Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Wacker Chemie partners with 1366 Technologies

The world’s second-largest polysilicon maker will provide the kerfless wafer startup with a $15 million equity investment, a supply of polysilicon and technical assistance. Kerfless wafer technology - which eliminates the sawing of ingots - has long been hailed as an innovation that can disrupt the heavy, messy and inefficient polysilicon and wafer supply chain. However, for years this has been just potential, with no commercial-scale production of kerfless wafers to challenge the dominant process.

Today’s announcement by the largest Western polysilicon maker that it is partnering with kerfless wafer start-up 1366 Technologies is a powerful sign that this could change soon. 1366 had already secured US$32.5 million in its series C round, and additionally holds a contract to supply Hanwha Q Cells with 700 MW of its Direct Wafer product.

Wacker Chemie’s choice to supply another $15 million equity investment - bringing the series C round to $47.5 million - is a very strong endorsement. The German chemical maker is one of the most established companies in the polysilicon industry, and the only Western polysilicon maker to evade Chinese tariffs.

In addition to the equity investment, Wacker has agreed to supply the majority of polysilicon which 1366 needs for the commercial-scale facility which it is planning, which the company says guarantees access to high-quality materials.

Finally, the partnership will include technical collaboration between the two companies, which will involve not only Wacker’s silicon knowledge but its facility design, engineering and construction experience.

“We see the potential for the Direct Wafer technology to provide an excellent contribution to accelerate global solar adoption,” stated Wacker Polysilicon President Ewald Schindlbeck. “1366 has developed a commercially valid answer to a long-time manufacturing challenge.”

1366 is planning a new factory in Upstate New York, which will have the capacity to produce 250 MW of Direct Wafers annually, as the first commercial-scale facility for kerfless wafers in the world. But while the company notes that the $15 million that Wacker is supplying will pay for the first $15 million in silicon it needs for the factory, the New York facility is behind schedule.

1366 had earlier announced plans to begin construction in the second quarter of 2016, and today reported that while site work is being done, that the facility has not yet broken ground.

"We’re currently going through environmental reviews and other requisite tasks (utilities to the site, etc.) associated with readying the a new site - we’re the first tenant in what will eventually become a large advanced manufacturing park - and are working very closely with the State to move things along as quickly as possible," 1366 Spokesperon Laureen Sanderson told pv magazine. "The construction timeline is contingent on how quickly these early critical efforts proceed."

Sanderson describes the Wacker deal as an important milestone for the factory. "The Wacker partnership not only demonstrates market acceptance of the technology, it puts the factory on very solid financial footing," she stated.

Second BRICS Youth Summit

The second BRICS Youth Summit will begin here from July 1 with the city leaving no stone unturned to mesmerise the international delegates.

According to an official release, Guwahati - the gateway to the North East - is getting ready to host the prestigious second BRICS Youth Summit, India 2016.

 The three-day summit with the theme 'Youth as bridge for intra-BRICS exchanges' will focus on enhanced people-to-people contacts of BRICS members - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

70 foreign delegates, including ministers and head of executive authorities on youth affairs from BRICS nations, are expected to participate in the summit.

To take forward the initiatives of first BRICS Youth Summit held in Russia in July 2015 for creation of a permanent platform for development of youth cooperation, interactive and stimulating discussions on various aspects related to youth development will take place here, the release said.

The BRICS Youth Summit will focus on skill development and entrepreneurship, social inclusions, youth volunteerism and youth participation in governance.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has asked all officials of the departments concerned to leave no stone unturned to make the event a grand success.

"Assam's resplendent culture must be projected in full splendor before the visiting distinguished dignitaries," Sonowal said.

He asked the officials to extend warm hospitality to the visiting dignitaries in traditional manner, for which the state is well-known since ages.

"When they go back home, they must carry with them fond memories of Assam and its warm, generous and hospitable people," he added.

The Government of Assam will host a dinner in the honour of the visiting foreign dignitaries on July 2.

The inaugural session will witness addresses by BRICS members, agenda to work out for the working sessions, followed by cultural programme from India.

