production should shrink by about two-thirds … that implies a risk of a lot of bankruptcies and unemployment in the oil patch but a more stable pricing environment for the Saudis, and any producers who can remain profitable at that price range

How Libya Sunk The Oil Frackers’ Stocks

With tepid growth in worldwide oil demand expected this year and next, and with Libya and Iraq both in desperate need of cash due to the unfortunate circumstances the countries find themselves in, the questions now are:

  1. Who will blink first? Russia? Saudi Arabia? Iran? Or the US?
  2. Are the US and Saudi Arabia in a pact to drive oil prices lower to punish Putin and Russia, as well as the Iranians?
  3. Ironically, will the domestic shale frackers, who have almost single-handedly pulled the US out of recession, have to cut back on production first, despite the fact that the US is still importing oil?
  4. If so, at what price will American oil frackers cut back cap-ex and production?

Question #4 is key, and I believe it is the question Saudi Arabia wants to know the answer to.

Note, oil prices had no problem staying above $100 in Q2, when Libyan production was only 228,000 bpd. Yet, by September, Libyan production had grown by a massive half million bpd (see below), basically flooding a market that was already trying to figure out what to do with over 1 million bpd of Nigerian light-sweet. Saudi Arabia has refused to cut production and give up market share, and Iraq and Libya need the oil revenue, so down we go.

(click to enlarge)

It is clear Libya has played a pivotal role in the current oil price collapse: unexpected, quick and massive changes in oil production. For those wondering when oil prices will rise again, please note that despite rumors that Libyan oil production is closing in on 1 million bpd, remember – Libya was producing 1.45 million bpd before the civil unrest hit. That means it could conceivably add another ~400,000 bpd of supply to market over the coming months. In other words, somebody is going to have to cut production, or we could see much lower oil prices for quite some time to come. Years, in fact.

Now I’m not saying Libya alone has caused the price drop in oil prices – there are obviously many factors involved. However, I believe the rapid near-step function moves in Libyan production – first off-line, and then back on-line – was the single biggest contributor to the sharp move down in oil prices.


via How Libya Sunk The Oil Frackers’ Stocks, Plus The Conoco Story – ConocoPhillips NYSE:COP | Seeking Alpha.

Reserve Currency Status: exorbitant privilege or burden?

“If a country takes steps to expand its trade surplus, it is also taking steps to expand its net export of savings – these are one and the same thing.”

The fact is that if foreign central banks buy trillions of dollars of US government bonds, except in the very unlikely case that there just happen to be trillions of dollars of productive American investments whose backers were unable to proceed only because American financial markets were unable to provide capital at reasonable prices, then either the US savings rates had to drop because a speculative investment boom unleashed a debt-funded consumption boom (i.e. household consumption rose faster than household income) or the US savings rate had to drop because of a rise in American unemployment. There is no other plausible outcome possible. Americans cannot wholly, and sometimes even partly, determine the American savings rate.

This mistaken belief that American savings are wholly a function of American household preferences arises because most economists – and, it seems, policymakers – can only imagine American households as autonomous economic units, and are seemingly incapable of imaging them as units within a system in which there are certain inflexible constraints. The same is true about households elsewhere. Because flexible exchange rates prevent Europe from running massive surpluses, German capital exports to countries like Spain created the same constraints, meaning that Spanish households too faced the choice only of speculative investment booms, consumption booms, and unemployment.


The fact that both Spain and the US experienced first booms in consumption and speculative investment and then steep rises in unemployment is just a requirement of the arithmetic, and has nothing to do with local cultural vice finally succumbing to the cultural virtue of foreigners. Rather than try to understand how systems constrain choice, economists and bankers, most of them quite wealthy, preferred to lecture and wag their fingers at ineluctably stupid middle- and working-class households.

As US policymakers take steps to extend free trade through various bilateral and multi-lateral agreements, it is important both that the exorbitant burden is addressed before it becomes much more destabilizing but it is also important that the exorbitant burden not become an argument against free trade. To argue in favor of constraining unlimited purchases of US or other government bonds is not the same as arguing that the US or other countries should not engage in international trade, as many commentators have bizarrely clamed.

via Are we starting to see why its really the exorbitant “burden” | Michael Pettis’ CHINA FINANCIAL MARKETS.