106. Portal Starlink, Investment in Battery Recycling, Device Detecting Skin Cancer


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Starlink's new Portability feature brings internet to vanlifers - The Verge (01:02)

  • Starlink’s internet-from-SpaceX service has gone mobile with a new Portability feature.
    • It costs an additional $25 each month, on top of monthly subscriptions that already start at $110 after a one-time hit of $599 to purchase the Starlink kit.
  • Starlink subscribers can now take their “dishy” anywhere on their home continent that provides active internet coverage. That opens up connectivity to remote places that will likely never be covered by 5G
  • Starlink doesn’t support use while driving yet, but the company says it’s actively working on a solution for moving vehicles.
    • Musk has previously tweeted about working on a power-efficient solution that can plug into a car’s 12V cigarette lighter and still maintain connectivity.
  • Starlink reportedly draws between 60-70W, an improvement on the 80-100W draw from just a year ago.
  • Starlink is offering Portability on a “best effort basis,” the company says, with users at their registered service addresses receiving priority for network resources.

Rocket Lab launched and recovered a rocket mid-air in a world first | Interesting Engineering (05:31)

  • Rocket Lab, a private aerospace firm, launched a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from Launch Complex 1A on Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, at roughly 6:48 PM EDT
    • Payload of 34 picosatellites and cubesats into orbit
  • Less than 30 minutes after launch, the rocket's first stage was actually caught mid-air by a flying helicopter.
    • They captured the rocket's drogue chute line.
    • A few seconds after recovering the rocket, the helicopter pilot opted to release the rocket — which plummeted into the deep blue ocean, where it was picked up by a ship
  • From a tweet from Reuters' Joey Roulette:
    • “Rocket Lab's Murielle Baker says the helicopter pilots [decided] to drop the rocket booster in the ocean after noticing "different load characteristics" than what they experienced during previous testing”
    • Murielle Baker is Rocket Labs' Senior Communications Adviser
  • This is real, it's happening. A flying helicopter successfully caught a first-stage booster rocket, in mid-air.
  • This may not have been a full recovery and reuse of the rocket, but Rocket Lab has just taken us a major step closer to comparatively cheap ways of recycling used booster engines.

Lithium-ion recycler Li-Cycle lands $200 million to power future EVs | TechCrunch (09:54)

  • Metals and fossil fuels behemoth Glencore is pumping $200 million into battery recycler Li-Cycle as part of a larger, symbiotic supply deal inked by the two firms.
  • The Swiss materials giant, Glencore, will ship burnt-out batteries and scraps to Li-Cycle, which will recover the high-demand metals so they can be reused in electric vehicle batteries and other applications.
  • Li-Cycle’s Process:
    • Shred spent batteries and use a water-based system, known as hydrometallurgical processing, to begin to break down the batteries.
  • Hydrometallurgy involve the use of aqueous solutions for the recovery of metals from ores, concentrates, and recycled or residual materials
  • In Li-Cycle’s own hubs, they separate black mass into a variety of materials, including those that can be used to make new lithium-ion batteries.
  • In this partnership, Glencore will be providing Li-Cycle with black mass for processing as well as manufacturing scrap. Securing a supply of scrap could be advantageous for the startup since it is easier to recycle than whole batteries.
  • Why is Glencore doing this?
    • Glencore has been advancing efforts to boost recycling of the batteries that power electric vehicles, including its plans to build a U.K. plant as part of a deal to help Britishvolt Ltd. develop Britain’s first large-scale EV battery plant.
  • Electric automakers, mining companies and chemical suppliers are racing to control more supplies of materials that are key to transitioning the world to cleaner energy sources.
    • Car manufacturers and industry analysts expect recycled batteries to play a vital role in addressing supply constraints over the long term.
  • Why is battery recycling important?
    • An estimated 62,000 tons of used EV and stationary storage packs reached their end of life last year, and that will rise to 4 million tons by 2035, according to BloombergNEF, Bloomberg’s energy and data analysis unit.

Lunar Soil Can Be Used To Generate Oxygen and Fuel for Moon Astronauts | SciTechDaily (14:17)

  • Soil on the moon contains active compounds that can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and fuels, according to a new study by scientists in China.
  • Nanjing University material scientists Yingfang Yao and Zhigang Zou hope to design a system that takes advantage of lunar soil and solar radiation, the two most abundant resources on the moon.
  • After analyzing the lunar soil brought back by China’s Chang’e 5 spacecraft, their research team found the sample contains compounds—including iron-rich and titanium-rich substances—that could work as a catalyst to make desired products such as oxygen using sunlight and carbon dioxide.
  • How would this work?
    • Mainly, the system uses lunar soil to electrolyze water extracted from the moon and in astronauts’ breathing exhaust into oxygen and hydrogen powered by sunlight.
    • Carbon dioxide exhaled by moon inhabitants is also collected and combined with hydrogen from water electrolysis during a hydrogenation process catalyzed by lunar soil.
    • While the catalytic efficiency of lunar soil is less than catalysts available on Earth, The researchers are testing different approaches to improve the design, such as melting the lunar soil into a nanostructured high-entropy material, which is a better catalyst.
    • In the end, the process yields hydrocarbons such as methane, which could be used as fuel.
  • The strategy uses no external energy but sunlight to produce a variety of desirable products such as water, oxygen, and fuel that could support life on a moonbase, the researchers say.
  • The team is looking for an opportunity to test the system in space, likely with China’s future crewed lunar missions.

New imaging tech promises cheap, handheld skin cancer scanner | New Atlas (19:09)

  • A team of researchers from the Stevens Institute of Technology has demonstrated the effectiveness of a new kind of non-invasive skin cancer detection tool.
    • Leverages a technology called high-resolution millimeter-wave imaging.
  • Initial testing shows that it is 97 percent effective at detecting cancerous tissue and the researchers are now working to miniaturize the system into a low-cost handheld device.
    • The device returns results in about 20 seconds!
    • I should mention that this system was not tested on tissue in a lab, but on human subjects!
  • The researchers recruited 71 patients with 136 suspicious skin lesions. Following assessment with the new high-resolution millimeter-wave imaging device the lesions were biopsied.
    • This preliminary test showed the system had 98 percent specificity (meaning two percent of its results were false positives) and 97 percent sensitivity (meaning it accurately detected all but three percent of malignant cancers).
  • Negar Tavassolian, a researcher working on the project, said their new system is not the first to use sophisticated imaging technology to automatically flag dangerous skin cancers.
    • Those are big, expensive, and require trained operators.
  • This new technology is proposed to be engineered into a small, handheld device that can be used by doctors as part of a straightforward clinical checkup.
  • Tavassolian states:
    • “We're creating a low-cost device that's as small and as easy to use as a cellphone, so we can bring advanced diagnostics within reach for everyone… That means doctors can integrate accurate diagnostics into routine checkups, and ultimately treat more patients.”
  • The current iteration of the device is far from portable but the researchers are confident handheld millimeter-wave diagnostic devices are possible.
    • Tavassolian predicts within a few years a handheld skin cancer detection device could be manufactured for under US$100.

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