Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 6, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Science Special: Alternative Fuel Vehicles

  |   Video
  • ASU engineering Professor Jonathan Posner discusses the latest developments in alternative fuel vehicles.
Guests:
  • Jonathan Posner - Engineering professor,Arizona State University
Category: Sustainability   |   Keywords: science,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Finally, I talked to an Arizona State University professor who was an expert on alternative fuel vehicles about the future of such vehicles. Joining me to talk about alternative fuel vehicles is Jonathan Posner, a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor in the Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State. Jonathan, thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.

Jonathan Posner:
Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons:
The market as we saw in the last piece makes a big deal when it comes to transportation and fuel and such. In the alternative fuel business, the market still a big player?

Jonathan Posner:
I believe so. There's several technologies that you'll be seeing in the near future, the hybrid technology as you are already seeing, but in the near future I think you'll see plug-in hybrids which both have gasoline in their engine and large batteries, where you could do 30 miles of local driving or more on your battery. So you charge up your car at night and pay the normal electricity bill. Say 10-cents per kilowatt hour. And then you'll get 30 miles of coverage. If you want to go more, say, 300 or 400 miles, you'll have a gasoline engine to allow you to do that. And then they’ll have fuel efficiency, say, about 50 miles per gallon.

Ted Simons:
And mechanics can take their Priuses and do pretty the same thing?

Jonathan Posner:
That’s right. For anywhere between $6,000 and $10,000 you can convert your existing hybrid vehicles to plug-in hybrid vehicles and this -- depending on whether it's cost effective or not depends on your budget and how much you drive as well.

Ted Simons:
Is society ready for alternative fuel vehicles? I mean just in general. Just a mind set?

Jonathan Posner:
I think that people are and I think that the recent dramatic increase in fuel prices has gotten the average person thinking about this more. The sales of the hybrid Priuses and other hybrid cars are exploding and as new technologies are available, people will adopt it. Americans are early adopters of technology and I think people are excited about it.

Ted Simons:
The plug-in hybrids you were referring to earlier, how soon will they be on the auto mall lot?

Jonathan Posner:
I don’t think anyone really knows that. You can make one today if you have a hybrid vehicle. There’s talk on the blogs and internet about 2010 and seeing a plug-in hybrid. There’s also talk about seeing just pure electric vehicles.

Ted Simons:
Talk about the future of electric vehicles; all the rage in terms of looking toward the future, way back in the past, we don't hear much about them anymore.

Jonathan Posner:
Some would consider a hybrid to be an electric vehicle. It has a drive train which can run off an electric motor. One of Chevy’s new products is called an electric vehicle because it has large batteries, but in fact it still will have perhaps a small gasoline engine. As batteries improve, the range of electric vehicles, the number of miles they can drive and how fast they can go will increase. Some of it is technology driven, as far as battery technology goes. But the other part is economics. The batteries are still relatively expensive. But the market and technology combine because as technology gets better, the same technology can be sold at a lower price.

Ted Simons:
Hydrogen; we've heard a lot about it, but again, with the hybrid craze, you don't hear as much about it. Talk about the future there.

Jonathan Posner:
Well, I hear a lot about hydrogen! I work on hydrogen fuel cells and I think it's this week, Hydrogen fuel cell cars are being sold this week in southern California. It’s a new Honda FCX car called the Clarity. And I think 200 are being sold or leased for $600 a month. There's a lot of fueling hydrogen stations in California. But the issue with hydrogen is always going to be how do you produce enough, how do you deliver it and store it, and how do you use it best. And a lot of those issues, there's bugs to work out.

Ted Simons:
How soon can the bugs be worked out? We’ve heard about that with hydrogen for quite a while.

Jonathan Posner:
I would say that California is a good indication of what we'll see in the future. It's going to be a pilot program. We'll see how well the cars run and how easy it is to fuel them and get the hydrogen to the stations or to produce it locally.

