Tagged: China Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • richardmitnick 12:29 pm on May 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , China, Human embryonic stem (ES) cells, , , ,   

    From Nature: “Trials of embryonic stem cells to launch in China” 

    Nature Mag
    Nature

    31 May 2017
    David Cyranoski

    1
    Former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping had Parkinson’s disease, one of the first targets of embryonic-stem-cell therapies being tested in China.

    In the next few months, surgeons in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou will carefully drill through the skulls of people with Parkinson’s disease and inject 4 million immature neurons derived from human embryonic stem cells into their brains. Then they will patch the patients up, send them home and wait.

    This will mark the start of the first clinical trial in China using human embryonic stem (ES) cells, and the first one worldwide aimed at treating Parkinson’s disease using ES cells from fertilized embryos. In a second trial starting around the same time, a different team in Zhengzhou will use ES cells to target vision loss caused by age-related macular degeneration.

    The experiments will also represent the first clinical trials of ES cells under regulations that China adopted in 2015, in an attempt to ensure the ethical and safe use of stem cells in the clinic. China previously had no clear regulatory framework, and many companies had used that gap as an excuse to market unproven stem-cell treatments.

    “It will be a major new direction for China,” says Pei Xuetao, a stem-cell scientist at the Beijing Institute of Transfusion Medicine who is on the central-government committee that approved the trials. Other researchers who work on Parkinson’s disease, however, worry that the trials might be misguided.

    Both studies will take place at the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University in Henan province. In the first, surgeons will inject ES-cell-derived neuronal-precursor cells into the brains of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. The only previous trial using ES cells to treat Parkinson’s began last year in Australia; participants there received stem cells from parthenogenetic embryos — unfertilized eggs that are triggered in the lab to start embryonic development.

    In the other Zhengzhou trial, surgeons will take retinal cells derived from ES cells and transplant them into the eyes of people with age-related macular degeneration. The team will follow a similar procedure to that of previous ES-cell trials carried out by researchers in the United States and South Korea.

    Qi Zhou, a stem-cell specialist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Zoology in Beijing, is leading both efforts. For the Parkinson’s trial, his team assessed hundreds of candidates and have so far have picked ten who best match the ES cells in the cell bank, to reduce the risk of the patients’ bodies rejecting the cells.

    The 2015 regulations state that hospitals planning to carry out stem-cell clinical work must use government-certified ES-cell lines and pass hospital-review procedures. Zhou’s team completed four years of work with a monkey model of Parkinson’s, and has met the government requirements, he says.

    Parkinson’s disease is caused by a deficit in dopamine produced by brain cells. Zhou’s team will coax ES cells to develop into precursors to neurons, and will then inject them into the striatum, a central region of the brain implicated in the disease.

    In their unpublished study of 15 monkeys, the researchers did not observe any improvements in movement at first, says Zhou. But at the end of the first year, the team examined the brains of half the monkeys and found that the stem cells had turned into dopamine-releasing cells. He says that they saw 50% improvement in the remaining monkeys over the next several years. “We have all the imaging data, behavioural data and molecular data to support efficacy,” he says. They are preparing a publication, but Zhou says that they wanted to collect a full five years’ worth of animal data.

    Maturity concerns

    Jeanne Loring, a stem-cell biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, who is also planning stem-cell trials for Parkinson’s, is concerned that the Australian and Chinese trials use neural precursors and not ES-cell-derived cells that have fully committed to becoming dopamine-producing cells. Precursor cells can turn into other kinds of neurons, and could accumulate dangerous mutations during their many divisions, says Loring. “Not knowing what the cells will become is troubling.”

    But Zhou and the Australian team defend their choices. Russell Kern, chief scientific officer of the International Stem Cell Corporation in Carlsbad, California, which is providing the cells for and managing the Australian trial, says that in preclinical work, 97% of them became dopamine-releasing cells.

    Lorenz Studer, a stem-cell biologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City who has spent years characterizing such neurons ahead of his own planned clinical trials, says that “support is not very strong” for the use of precursor cells. “I am somewhat surprised and concerned, as I have not seen any peer-reviewed preclinical data on this approach,” he says.

    Studer’s and Loring’s teams are part of an international consortium that coordinates stem-cell treatments for Parkinson’s. In the next two years, five groups in the consortium plan to run trials using cells fully committed to becoming dopamine-producing cells.

    Regenerative neurobiologist Malin Parmar, who heads one of the teams at Lund University in Sweden, says that the groups “are all rapidly moving towards clinical trials, and this field will be very exciting in the coming years”.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:43 pm on March 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: China, , , Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility (SSRF), Soft X-ray Free Electron Laser (SXFEL) facility   

    From physicsworld.com: “China outlines free-electron laser plans” 

    physicsworld
    physicsworld.com

    Mar 21, 2017
    Michael Banks

    1
    Zhentang Zhao, director of the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics.

    There was a noticeable step change in the weather today in Shanghai as the Sun finally emerged and the temperature rose somewhat.

    This time I braved the rush-hour metro system to head to the Zhangjiang Technology Park in the south of the city.

    The park is home to the Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility (SSRF), which opened in 2007. The facility accelerates electrons to 3.5 GeV before making them produce X-rays that are then used by researchers to study a range of materials.

    The SSRF currently has 15 beamlines focusing on topics including energy, materials, bioscience and medicine. I was given a tour of the facility by Zhentang Zhao, director of the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics, which operates the SSRF.

    As I found out this morning, the centre has big plans. Perhaps the sight of building materials and cranes nearby the SSRF should have given it away.

    Over the next six years there are plans to build a further 16 beamlines to put the SSRF at full capacity, some of which will extend 100 m or so from the synchrotron.

    Neighbouring the SSRF, scientists are also building the Soft X-ray Free Electron Laser (SXFEL) facility. The SSRF used to have a test FEL beam line, but since 2014 that has transformed to become a fully fledged centre costing 8bn RMB.

    Currently, the 250 m, 150 MeV linac for the SXFEL has been built and is being commissioned. Over the next couple of years two undulator beamlines will be put in place to generate X-rays with a wavelength of 9 nm and at a repetition rate of 10 Hz. The X-rays will then be sent to five experimental stations that will open to users in 2019.

    There are also plans to upgrade the SXFEL so that it generates X-rays with a 2 nm wavelength (soft X-ray regime) at a frequency of 50 Hz.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    PhysicsWorld is a publication of the Institute of Physics. The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society. We are a charitable organisation with a worldwide membership of more than 50,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application.