On the second day, there will be four working sessions, followed by banquet dinner with cultural exchanges and performances from participants of BRICS nations.

On the last day, a presentation of working session reports will be followed by finalisation and adoption of the Guwahati BRICS Call to Action on Youth, the release added.

12 research chairs to be announced by IIM-A

For the first time in three years, IIM Ahmedabad will be adding 12 more research chairs backed by donors like Infosys, ICICI Bank, Edelweiss, PwC, SAP and Crisil, among others. The B-school has raised around Rs 35 crore for these research chairs which will be set up in areas such as corporate governance, macroeconomics, societal development, finance and management, among others.

While the institute has announced three research chairs so far, including Nabard Chair in Agribusiness, RBI Chair in Finance & Economics and JSW Chair in Innovation & Public Policy, Ashish Nanda, director of IIM Ahmedabad said that the premier B-school will be announcing 12 more going further.

The 12 research chairs to be announced by IIM-A include Edelweiss Chair in Finance, Infosys Foundation Chair in Societal Development, PwC Chair in Financial Reporting & Corporate Governance, UTI Chair in Macroeconomics, ATS Chair in Housing & Infrastructure Management, Chandrika Tandon Chair in Leadership, Crisil Chair in Financial Markets, ICICI Chair in Strategic Management, Kasturbhai Lalbhai Chair in Management, Prof. MN Vora Chair in Marketing & Entrepreneurship, Reliance Capital Chair in Marketing, and SAP Chair in Social Innovation.

According to Nanda, the institute will be looking for faculty members to fill the chair positions from both within and outside the campus.

"We invite nominations both internally and externally. There is an external committee which looks at nominations and suggests name. Then the internal committee looks at the shortlists. And in the end we identify the chairs," Nanda said. Having identified areas of research chairs and raised funds from donors, IIM-A is now working on identifying "high quality" people to head the same.

The institute not only hopes these chairs will boost more research work among faculty peers within the institute but also attract quality talent from outside.

"The chairs are meant to honour faculty who are doing cutting edge work in research, teaching as well as course development, and engagement with practice and policy. We hope these chairs will create a feeling of enthusiasm within the faculty community to reach their potential. We hope that these chairs will also encourage people to consider this institute as a place to come to as an academic. It might help us in recruitment. It is early days just now for us, though," Nanda added.

While the Nabard Chair in Agribusiness is being chaired by IIM-A faculty member Vasant Gandhi, the RBI Chair in Finance and Economics is headed by Abhiman Das. Recently, faculty member Rakesh Basant took charge of the JSW Chair in Innovation and Public Policy.

Commenting on the future plans of the JSW Chair in Innovation and Public Policy, Basant said that qualitative research work on analysing R&D spend in private organisations would be attempted under the chair.

Google Earth new higher quality images from US Landsat 8

Google´s free online mapping service is bringing the world into better focus with an updated version of Earth that takes advantage of photos from a US Landsat 8 satellite.

The Internet giant introduced a "cloud-free mosaic" of this planet three years ago at Google Earth, and on Monday began rolling out a new version that uses new techniques to process sharper images gathered by the satellite sent into orbit in 2013, as part of a collaboration between NASA and the US Geological Survey.

Google Earth previously relied on images from a Landsat 7 satellite, which encountered a hardware problem that resulted in large diagonal gaps in pictures, according to program manager Chris Herwig.

"Landsat 8 captures images with greater detail, truer colors and at an unprecedented frequency," Herwig said in a blog post.

Google Earth creates unobstructed views of the surface of the planet by analyzing millions of images and stitching together the clearest bits, according to Herwig.

Google Earth is part of free online mapping services offered by California-based Alphabet.

Landsat has observed the Earth from space since 1972, gathering a wealth of information on the changes to the Earth´s surface over time.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Soyuz capsule bringing back three astronauts from the International Space Station after 186 days

A soyuz capsule bringing back three astronauts from the International Space Station, including the first to represent the British government, made a safe parachute landing on the steppe near the Kazakh city of Zhezkazgan on Saturday.