Ted Simons:
Do you see a future -- and I hate to use the old VHS or Beta argument, but whatever, but do we need one style of alternative vehicle in the future or will it be a là carte?

Jonathan Posner:
I think it will be a là carte. Everybody likes something different. Blackberry versus iPhone. Macintosh versus PC. So there's always going to be an interplay. Right now you can buy small diesel vehicles that get 60, 70 miles to the gallon. So it's about choice and it's also going to be market driven. As fuel costs change, people will make different decisions.

Science Special: Computer Memory Device

  |   Video
  • ASU electrical engineering Professor Michael Kozicki talks about a new computer memory device being developed at Arizona State University that would greatly increase the capacity of flash drives.
Guests:
  • Michael Kozicki - Electrical engineering professor, Arizona State University
Category: Science

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Welcome to "Horizon." I’m Ted Simons. This is a special edition of "Horizon." Tonight we're going to show you several science innovations. We start with a look at a new flash memory device being developed at Arizona State University. Richard Ruelas will talk to an ASU professor. But first, Mike Sauceda tells us more about the device.

Mike Sauceda:
Imagine a thumb drive with 1,000 times the memory capacity of a 1 gigabyte thumb drive, the type commonly sold now. A new type of memory device being worked on at Arizona State University holds the promise of that kind of memory power within a few years. The device is a type of flash memory, which has no moving parts. But instead of using electrons to store memory, the new type of memory used charged atoms or ions. At the incredibly small scope of computer memory, electrons can leak from one circuit to another, short circuiting memory. That doesn’t happen with this new type of memory, called a programmable metallization cell.

Sarth Puthenthermadan:
Since we are not depending on electrons being trapped inside a layer, we are just depending on a metal link between two metal layers. So once it's formed, we don't have to worry about any electrons leaking. Once it's formed, even if it gets smaller, the metal link is the same. There's no leakage of anything. No resistance loss or anything as we get smaller.

Mike Sauceda:
The new device uses electrical resistance to store memory. In the device, copper can be turned into nano-wires at will. And that process can be reversed. Providing an on and off state needed for memory.

Sarth Puthenthermadan:
Basically we have ions diffusing in the glass, and it forms a link between two metal layers. So once we form a complete link between the two metal layers, we have a conductive bond. So basically it's a low-resistance state because we have a link. So that's one state and once we remove it, we switch between those two states and it works as a memory device.

Mike Sauceda:
The device is still in the experimental stage. It’s made by depositing a layer of copper onto a layer of glass. That’s ccomplished by heating up the materials until they vaporize. After the device is made, it's taken to another room for testing.

Sarth Puthenthermadan:
This is our electrical testing lab where we test the devices we make in the other lab. So we test whether the devices are working, whether the data is writing, whether the resistance is switching from the off to the on state.

Mike Sauceda:
Tiny probes provide the electrical charge for the test.

Sarth Puthenthermadan:
This testing helps us to understand how the devices work under different current conditions and voltage conditions, and so this is the first starting point of our testing. This is where we test our devices as soon as we make them to know how everything is. We can test the retention and endurance.

Mike Sauceda:
Besides more memory, the new device also holds the promise of running cooler and costing less.

Richard Ruelas:
With me to talk more about his new memory device is Dr. Michael Kozicki an electrical engineering professor at ASU. Thanks for joining us this evening.

Michael Kozicki:
Good to be here, thank you.

Richard Ruelas:
This stuff is very complicated -- I guess let me ask you to explain how the chip we kind of understand now works, versus what you’ve developed.

Michael Kozicki:
Right now, the way memory works, the memory in your computer, the memory in your cell phone, your digital camera, your mp3 player tends to involve the storage of charge. You can think of electrons as a fluid -- we pour them into little buckets, and that way we store information. The trouble is, as we try to pack more and more information into a smaller and smaller space, the little buckets get smaller and smaller. The trouble then is, the electrons are more difficult to detect because there’s fewer of them, and when they leak out, it becomes a more serious problem to detect that charge. So what we've done is replaced electrons with a nano wire that we can grow and retract, just by applying a very, very small voltage.