    We engage with policymakers and the general public to develop awareness and understanding of the value of physics and, through IOP Publishing, we are world leaders in professional scientific communications.
    IOP Institute of Physics

     
  • richardmitnick 9:06 am on February 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , China, , Ecological models, Ecologically informed decisions, Greenhouse gas emissions, In the past 10 years China invested over $100 billion in conservation efforts, Most important flood control sandstorm control provision of abundant water (for drinking irrigation and hydropower) stabilization of soil and biodiversity, Natural Capital Project, Prosperity and well-being depend on nature, , The future of human civilization depends on getting this right, Water purification, Which lands would be most valuable if set aside for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services   

    From Stanford: “China to protect areas of high ecological importance identified by Stanford researchers” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    February 2, 2017
    Jackie Flynn

    1
    Besides smoggy cities, China includes areas of natural beauty such as Jiuzhaigou National Park, in Sichuan Province. (Image credit: Zhiyun Ouyang)

    China leads the world in greenhouse gas emissions. Its biggest cities are shrouded in smog. And the country’s population is 1.4 billion people and growing. At least to the rest of the world, China isn’t known as a leader in environmental mindfulness.

    Research from Gretchen Daily, professor of biology at Stanford University, is helping to change that.

    Daily’s research, recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used eco-mapping software to identify places of high ecological importance for the country. Chinese leaders are using Daily’s analytics to establish a series of protected areas, the first of their kind, as a part of their 21st-century ecological initiative.

    “It’s a historic moment in the evolution of Chinese civilization. It’s marked by a recognition that the singular focus on mainstream economic growth over the last century has come at a tremendous cost,” said Daily, who is also Bing Professor in Environmental Science.

    Guidance, not a price tag

    The software used in this study was created by researchers at the Natural Capital Project. Co-founded by Daily, the project is a joint effort among Stanford University, the University of Minnesota, The Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund. The project’s mission is to identify and conserve areas of high ecological value across the globe.

    By using a series of ecological models, the software rates areas based on their ability to sustain human life. For example, a forest provides water purification, flood control, and climate stabilization – all services that support human life.

    “Our partners started asking, ‘Where does biodiversity matter for how ecosystems function within China?’ Essentially, we wanted to better understand which lands would be most valuable, if set aside for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services,” said Steve Polasky, co-author of the paper, co-founder of the Natural Capital Project and professor of ecological and environmental economics at the University of Minnesota.

    2
    Stanford Professor Gretchen Daily and Zhiyun Ouyang of the Chinese Academy of Science are among co-authors of a report on areas of China which deserve protection due to their high ecological importance. (Image credit: Courtesy Zhiyun Ouyang)

    In this case, the team identified five different vital life support services in China: flood control, sandstorm control, provision of abundant water (for drinking, irrigation and hydropower), stabilization of soil, and biodiversity. Then, the team mapped which areas of China were most valuable, ecologically speaking, to its people.

    The goal isn’t to “put a price tag on nature,” said Daily, but to provide a practical approach for guiding land use, infrastructure investment and siting, urban planning, investment in water supplies, and other realms of decision-making.

    “Today, nature is too often ignored. It’s sometimes held up as infinitely valuable, and more typically we say it’s not valuable at all, and give it a score of zero in cost-benefit analysis,” Daily said. “Neither position is helpful. We need to shine a light on the many ways in which prosperity and well-being depend on nature, systematically and for setting priorities.”

    China’s investment in conservation

    The national park system, expected to be formally proposed to Chinese leadership this summer, is only a part of China’s 21st-century environmental goals. In the past 10 years, China invested over $100 billion in conservation efforts. Currently, the country is paying 200 million people to protect or restore ecosystems as part of its eco-compensation program – the biggest eco-payment system in the world. The country is now developing and testing a new metric to measure the contribution of nature to human well-being, called Gross Ecosystem Product (GEP).

    “China is going further than any other place in so many ways. They are really trying to harmonize local well-being with long-term societal security and prosperity,” Daily said.

    The team identified priority areas including the lower streams of the Yangtze River, the Min-Zhe-Gan and Wuyi mountains, Nanling, and west and south Yunnan in the southern region. These areas were, for the most part, not a part of China’s existing nature preserves and captured only 10-13 percent of the country’s most ecologically valuable sites.

    Ecologically informed decisions

    While the Natural Capital Project’s software is already being used in 80 countries, Daily said she hopes that other countries will follow China’s example and adopt ecologically informed decision-making processes.

    “There are many countries pursuing green growth. What we’ve developed could be readily adapted and mainstreamed across all countries,” said Daily. “If that were to happen, I mean, that’s the ultimate dream here.”

    There is a growing fear among researchers in environmental science that crucial ecological systems, like the climate system that warms the Earth, are going to collapse. Valuing the services that nature provides isn’t just beneficial for the economies of countries, argues Daily, but is essential to humanity’s survival.

    “The future of human civilization depends on getting this right,” she said.

    Daily is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Co-authors of the paper include Weihua Xu, Yi Xiao, Jingjing Zhang, Lu Zhang, Hua Zheng Ling Jiang, Yang Xiao, Xuewei Shi, Enming Rao, Fei Lu, Xiaoke Wang and Zhiyun Ouyang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Wu Yang, Zhejiang University; Vanessa Hull and Jianguo Liu, Michigan State University; Zhi Wang, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Nanjing; and Stephen Polasky, University of Minnesota.

    The research was funded by the Ministry of Finance of China, the Paulson Institute, the Heren Foundation, the National Capital Project and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

    Stanford University Seal

     
  • richardmitnick 10:22 am on December 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Chang Zheng-3B/G2 launcher rocket, China, , Fengyun-4A satellite,   

    From NASA Spaceflight: “Long March 3B launches Fengyun-4A meteorological spacecraft” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    NASA Spaceflight

    December 10, 2016
    Rui C. Barbosa

    1

    China launched the first of a new generation geosynchronous meteorological satellites on Saturday. The launch of Fengyun-4A satellite took place at 16:11 UTC using the Long March-3B/G2 (Y42) – or Chang Zheng-3B/G2 per its Chinese name – from the LC3 Launch Complex at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

    Chinese Launch:

    Fengyun-4 (Wind and Cloud) series is China’s second-generation geostationary meteorological satellites after Fengyun-2 satellite series. The performance of Feng Yun-4 has been improved in relation to FY-2 in terms of data amount, network transmission bandwidth, product type and quantity and archiving data and applications.

    The satellite attitude is three-axis stabilized to improve the time resolution of observations and regional mobility.