The crew, which included a Russian and an American as well as Britain's Tim Peake, left the space station about three hours earlier after spending half a year in Earth's orbit.
The capsule landed on its side, a frequent occurrence in the windy steppe area, after parachuting for 14 minutes. A search and recovery team quickly extracted the trio from the capsule. Peake smiled as he was being examined by flight surgeons and told reporters he was enjoying "the smells of Earth" and fresh air, a stark contrast to the artificial atmosphere and high temperature inside the capsule.

Alongside were commander Yuri Malenchenko, who quickly put on sunglasses to shield his eyes from the midday sun, and NASA astronaut Tim Kopra.

Former army major Peake, who turned 44 aboard the station, was on a mission for the European Space Agency (ESA) and became the first astronaut wearing a Union Jack flag on his arm. The first Briton in space was Helen Sharman, who traveled on a Soviet spacecraft for eight days in 1991.
Peake's mission, called Principia after Isaac Newton's seminal work, included a number of scientific experiments, such as testing the use of nitric oxide gas as a tool to monitor lung inflammation.

During his 186-day stint in space, Peake ran a marathon strapped to a treadmill and held a science lesson for 300,000 schoolchildren.

The International Space Station (ISS) crew members Timothy Peake of Britain, Yuri Malenchenko of Russia and Timothy Kopra of the U.S., surrounded by ground personnel, rest shortly after landing near the town of Dzhezkazgan (Zhezkazgan), Kazakhstan, June 18, 2016. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

Peake had also taken with him two tiny Raspberry Pi educational computers set up to measure the space station's environment, follow its journey through space, and pick up the Earth’s magnetic field, as well as give schoolchildren the chance to have their computer code run in space.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Swiss train starts trip through world's longest tunnel

Guests waves at train during the opening ceremony of NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel in Erstfeld.

The world's longest tunnel officially opened today, with the trailblazing rail passage under the Swiss Alps aiming to ease transit through the heart of Europe.

With political unity on the continent shaken by a massive influx of migrants and the looming threat of Britain's EU departure, Swiss president Johan Schneider-Amman said the tunnel would "join the people and the economies" of Europe.

He spoke before the 57-kilometre Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) made its ceremonial first run with European leaders on board.

The passengers included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

While the tunnel was entirely funded by non-EU member Switzerland, the bloc's transport commissioner Violeta Bulc has hailed it as "a godsend" for the continent.

It runs from Erstfeld in the central canton of Uri, to Bodio in the southern Ticino canton.

Travel through the Alpine region, by rail or by road, requires taking a zigzag and undulating route.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel was designed to offer a better option for both private travellers and commercial freights.

When the full service opens in December, the tunnel will shave the train journey from Zurich to Milan in northern Italy down to two hours and 40 minutes, roughly an hour less than it currently takes.

It should also make rail freight more efficient -- partly by supporting heavier cargo, which should reduce the number of smoke-spewing lorries on the roads, in turn improving traffic and curbing pollution.

The number of daily rail passengers is expected to increase from the current rate of 9,000 people to 15,000 by 2020, according to the Swiss federal railway service.

The rough design for a rail tunnel under the Gotthard Pass was first sketched by Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner in 1947.

But bureaucratic delays, concerns over the cost and other hurdles pushed back the start of construction until 1999.

The work took 17 years at a cost of more than 12 billion Swiss francs (USD 12 billion, 11 billion euros).

According to the Swiss rail service, it also took 43,800 hours of non-stop work by 125 labourers rotating in three shifts to lay the tunnel's slab track.

The ambitious venture was largely made possible by technical advances in tunnel-boring machines, which replaced the costly and dangerous blast-and-drill method.

The primary machine used to make the Gotthard tunnel was roughly 410-metres long and functioned like a mobile factory.

It cuts through rock and throws the debris backwards while simultaneously placing the pre-formed segments of concrete that form the shape of the tunnel.

A separate system grouts the pieces together. With its official opening, the GBT has surpassed Japan's 53.9-kilometre Seikan tunnel as the world's longest train tunnel.