Richard Ruelas:
In the package, they talked about leaking out. To the consumer, how do you know that your device is leaking out?

Michael Kozicki:
That’s a very good question. One way, of course, the -- the status quo, as far as the technology is concerned -- you have to guarantee, for example, flash memory to be able to store data for 10 years, so if you take a digital picture, the flash has to store the information for 10 years, so obviously, you put it aside, forget about it and come back, you can still download the picture of your toddler many years later.

Richard Ruelas:
It’s just holding that charge.

Michael Kozicki:
Exactly. The trouble is future generations, they're already beginning to see they come back after a few years, or still, a few months, and that information is gone because the charge has leaked out. It's not happening in your devices now, but obviously, people don't want to sell memory that forgets.
Richard Ruelas:
And over time, yours will stay because, again, you’re changing the physical structure --

Michael Kozicki:
That’s exactly right. Rather than storing a little drop of charge, what we're doing is actually growing a little wire, in essence. Like any other wire, once you grow it, it hangs around pretty much forever until you tell it to go away.

Richard Ruelas:
How long ago did you start thinking about this idea?

Michael Kozicki:
We started this program about 11 and a half years ago here at ASU.

Richard Ruelas:
And you mentioned before we came on the air, you told me that you had already licensed and sold, like this is a revenue producer already.

Michael Kozicki:
Indeed, we just got our 25th U.S. patent in this technology last week, and we have about 33 international patents. That strength in patents allowed us to license to three different companies to date. Although, there are a lot more companies interested in this technology, again, for obvious reasons. It's a technology that fits future requirements for memory very, very well indeed.

Richard Ruelas:
What is the order of magnitude we’re talking about as far as ability to store and then -- well, I guess you mentioned the permanence of it. So far it seems permanent, right? What about the order of magnitude of the size we can fit into a similar device we see now.

Michael Kozicki:
To date, the work within certain key companies is showing that these devices are scalable down to tens of nanometers in size. In addition, we’ve also been able to show, as have other people working in the field, that we can store more than one bit of information per cell. In addition to that, it turns out that we can store more than one layer of memory on top of one another. So it's quite easy, with a few calculations -- it's quite easy to imagine a single chip that can store a terabit, or a trillion bits of information. Which is obviously hundreds of times denser than available anything to date.

Richard Ruelas:
Well, I guess we can put it in terms of iPod space.

Michael Kozicki:
One of the articles I saw recently said a million songs. Who could possibly listen to a million songs, I don't know. But it guess where it really comes into its own is with the kinds of things that do require a lot of storage, like high definition video. As one person put it, with enough of these high density storage chips you can begin to record every event in your life in one little device.

Science Special: Solar Energy

  |   Video
  • SRP engineer Joel Dickinson explains how a solar project is helping to cool the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs office.
Guests:
  • Joel Dickinson - SRP engineer
Category: Sustainability   |   Keywords: science,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Next, we tell you about an innovative new way Salt River Project is using the sun to beat the heat. Producer Larry Lemmons tells us about this unique solar project.

Larry Lemmons:
Cold from hot. That's the basic principle behind solar thermal cooling. At the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, SRP installed a demonstration solar absorption cooling system.

Joel Dickinson:
Right now, conventional air conditioning is a major load for SRP, and if we can explore these solar cooling technologies and avoid the peak demand with the solar, we would be in a really nice position.

Larry Lemmons:
It might look complicated, but it's a fairly straightforward process. It starts with a heat pipe.