    The new generation satellites are designed with an enhanced imagery scanning capability, desirable for monitoring small and medium scale weather systems. It is equipped with vertical atmospheric sounding and microwave detection capabilities to address 3D remote sensing at high altitudes.

    2

    The satellite also carries instrumentation for solar observations for extreme ultraviolet and X-rays, in a bid to enhance China’s space weather watch and warning capability.

    The new FY-4 series will comprise satellites will optical and microwave variants. An optical satellite will carry onboard a 10-channel 2D scanning imager, an interferometric vertical detector, a lightning imager, CCD camera and an earth radiation budget instrument. The satellite produces earth disc imageries every 15 minutes.

    The optical variant will include two satellites. This includes an “East” satellite covering a region including western China, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Middle East; and ‘a “West” satellite covering a region including middle and eastern China and the Pacific. The microwave variant FengYun-4 will cover China and its peripheral areas.

    In general the main tasks of the Fengyun-4 series will be to take multiple spectral band measurements of high temporal resolution and accuracy, to obtain imagery of the earth’s surface and cloud, including the segment images and increase the overall capability of the China Meteorological Administration in space-based quantitative observation and application.

    It will also measure the vertical profile of temperature and humidity of the atmosphere with improved detection accuracy and vertical resolution; to detect the lightning to obtain the map that positions the lightning occurrences; to transmit the observational images, data and derived products with on-board transmitter; to collect the earth environmental measurements from automatic data collection platforms and transmit to users; and to monitor solar activities and space environment to provide the data for space weather research and service.

    The main tasks for the new satellites are to obtain the multi-spectrum and high-accurate quantitative images of the earth and clouds; to measure the humidity parameter of atmosphere; to enhance the ability of detecting the space weather and environment; to collect various earth environmental parameters; and to transmit images, weather products, and the devastating weather forecasting.

    3

    The main instruments on Fengyun-4A are the Advanced Geosynchronous Radiation Imager (AGRI), with 14 channels with a spectral range set between 0.55μm and 13.8μm; the Interferometric Infrared Sounder (GIIRS); the Lightning Mapping Imager (LMI); the Space Environment Package (SEP); the Solar X-EUV imaging telescope (SXEUV); and the Data Collection Service (DCS).

    AGRI was developed by the constructed by Harris Corporation and uses an off-axis telescope, two scan mirrors, 216 detectors in 14 spectral bands, and full-path on-orbit calibration. The instrument is replacing the S-VISSR sensor, flown on the FY-2A to H series. It has 14 channels and two observation modes. The temporal resolutions are 1 – 5 minutes over a regional domain and 15 minutes over the full-disk domain.

    GIIRS was developed by National Space Science Center of the China Academy of Sciences and is the main payload onboard of FY-4A satellite. It will monitor and measure internal constitution and precipitation parameters of the atmosphere cloud cluster. GIIRS can be used for vertical atmospheric sounding and it is the first high-resolution sounding sensor onboard the geostationary satellite.

    There are two observation modes of GIIRS. One mode is designed for China area, whose temporal resolution is 55 minutes and the coverage is 4500 x 4500 km. The other observation mode is mesoscale mode, whose temporal resolution is 30 minutes and the coverage is 1000 x 1000 km.

    LMI is the first lightning detection sensor on China’s satellites. It will be used to observe regional lightning activity in China. Information obtained will be used in forecasting and warning of convection precipitation, and studying of Earth’s electric field.

    The SEP will monitor the charged particles at platform level. Set of counters for electrons (0.4-4 MeV) and protons (1-165 MeV). The instrument packaged is composed of a High-energy Proton Detector (8 channels in the energy range of 1-165 MeV; the FOV is conical at 60º), an High-energy Electron Detector (9 channels in the energy range of 0.4 – 4 MeV; the FOV is conical at 25º) and a package of instruments including a FGM (Flux Gate Magnetometer), and radiation dosimeter and surface charging sensors. The dynamic range of FGM: ±0.01 to ±600 nT for each component, with a maximum resolution of ±0.06 @ of the dynamics.

    Data collection from DCPs (Data Collection Platforms) in the ground segment has two types of DCPs that will be served at either regional or international (i.e. migrating across the field of view of more geostationary satellites).

    Launch vehicle and launch site:

    To meet the demand of international satellite launch market, especially for high power and heavy communications satellites, the development of Long March-3B (Chang Zheng-3B) launch vehicle was started in 1986 on the basis of the fight proven technology of Long March launch vehicles.

    4

    Developed from the Chang Zheng-3A, the Chang Zheng-3B is at the moment the most powerful launch vehicle on the Chinese space launch fleet.

    The CZ-3B features enlarged launch propellant tanks, improved computer systems, a larger 4.2 meter diameter payload fairing and the addition of four strap-on boosters in the core stage that provide additional help during the first phase of the launch.

    The rocket is capable of launching a 11,200 kg satellite to a low Earth orbit or a 5,100 kg cargo to a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

    The CZ-3B/G2 (Enhanced Version) launch vehicle was developed from the CZ-3B with a lengthened first core stage and strap-on boosters, increasing the GTO capacity up to 5,500kg.

    On May 14, 2007, the first flight of CZ-3B/G2 was performed successfully, accurately sending the NigcomSat-1 into pre-determined orbit. With the GTO launch capability of 5,500kg, CZ-3B/G2 is dedicated for launching heavy GEO communications satellite.

    7
    NigcomSat-1

    The rocket structure also combines all sub-systems together and is composed of four strap-on boosters, a first stage, a second stage, a third stage and payload fairing.

    5

    The first two stages as well as the four strap-on boosters use hypergolic (N2O4/UDMH) fuel while the third stage uses cryogenic (LOX/LH2) fuel. The total length of the CZ-3B is 54.838 meters, with a diameter of 3.35 meters on the core stage and 3.00 meters on the third stage.

    On the first stage, the CZ-3B uses a YF-21C engine with a 2,961.6 kN thrust and a specific impulse of 2,556.5 Ns/kg. The first stage diameter is 3.35 m and the stage length is 23.272 m.

    Each strap-on booster is equipped with a YF-25 engine with a 740.4 kN thrust and a specific impulse of 2,556.2 Ns/kg. The strap-on booster diameter is 2.25 m and the strap-on booster length is 15.326 m.

    The second stage is equipped with a YF-24E (main engine – 742 kN / 2,922.57 Ns/kg; four vernier engines – 47.1 kN / 2,910.5 Ns/kg each). The second stage diameter is 3.35 m and the stage length is 12.920 m.

    The third stage is equipped with a YF-75 engine developing 167.17 kN and with a specific impulse of 4,295 Ns/kg. The fairing diameter of the CZ-3B is 4.00 meters and has a length of 9.56 meters.

    The CZ-3B can also use the new Yuanzheng-1 (“Expedition-1″) upper stage that uses a small thrust 6.5 kN engine burning UDMH/N2O4 with specific impulse at 3,092 m/s. The upper stage is able to conduct two burns, having a 6.5 hour lifetime and is capable of achieving a variety of orbits. This upper stage was not used on this launch.
    Typical flight sequence for the CZ-3B/G2 sees the launch pitching over 10 seconds after liftoff from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre. Boosters shutdown 2 minutes and 7 seconds after liftoff, separation from the first stage one second latter. First stage shutdown takes place at 1 minutes 25 seconds into the flight.

    6

    Separation between the first and second stage takes place at 1 minute 26 seconds, following fairing separation at T+3 minutes 35 seconds. Stage 2 main engine shutdown occurs 326 seconds into the flight, following by the shutdown of the vernier engines 15 seconds later.

    Separation between the second and the third stage and the ignition of the third stage takes place one second after the shutdown of the vernier engines of the second stage. The first burn of the third stage will last for 4 minutes and 44 seconds.

    After the end of the first burn of the third stage follows a coast phase that ends at T+20 minutes and 58 seconds with the third stage initiating its second burn. This will have a 179 seconds duration. After the end of the second burn of the third stage, the launcher initiates a 20 second velocity adjustment maneuver. Spacecraft separation usually takes place at T+25 minutes 38 seconds after launch.

    The first launch from Xichang took place at 12:25UTC on January 29, 1984, when the Chang Zheng-3 (Y-1) was launched the Shiyan Weixing (14670 1984-008A) satellite into orbit.

    7

    The Xichang Satellite Launch Center is situated in the Sichuan Province, south-western China and is the country’s launch site for geosynchronous orbital launches.

    Equipped with two launch pads (LC2 and LC3), the center has a dedicated railway and highway lead directly to the launch site.

    The Command and Control Centre is located seven kilometers southwest of the launch pad, providing flight and safety control during launch rehearsal and launch.

    The CZ-3B launch pad is located at 28.25 deg. N – 102.02 deg. E and at an elevation of 1,825 meters.

    Other facilities on the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre are the Launch Control Centre, propellant fuelling systems, communications systems for launch command, telephone and data communications for users, and support equipment for meteorological monitoring and forecasting.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASASpaceFlight.com, now in its eighth year of operations, is already the leading online news resource for everyone interested in space flight specific news, supplying our readership with the latest news, around the clock, with editors covering all the leading space faring nations.

    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

    With a monthly readership of 500,000 visitors and growing, the site’s expansion has already seen articles being referenced and linked by major news networks such as MSNBC, CBS, The New York Times, Popular Science, but to name a few.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:41 pm on August 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , China, Pan Jian-Wei, ,   

    From Nature- “China’s quantum space pioneer: We need to explore the unknown” 

    Nature Mag
    Nature

    14 January 2016 [Just appeared in social media, probably because of new Chinese spacecraft that went up today.]
    Celeste Biever

    1
    Pan Jian-Wei is leading a satellite project that will probe quantum entanglement. Tengyun Chen

    Physicist Pan Jian-Wei is the architect of the world’s first attempt to set up a quantum communications link between Earth and space — an experiment that is set to begin with the launch of a satellite in June.

    The satellite will test whether the quantum property of entanglement extends over record-breaking distances of more than 1,000 kilometres, by beaming individual entangled photons between space and various ground stations on Earth. It will also test whether it is possible, using entangled photons, to teleport information securely between Earth and space.

    On 8 January, Pan, who works at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, won a major national Chinese science prize (worth 200,000 yuan, or US$30,000) for his contributions to quantum science. He spoke to Nature about why his experiments are necessary and about the changing nature of Chinese space-science missions.

    How are preparations for the launch going?

    We always have two feelings. We feel, “Yes, everything is all right,” and then we are happy and excited. But we have, a couple of times, thought, “Probably our project will collapse and never work.” I think the satellite should be launched on time.
    What technical challenges do you face?

    The satellite will fly so fast (it takes just 90 minutes to orbit Earth) and there will be turbulence and other problems — so the single-photon beam can be seriously affected. Also we have to overcome background noise from sunlight, the Moon and light noise from cities, which are much stronger than our single photon.

    What is the aim of the satellite?

    Our first mission is to see if we can establish quantum key distribution [the encoding and sharing of a secret cryptographic key using the quantum properties of photons] between a ground station in Beijing and the satellite, and between the satellite and Vienna. Then we can see whether it is possible to establish a quantum key between Beijing and Vienna, using the satellite as a relay.

    The second step will be to perform long-distance entanglement distribution, over about 1,000 kilometres. We have technology on the satellite that can produce pairs of entangled photons. We beam one photon of an entangled pair to a station in Delingha, Tibet, and the other to a station in Lijiang or Nanshan. The distance between the two ground stations is about 1,200 kilometres. Previous tests were done on the order of 100 kilometres.

    Does anyone doubt that entanglement happens no matter how far apart two particles are?

    Not too many people doubt quantum mechanics, but if you want to explore new physics, you must push the limit. Sure, in principle, quantum entanglement can exist for any distance. But we want to see if there is some physical limit. People ask whether there is some sort of boundary between the classical world and the quantum world: we hope to build some sort of macroscopic system in which we can show that the quantum phenomena can still exist.

    In future, we also want to see if it is possible to distribute entanglement between Earth and the Moon. We hope to use the Chang’e programme (China’s Moon programme) to send a quantum satellite to one of the gravitationally-stable points [Lagrangian points] in the Earth-Moon system.

    How does entanglement relate to quantum teleportation?

    We will beam one photon from an entangled pair created at a ground station in Ali, Tibet, to the satellite. The quantum state of a third photon in Ali can then be teleported to the particle in space, using the entangled photon in Ali as a conduit.
    The quantum satellite is a basic-science space mission, as is the Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE), which China launched in December.

    Are basic-research satellites a new trend for China?

    Yes, and my colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and I helped to force things in this direction. In the past, China had only two organizations that could launch satellites: the army and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. So scientists had no way to launch a satellite for scientific research. One exception is the Double Star probe, launched in collaboration with the European Space Agency in 2003 to study magnetic storms on Earth.

    What changed?