Joel Dickinson:
Each of these vacuum pipes is an individual process and what they do is take the working fluid inside of this vacuum pipe, is in a puddle at the bottom. The sun beats down on the fins and transfers the energy to the pipe and boils that water inside of that vacuum tube. The vapor travels up the tube and transfers the heat energy when it condenses on this manifold of hot water and this is the hot water we use to drive our solar chilling process. All of the hot water we harvest with the solar array gets stored in this 1200 gallon tank. And the cooler water from the bottom of the tank is piped out to the array through this pump. And then it goes through the array, the water is heated. And then comes back and it's dumped into the top of the tank. So the water is cooler at the bottom and hotter at the top and the hot water gets stored in this 1200-gallon insulated tank. So now we have a tank full of hot water that’s been created by the solar array and the hot water drives the absorption chiller and comes into this pipe and then the hot water is converted to cold water by the chiller in a vacuum. And the cold water is piped over to the building. The chilled water is pumped up through these pipes that enter this air handling unit. It’s a conventional air handling unti that utilizes the cold water and the hot air from the building. The hot air gets blown over the cold coil, and we get cooled air in the building.

Larry Lemmons:
This is a pilot program. SRP and the National Guard have teamed up to see how the system works. It’s producing air conditioning for the guard's eco-building.

Major Paul Aguirre:
The eco-building is a project that the Arizona National Guard did several years ago. It’s made out of recyclable materials. It’s solar powered; you see the panels on the roof which are separate and to add the solar chiller unit to that really underscores the eco-building's whole intent, which is to be environmentally friendly and use renewable power sources.

Joel Dickinson:
SRP has spent quite a bit of money putting a data acquisition system on this solar air conditioner so that we can harvest information and from that, we're going to hire a third party that's going to take that information and do an energy study and take a look at what are the true economics of the system. How much electricity is that chiller using? How much are we saving by using the solar hot water to drive the cooling process? And then over time, I think we would like to get that information out to the public so that they understand what are the paybacks and return on investment for this type of technology.

Larry Lemmons:
SRP hopes the technology will eventually become smaller so that the system will be much more practical for home use.

Joel Dickinson:
Right now we're dealing with a 10-ton chiller. They recently came out with a 5-ton version. So that would be a nice evolution, I think, to see it move into the home.

Larry Lemmons:
Progress has been made certainly here in the valley of the sun to employ solar technology. A challenge has always been the cost.

Joel Dickinson:
We have all of this free energy we can harvest with the sun. The trick is to figure out how to make it cost effective and we've been evolving over the last number of years towards that goal and I think we're really getting close.

Science Special: Telescope

  |   Video
  • Richard Green, director of the Large Binocular Telescope, talks about the world's most powerful binocular telescope which resides on Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona.
Guests:
  • Richard Green - Director, Large Binocular Telescope
Category: Science

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
In our next segment, you'll learn about the world's most powerful binocular telescope. It’s located right here in Arizona on Mount Graham. I'll talk to the director of the LBT, but first, here's more on the telescope.

Mike Sauceda:
At the top of Mount Graham in southern Arizona, the 8.4-meter mirror of the Large Binocular Telescope has been joined by its giant twin for the first binocular look into the deep cosmic past. Working side by side, the LBT mirrors have captured their first ever images of a spiral galaxy, lying 102 million light years from our Milky Way. The First Binocular Light inaugurates the unparalleled capabilities of the Large Binocular Telescope.

Richard Green:
The telescope is going to be used in two ways. Our first step is to use it as two 8-meter telescopes working in parallel analyzing the same field of view on the sky. The other way, to combine the two beams into one coherent picture achieving the resolution as though we had an almost 70-foot telescope and that will give us 10 times pictures sharper than Hubble.

Mike Sauceda:
Equal to its massive collecting power is an innovative design that supports changing suites of optical instruments. First up, a pair of wide field panoramic cameras used to capture these first light images. Here, the telescope works twice as fast by simultaneously recording the same image in separate spectra. These technologies are the first of many to come, giving astronomers unlimited options for discovery.

Richard Green:
We think this telescope’s going to discover really interesting systems of planets around other stars, map the dynamics of the inner regions of galaxies around massive black holes, map the outer solar system and understand how our solar system was formed, make a big dent in understanding the assembly of galaxies in both the early phase of the universe and in the middle age when the galaxies like our Milky Way came together.

Mike Sauceda:
The LBT was created by an international consortium which includes the University of Arizona, and other Arizona universities; the Instituto Nazionale di Astrofisica; LBT Beteiligungsgesellschaft; Ohio State University; and The Research Corporation. LBT’s mirrors are light, adapting quickly to changing temperatures. Computer-controlled mounts align telescope components during complex rotations, and adaptive optics produce distortion-free images. The Large Binocular Telescope will take astronomers where no telescope has gone before.

Richard Green:
I can't predict what the great discovery of this telescope is going to be. We will routinely be studying earth-like planets with oxygen atmospheres on a ten- to twenty-year time scale. Who knows? The best discoveries are the surprises and that's the real excitement of the world's best telescope.

Ted Simons:
And here now to tell us more about the telescope is Richard Green, director of the LBT. Good to have you here, thanks for joining us.

Richard Green:
I’m glad to be here.

Ted Simons:
We learned a lot in that piece, but I want to ask similar questions and then maybe go a little bit further. The basics, again: what makes this particular telescope so special?

Richard Green:
It has two of the world's largest telescope mirrors. Each one of them has light gathering power 10 times greater than Hubble. But because they’re mounted together on a common mount, and steered together, and point to the same place in the sky, that makes them unique. They can make a huge field of view in sharp focus.

Ted Simons:
And you're talking eventually 10 times as sharp as Hubble?

Richard Green:
Yes.

Ted Simons:
Wow. Does that make Hubble obsolete? Is this the new golden age for mountaintop telescopes?

Richard Green:
Certainly it will be a new era for these giant telescopes and this is the pathfinder for the next generation of giant telescopes. A telescope in orbit still does unique things. It captures radiation blocked by the earth's atmosphere, so they complement each other.

Ted Simons:
What kinds of images are you seeing now, and plan to see in the next few years, and what do you plan to learn from those images?

Richard Green:
We’re celebrating the very scientific beginning of this as an observatory. Right now we're taking pairs of panoramas, of wide field views of the sky. The science that people are doing now ranges from mapping the solar system out near Pluto to discovering the distant quasars formed just after time began.

Ted Simons:
It sounds like this is a work in progress. What kind of changes need to be done?

Richard Green:
We have lots of steps to go. It was a major achievement to get the two mirrors to point to the same place and track together. Now we have to tune it to be 100 times more precise. Then we can lock up the light waves that come from each side and that's going to give us 10 times sharper picture.

Ted Simons:
That sounds incredible. Real quickly: the history of this telescope?

Richard Green:
It was conceived back in the early 1980s as one of the ultimate achievements of the Pyrex mirrors that were developed at the University of Arizona down in Tucson. As time went along, this concept became more sophisticated. They realized they'd have to compensate for the blur of the earth's atmosphere, which we do with a large mirror that’s 36 inches in diameter and about the thickness of a hair. It's like a tissue, and we change its shape a thousand times a second to cancel the atmospheric blur. All of these things developed with time. As you know, there was a period of controversy about Mount Graham as the site. That was resolved in favor of the conservatory. And in 1998 construction began in earnest and 10 years later we’re enjoying the scientific fruits of all that effort.

Ted Simons:
And this is an international collaboration, is it not?

Richard Green:
It truly is. Half of the funding of the telescope and half of the observing time goes to Europe. The Italian National Astronomy effort has a quarter share and a consortium of German institutes that represent German national astronomy also have a quarter share.

What's on?

Content Partner:

  About KAET Contact Support Legal Follow Us  
  About Eight
Mission/Impact
History
Site Map
Pressroom
Contact Us
Sign up for e-news
Pledge to Eight
Donate Monthly
Volunteer
Other ways to support
FCC Public Files
Privacy Policy
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Google+
Pinterest
 

Need help accessing? Contact disabilityaccess@asu.edu

Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University    Copyright Arizona Board of Regents