    We at CAS really worked hard to convince our government that it is important that we have a way to launch science satellites. In 2011, the central government established the Strategic Priority Program on Space Science, which DAMPE and our quantum satellite are part of. This is a very important step.

    I think China has an obligation not just to do something for ourselves — many other countries have been to the Moon, have done manned spaceflight — but to explore something unknown.

    Will scientists also be involved in China’s programme to build a space station, Tiangong?

    The mechanism to make decisions for which projects can go to the space station has been significantly changed. Originally, the army wanted to take over the responsibility, but it was finally agreed that CAS is the right organization.

    We will have a quantum experiment on the space station and it will make our studies easier because we can from time to time upgrade our experiment (unlike on the quantum satellite). We are quite happy with this mechanism. We need only talk to the leaders of CAS — and they are scientists, so you can communicate with them much more easily.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:35 pm on August 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , China, China launched the world’s first quantum satellite on 16 August,   

    From Nature: “Chinese satellite is one giant step for the quantum internet” 

    Nature Mag
    Nature

    16 August 2016
    Elizabeth Gibney

    Craft that launched in August is first in a wave of planned quantum space experiments.

    1
    China’s 600-kilogram quantum satellite contains a crystal that produces entangled photons. Cai Yang/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

    Update: China launched the world’s first quantum satellite on 16 August. The Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) satellite, which lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northern China at 1:40 a.m. local time, successfully entered orbit at an altitude of 500 kilometres.

    China is poised to launch the world’s first satellite designed to do quantum experiments. A fleet of quantum-enabled craft is likely to follow.

    First up could be more Chinese satellites, which will together create a super-secure communications network, potentially linking people anywhere in the world. But groups from Canada, Japan, Italy and Singapore also have plans for quantum space experiments.

    “Definitely, I think there will be a race,” says Chaoyang Lu, a physicist at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, who works with the team behind the Chinese satellite. The 600-kilogram craft, the latest in a string of Chinese space-science satellites, will launch from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in August. The Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Austrian Academy of Sciences are collaborators on the US$100-million mission.

    Quantum communications are secure because any tinkering with them is detectable. Two parties can communicate secretly — by sharing a encryption key encoded in the polarization of a string of photons, say — safe in the knowledge that any eavesdropping would leave its mark.

    So far, scientists have managed to demonstrate quantum communication up to about 300 kilometres. Photons travelling through optical fibres and the air get scattered or absorbed, and amplifying a signal while preserving a photon’s fragile quantum state is extremely difficult. The Chinese researchers hope that transmitting photons through space, where they travel more smoothly, will allow them to communicate over greater distances.

    At the heart of their satellite is a crystal that produces pairs of entangled photons, whose properties remain entwined however far apart they are separated. The craft’s first task will be to fire the partners in these pairs to ground -stations in Beijing and Vienna, and use them to generate a secret key.

    During the two-year mission, the team also plans to perform a statistical measurement known as a Bell test to prove that entanglement can exist between particles separated by a distance of 1,200 kilometres. Although quantum theory predicts that entanglement persists at any distance, a Bell test would prove it.

    The team will also attempt to ‘teleport’ quantum states, using an entangled pair of photons alongside information transmitted by more conventional means to reconstruct the quantum state of a photon in a new location.

    “If the first satellite goes well, China will definitely launch more,” says Lu. About 20 satellites would be required to enable secure communications throughout the world, he adds.

    The teams from outside China are taking a different tack. A collaboration between the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the University of Strathclyde, UK, is using cheap 5-kilogram satellites known as cubesats to do quantum experiments. Last year, the team launched a cubesat that created and measured pairs of ‘correlated’ photons in orbit; next year, it hopes to launch a device that produces fully entangled pairs.

    Costing just $100,000 each, cubesats make space-based quantum communications accessible, says NUS physicist Alexander Ling, who is leading the project.

    A Canadian team proposes to generate pairs of entangled photons on the ground, and then fire some of them to a microsatellite that weighs less than 30 kilograms. This would be cheaper than generating the photons in space, says Brendon Higgins, a physicist at the University of Waterloo, who is part of the Canadian Quantum Encryption and Science Satellite (QEYSSat) team. But delivering the photons to the moving satellite would be a challenge. The team plans to test the system using a photon receiver on an aeroplane first.

    An even simpler approach to quantum space science, pioneered by a team at the University of Padua in Italy led by Paolo Villoresi, involves adding reflectors and other simple equipment to regular satellites. Last year, the team showed that photons bounced back to Earth off an existing satellite maintained their quantum states and were received with low enough error rates for quantum cryptography (G. Vallone et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. 115, 040502; 2015). In principle, the researchers say, the method could be used to generate secret keys, albeit at a slower rate than in more-complex set-ups.

    Researchers have also proposed a quantum experiment aboard the International Space Station (ISS) that would simultaneously entangle the states of two separate properties of a photon — a technique known as hyperentanglement — to make teleportation more reliable and efficient.

    As well as making communications much more secure, these satellite systems would mark a major step towards a ‘quantum internet’ made up of quantum computers around the world, or a quantum computing cloud, says Paul Kwiat, a physicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign who is working with NASA on the ISS project.

    The quantum internet is likely to involve a combination of satellite- and ground-based links, says Anton Zeilinger, a physicist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, who argued unsuccessfully for a European quantum satellite before joining forces with the Chinese team. And some challenges remain. Physicists will, for instance, need to find ways for satellites to communicate with each other directly; to perfect the art of entangling photons that come from different sources; and to boost the rate of data transmission using single photons from megabits to gigabits per second.

    If the Chinese team is successful, other groups should find it easier to get funding for quantum satellites, says Zeilinger. The United States has a relatively low profile when it comes to this particular space race, but Zeilinger suggests that it could be doing more work on the topic that is classified.

    Eventually, quantum teleportation in space could even allow researchers to combine photons from satellites to make a distributed telescope with an effective aperture the size of Earth — and enormous resolution. “You could not just see planets,” says Kwiat, “but in principle read licence plates on Jupiter’s moons.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:45 am on August 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Book: The Water Kingdom, China,   

    From Nature- “China: A hydrological history” 

    Nature Mag
    Nature

    03 August 2016
    Andrea Janku

    2
    The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River is one of the world’s largest power stations. STR/AFP/Getty

    Nearly 70 years ago, Chinese anthropologist Fei Xiaotong published From the Soil (1947). The Chinese people, he wrote, were “inseparable from the soil”, which had produced “a glorious history”, but one that was “limited by what could be taken from the soil”. If that book was the portrait of a rural and inward-looking country, literally stuck in the famous yellow earth — the loess of the North China Plain — science writer Philip Ball’s history of China, The Water Kingdom, is very much the opposite.

    1

    It is the portrait of a civilization permeated by water, with patterns of thought influenced by the centrality of water to everyday life and, echoing that, practical affairs shaped by philosophical ideas based on the principle of flow. The result is, Ball writes, “an intimate connection between hydraulic engineering, governance, moral rectitude and metaphysical speculation that has no parallel anywhere in the world”. On this premise he builds a picture of the nation, from its geographical and ideological foundations to the environmental and political predicament in which China (and not only China) now finds itself.

    The Water Kingdom’s structure is predominantly thematic rather than chronological. So the first chapter, introducing the Great Rivers, the Yangtze and the Yellow, leads from the Great Yu, the mythical ruler who, according to tradition conquered the floods more than 4,000 years ago, to twentieth-century Communist leader Mao Zedong, who repeatedly reasserted his power by swimming in the Yangtze. It interweaves more stories of the Yangtze: seventeenth-century explorer Xu Xiake’s search for its source, twelfth-century poet Lu You’s descriptions of commercial life along its banks, and more recent Western visitors’ accounts of the colossal Three Gorges Dam.

    On this epic journey, Ball explores mythological accounts of dragons and floods, along with early philosophical texts such as the teachings of Mencius from the fourth century BC, to unravel the origins of Chinese political ideology. That is, the idea that he who controls the water controls the people, which links the earliest cultural heroes to modern leaders from Republic of China founder Sun Yat-sen to Mao himself. Ball subsequently covers Zheng He’s maritime explorations at the height of Ming-dynasty power in the fifteenth century, and the centrality of the Yellow River–Grand Canal administration to the state bureaucracy in the eighteenth. He notes how the late empire turned into a “hydraulic state”, increasingly mired in systemic problems that finally collapsed under the pressure of internal rebellion and the imperialist onslaught.

    The centrality of water even plays out in the art of war, to which Ball devotes a chapter. In some of the most dramatic conflicts, rivers were harnessed as weapons. In 204 BC, for instance, an intentional rupturing of the Wei River dams led to the victory of the Han-dynasty forces. And in 1938, the Nationalist government attempted to stop the advancing Japanese army by breaching the Yellow River dykes, with disastrous consequences for the Chinese people — killing hundreds of thousands and making millions homeless. Technological and political parameters changed fundamentally in the twentieth century, yet hydraulic nation-building and the myths that surrounded it assumed an ever more important role. Mao in particular relished the role of the great leader conquering the floods. Ball ends that strand of the narrative with the Three Gorges Dam, first conceived by Sun Yat-sen and finally completed in 2012. He even covers the depiction of water in Chinese art through the ages, exploring its aesthetic, philosophical and political dimensions. The journey ends with a pertinent chapter on China’s current environmental crisis. Another hydraulic-engineering project on an unprecedented scale, the South–North Water Transfer Project, is now under way, meant to tackle water scarcity in the north (J. Barnett et al. Nature 527, 295–297; 2015).

    Telling the history of Chinese civilization from the perspective of water is rewarding, because it can link the history of ideas and beliefs, technology and warfare, politics and the arts. But as with any general history, it risks essentializing China and making its history seem more uniform than the actual record justifies. The most obvious example is the major shift in the history of the Yellow River in the late tenth century. It is only from then that the river became a constant threat, bursting its dykes and flooding the countryside in ever more devastating cycles, and changing its course repeatedly in dramatic ways after nearly a millennium of relative stability. And so it is also only from then that controlling the river became tantamount to controlling the people, and that state and society became trapped in an increasingly unsustainable hydraulic infrastructure. That complex system of dykes and canals, with the Yellow River and the Grand Canal at its heart, devoured enormous resources — a quandary called “technological lock-in” by historian Mark Elvin. Moreover, Ball’s focus on the state means that he fails to mention the role of small-scale irrigation and conservation projects that are common in particular in the southern China, and largely managed and funded by the local gentry.

    Still, this is a convincing introduction to Chinese history. Rather than perpetuating stereotypes, it boldly navigates the treacherous and often-avoided terrain long dominated by influential but spurned theories, such as the idea, promoted by sinologist Karl August Wittfoge, of China as a despotic hydraulic society. It also complements and complicates Fei Xiaotong’s idea of an earthbound civilization — a metaphor that has had a huge impact in China itself. In 1988, the six-part Chinese television documentary River Elegy depicted the country as weak and backward, closed off from the world by the Great Wall and stuck in the mud of the Yellow River, contrasted with a progressive, open, oceanic conceptualization of Western civilization. It has taken a generalist to turn the rich but rather dry literature on the history of water in China into an accessible history. Why it is a secret one, however, remains a mystery.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:32 am on June 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , China, , FAST, , SBS.com.au   

    From SBS via CSIRO: “In pictures: the building of world’s largest single dish telescope” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    2

    SBS

    6 May 2016 [CSIRO just put this up in social media]
    Signe Dean

    1
    A gigantic bowl of a telescope called FAST is under construction in China – and key components are being designed by CSIRO.

    For some of the residents of China’s Guizhou province the past six years have been colourful, to say the least. Here, in the Dawodang valley, in 2011 the Chinese Academy of Science began an immensely ambitious construction project for the world’s largest radio telescope.

    The Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) which cost 1.27bn yuan (or $246m) is now getting to its final stages, with completion scheduled for later this year.

    It’s a gigantic bowl nestled in Guizhou’s Karst mountain range, a spectacular addition to already gorgeous natural scenery – and one that could tell us more about the universe than ever before.

    2
    Image courtesy NAOC

    Once functional, FAST will become not only the largest telescope of its kind on the whole planet, but also one of the most sensitive, able to receive more distant radio signals, and weak ones we may have previously missed.

    Astronomers are hoping this will be the tool to boost our search for intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy and beyond – and also unveil more secrets about the origins of the universe.

    In an interview with South China Morning Post Chinese astronomer Shi Zhicheng said that “if intelligent aliens exist, the messages that they produced or left behind, if they are being transmitted through space, can be detected and received by FAST.”

    3
    Image courtesy NAOC

    At 500 metres in diameter, FAST is going to eclipse the current largest radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, which stands at an impressive 300 metres.

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA
    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA

    To create a 5-kilometre electromagnetic exclusion zone around the telescope, earlier this year China relocated more than 9,000 people, offering each of them a compensation of roughly $2500.

    Australian scientists have a hand in this project as well. China’s National Astronomical Observatories (NAOC) has teamed up with engineers from CSIRO to design and build one of the key components for FAST – a 19-beam receiver able to scan a large portion of the sky at a time, as opposed to most receivers used right now.

    4
    Image courtesy NAOC

    The reflector dish is made out of some 4,500 triangular panels which will be adjustable to form a curve corresponding to the segment of sky surveyed. As the radio signals are reflected, they will be transmitted to an Aussie-made receiver.

    “The powerful receiver we’ve created for FAST is the result of our long history developing cutting-edge astronomy technology to receive and amplify radio waves from space,” says Dr Douglas Bock, Acting Director of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.

    5
    Image courtesy NAOC

    “FAST will make it possible for us to look for a range of extremely interesting and exotic objects, like detecting thousands of new pulsars in our galaxy, and possibly the first radio pulsar in other galaxies,” says Professor Rendong Nan from NAOC.

    6
    Image courtesy NAOC

    And don’t forget – if we’re going to hear from aliens, FAST is our next best bet.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:05 am on May 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , China, , ,   

    From Daily Galaxy: “China’s Journey to the Far Side of the Moon –“Will It Lead to the 1st Radio Telescope Beyond Earth?” 

    Daily Galaxy
    The Daily Galaxy

    May 05, 2016
    No writer credit found

    1
    Image credits: svs.gsfc.nasa.gov

    China’s Chang’e 4 mission to the far side of the moon, planned for sometime before 2020 could eventually lead to the placement of a radio telescope for use by astronomers, something that would help “fill a void” in man’s knowledge of the universe, according to Zou Yongliao with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ moon exploration department during a September 2015 interview on state broadcaster CCTV.

    Chang'e 4 China
    Chang’e 4 China

    Radio transmissions from Earth are unable to reach the moon’s far side, making it an excellent location for sensitive instruments.China’s increasingly ambitious space program plans to attempt the first-ever landing of a lunar probe on the moon’s far side, a leading engineer said. Zou said the mission’s objective would be to study geological conditions on the moon’s far side.

    Topography of the near side (left) and far side (right) of moon shown below. On the map white and red colors represent high terrains and blue and purple are low terrains.

    2

    Meanwhile, back on Earth, China has constructed reflection panels for the world’s biggest radio telescope, the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST).

    FAST Chinese Radio telescope under construction
    FAST Chinese Radio telescope under construction, Guizhou Province, China

    This radio telescope with an aperture of 500 meters is under construction in a natural basin in Guizhou Province. The telescope-under-construction has thousands of reflection panels; eventually the positions of these panels can be adjusted simultaneously to better receive radio waves from moving celestial bodies.

    The radio telescope will be twice as sensitive as the Arecibo Observatory operated by the United States.

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA
    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA

    (Interestingly FAST was previously announced to become 3-times as sensitive, this is either a simple typing error or an adjustment in expectation.) The new telescope is also capable of collecting data even from the outer rim of the solar system. The telescope should be finished and installed by September 2016. As said, once successfully constructed the telescope will become the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.

    It seems that the two sides of the moon have evolved differently since their formation, with the far side forming at cooler temperatures and remaining stiffer while the Earth side has been modified at higher temperatures and for longer. This information is extremely important for theories on the formation of the moon, of which the current favorite is the “Giant Impact” hypothesis.

    The Giant Impact idea is that four and a half billion years ago a planet the size of Mars [Theia] rammed Earth, kicking enough debris into orbit to accrete into an entirely new body. New research from geophysical scientist Junjun Zhang and colleagues at Origins Lab at the University of Chicago, suggests that the giant impact hypothesis of the creation of the Moon might be wrong. The team found that in comparing titanium isotopes from both the moon and the Earth, that the match is too close to support the theory that the moon could have been made partly of material from another planet.

    On the other hand, the researchers found that the Moon did show a similar composition of the silicon isotopic composition as the Earth. However, it, too, is much smaller than the Earth—about one-fiftieth as large as the Earth and about one percent of the Earth’s mass—making it even less likely to have been able to generate enough pressure to form an Earth-like iron core. This research was the first of its kind using isotopes in this manner and offers intriguing insights into the creation of Mars, the Earth, and the Moon. It may also help explain how life evolved on the Earth and whether or not it might have existed at some time on Mars..

    Because the moon is tidally locked (meaning the same side always faces Earth), it was not until 1959 that the farside was first imaged by the Soviet Luna 3 spacecraft (hence the Russian names for prominent farside features, such as Mare Moscoviense). And what a surprise -­ unlike the widespread maria on the nearside, basaltic volcanism was restricted to a relatively few, smaller regions on the farside, and the battered highlands crust dominated. A different world from what we saw from Earth.

    China’s next lunar mission is scheduled for 2017, when it will attempt to land an unmanned spaceship on the moon before returning to Earth with samples. If successful, that would make China only the third country after the United States and Russia to have carried out such a maneuver.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools

    stem

    STEM Education Coalition

     
  • richardmitnick 2:08 pm on April 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , China,   

    From The Conversation: “Has China’s coal use peaked? Here’s how to read the tea leaves” 

    Conversation
    The Conversation

    April 12, 2016
    Valerie J. Karplus

    As the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, how much coal China is burning is of global interest.

    In March, the country’s National Bureau of Statistics said the tonnage of coal has fallen for the second year in the row. Indeed, there are reports that China will stop construction of new plants, as the country grapples with overcapacity, and efforts to phase out inefficient and outdated coal plants are expected to continue.

    A sustained reduction in coal, the main fuel used to generate electricity in China, will be good news for the local environment and global climate. But it also raises questions: what is driving the drop? And can we expect this nascent trend to continue?

    It appears many of the forces that led coal use to slow down in recent years are here to stay. Nevertheless, uncertainties abound.

    The future of coal in China will depend on economic factors, including whether alternatives are cheaper and whether a return to high oil prices will encourage production of liquid fuels from coal. Also crucial to coal’s future trajectory are the pace of China’s economic growth and the country’s national climate and air pollution policies.

    Overcapacity

    First, let’s consider how certain we are that the rise in China’s coal use has reversed course. Unpacking that requires understanding the context in which the data is produced.

    China’s national energy statistics are subject to ongoing adjustments. The most recent one, in 2014, revised China’s energy use upward, mainly as a result of adjustments to coal use. The revisions follow the Third National Economic Census, which involved a comprehensive survey of energy use and economic activity that better represent the energy use of small- and medium-sized enterprises.

    There is good reason to believe these revised figures better reflect reality, because they help to explain a well-recognized gap between previously published national totals and the sum of provincial energy statistics, and because these regular revisions capture more sources of energy consumption.

    In short, the latest numbers show China is using more coal and energy than previously thought, but the last two years of data suggest China’s coal use may be peaking earlier than expected.

    1
    China’s latest available energy statistics, based on a more thorough accounting of energy use in China, has the country’s coal use, measured in energy terms, plateauing and declining over the past two years. Valerie Karplus. Data: China Statistical Yearbook 2015 and 2014., Author provided.

    Working from the revised numbers, the observed leveling off of China’s coal use may be both real and sustainable. Efforts to eliminate overcapacity of coal and raise energy efficiency in electric power and heavy industries are biting: in 2014, coal use in electric power fell by 7.8 percent year-on-year, while annual growth in coal consumption in manufacturing fell to 1.6 percent from 4 percent in the previous year, according to data from CEIC.

    The drop in coal use is partly due to structural shifts and partly to good fortune. In electric power, a shift to larger, more efficient power plants and industrial boilers, as well as a reduction in operating hours, has reduced overall coal use.

    The contribution of hydro, wind, solar, nuclear and natural gas in the power generation mix also continues to expand. Abundant rainfall in 2014 allowed the contribution of hydroelectric power to total generation to increase significantly as well.

    Also, the government-led war on air pollution is giving new impetus to clean up or shut down the oldest, dirtiest plants, and bring online new plants with air pollution controls in place.

    These trends, as well as slower economic growth that increasingly driven more by domestic consumption and less by expansion of heavy industry, suggest that coal demand is likely to continue leveling off. This is true even though prices for coal are falling because of overcapacity.

    The impending launch of a national carbon market in 2017 will further penalize coal in several sectors that use it intensively. The carbon market will require heavy emitters to either reduce carbon dioxide emissions by using less coal or purchase credits for emissions reductions from other market participants.

    In this scenario, China’s coal is likely to instead be increasingly exported to other energy-hungry nations less focused on air quality and climate concerns.

    A role for oil prices and air pollution policy

    However, there is at least one scenario in which coal use could easily reverse its downward trend: a return to high oil and natural gas prices.

    Globally, oil prices have plummeted in the past two years, while natural gas prices in China are relatively low for domestic users. High prices for oil and natural gas would make it attractive to convert coal into products that can be used in place of oil, natural gas or chemicals.

    China already has facilities for producing these products, often referred to as synthetic fuels. Plans to substantially expand these activities have been postponed or scuttled due to the lack of an economic rationale.

    But a return to high oil and gas prices would give new life to these projects, which even with a modest price on carbon emissions are likely to be economically viable. The scale of existing synthetic fuels capacity is sufficient to reverse the downward trend in coal use, should it become economic to bring it online.

    2
    Solar, wind and hydro are making a bigger contribution to China’s power generation mix but given the country’s huge energy needs, it is too early to say the country’s carbon emissions are going down. Jason Lee/Reuters

    Meanwhile, China’s carbon and air pollution rules are starting to have an impact on coal use, although the ultimate size of any reduction will depend on resources and incentives to implement policies at the local level.

    Under the National Air Pollution Action Plan, three major urban regions on China’s populous east coast face significant pressure to reduce the concentration of ambient particulate matter pollution by 20-25 percent before 2017, while a 10 percent reduction target is set for the nation as a whole. Cleaning up the air will involve mobilizing an enormous number of local actors on the ground, financing technology upgrades, and introducing policies to reduce pollution-intensive fuels through efficiency and substitution.

    Yet coal use reductions are unlikely to follow in lock step with air pollution reductions. Slower economic growth would be expected to reduce energy demand. But reducing the energy intensity of growth – the amount of energy needed to produce a unit of GDP – will likely become harder over time.

    As economic growth slows, localities will be under pressure to expand opportunities for existing businesses and create new ones. If this pressure leads local officials to resort to expanding energy-intensive activities, such as iron and steel, cement, and heavy manufacturing, to boost local GDP, it will become more difficult to continue reducing China’s coal use per unit of economic output.

    Carbon market in 2017

    Whether coal use continues to decline or goes back up has implications for the timing of China’s emissions peak. At the Paris Climate Summit, China pledged to peak its emissions at latest by 2030, meaning emissions of carbon dioxide would start to fall in absolute terms.

    While it is too early to say that China’s carbon dioxide emissions will continue to fall, it is unlikely that they will rise much further even if the country’s economic aspirations are realized.

    The expansion of hydro and other forms of low or zero carbon energy will help. If the challenges of integrating the energy generated from solar and wind – less predictable sources of energy compared to dispatchable sources such as coal and gas – can be solved, renewable energy that is already installed has the potential to displace significant additional coal use as well, while contributing the reduction in air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions.

    So the answer to the question of whether or not China’s coal use has peaked is: perhaps. China’s coal cap of 4.2 billion tons in 2020 is set roughly 7% higher than the 2013 peak, suggesting that even if the decline reverses course, at least use will not rise much higher. (Note that China’s coal cap sets a limit on coal use on a mass basis, while the above figure reports coal use on an energy basis, and is therefore not directly comparable.)

    This is good news because China’s carbon dioxide emissions have already reached levels in line with previously projected peak levels for 2030, prior to the data revisions. So earlier peaks in both coal use and carbon dioxide emissions now look not only desirable, but possible.

    Sustaining a commitment in China to cultivating cleaner forms of energy production and use will be challenging in the current economic headwinds, but the potential benefits to human health are great, especially in the medium to longer term.

    The country’s national carbon market, planned to launch in 2017, is an important step in the right direction. A sufficiently high and stable carbon price could form the cornerstone of a sustained transition away from coal in favor of clean and renewable energy, developments that would be consistent with existing targets and air quality goals.

    Any transition away from coal in China has the potential to help the world curb its carbon dioxide emissions and to improve domestic air quality – something that will allow us all to breathe a little easier.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Conversation US launched as a pilot project in October 2014. It is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public.
    Our team of professional editors work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.
    Access to independent, high quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism underpins a functioning democracy. Our aim is to promote better understanding of current affairs and complex issues. And hopefully allow for a better quality of public discourse and conversation.

     
c
Compose new post
j
Next post/Next comment
k
Previous post/Previous comment
r
Reply
e
Edit
o
Show/Hide comments
t
Go to top
l
Go to login
h
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
Cancel
%d bloggers like this: