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Citizen Science Project Develops Nanotube Filtration Systems For Clean Water

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Researchers at Tsinghua University and Tel Aviv University developed a framework for a new nanotechnology-based strategy to improve water filtration.

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The project, called Computing for Clean Water, was led by Prof. Quanshui Zheng of the Tsinghua Center for Nano and Micro Mechanics and Prof. Michael Urbakh of the Tel Aviv University School of Chemistry, in collaboration with Prof. Francois Grey of the University of Geneva.

More Efficient and Less Expensive Water Filters

ibm-nanotubesThe results of the project, published in Nature Nanotechnology with the title “Water transport inside carbon nanotubes mediated by phonon-induced oscillating friction,” show that carbon nanotubes can be used to make water filters that are more efficient and less expensive. Carbon nanotubes are made of single-atom-thick sheets of carbon atoms rolled up into tiny tubes, with diameters of just a few nanometers – one ten-thousandth the diameter of a human hair. The size of the tubes allows water molecules to pass through, but blocks larger pathogens and contaminants, purifying the water.

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The scientists demonstrated that, under suitable conditions, water can pass through nanotubes much more easily than previously predicted. The research result could permit developing techniques to improve access to clean water through more efficient water filtration and desalination, which is very important because billions of people in the developing world don’t have access to clean water for drinking and hygiene. There are possible applications in clean energy and medicine as well.

The researchers carried out extensive computer simulation of the flow of water through nanotubes to demonstrate that water transport can be enhanced, and sanitation and desalination improved, by appropriately exploiting phonon oscillations – vibrations of water-carrying nanotubes. Under the right conditions, such vibrations produce a 300 percent improvement in the rate of water diffusion.

Prof. Urbakh said:

With these oscillations, we witnessed three times the efficiency of water transport, and, of course, a great deal of energy saved.

Citizen Scientists Play an Important role in Scientific Breakthroughs

Since the required simulations are very computing intensive, the researchers enlisted the help of over 150,000 volunteer citizen scientists, who contributed their own computing power to the research via the World Community Grid, an IBM initiative that enables participants to donate their unused computing power to advance cutting-edge scientific research on topics related to health, poverty and sustainability.

“We could never have managed with just four students in the lab,” said Prof. Urbakh. “We would have required the equivalent of nearly 40,000 years of processing power on a single computer. Instead we had the benefit of some 150,000 computing volunteers from all around the world, who downloaded and ran the project on their laptops and desktop computers.”

Prof. Grey, who also manages the Citizen Cyberscience Centre established by CERN, the UN Institute for Training and Research and the University of Geneva, commented on the broader significance of this result:

Computing for Clean Water and similar volunteer computing initiatives are playing an increasingly important role in major scientific computing breakthroughs, ranging from drug discovery and climate modeling to epidemiology and particle physics research.

He added that the range of research questions that can benefit from public participation is growing all the time, in step with the power of personal computing.

Images from IBM and Shutterstock.

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  1. dinoo

    July 7, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    Would be interesting to hear what exactly is the new finding now. Nature wrote in 2004 about nanotubes for water filters and recently I got phone calls from the first vendors of ready for market water filters based on nanotube technology.

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Bitcoin

Valuing Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Applications

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Arguably the most interesting financial trend of 2017 is the spreading of cryptocurrencies, especially in the Ethereum ecosystem. With the ICO boom of this year, a lot of different business models have been connected to tokens or blockchains of their own. This brings up several questions in the mind value-conscious investors, as given the special properties of these coins, and especially considering the various distribution and usage schemes of the tokens, valuing them is tricky, to say the least.

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Whether or not we are in a bubble currently is a layered question, as we are definitely in a huge speculative wave that will end badly for several coins, but the segment is in the early phase of adoption, and the market as a whole will likely multiply in the coming years.

As I concluded in my comparison with the Dot-Com bubble, selective investing in the ICO-boom is vital for long-term investors. To make things more complicated, traditional valuation models generally fail with cryptocurrencies, because of the hybrid stock-commodity properties of them and the novelty of the technology, coupled with the questions regarding the future usage patterns.

Is it possible to set up a framework to analyze all the different business models and value the connected coins? Or is it possible to, at least, determine hard guidelines to follow when selecting the coins to hold or forget? I will answer that question below and in the coming second part of the article.

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Analysis

ICO Analysis: EOS

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EOS.IO software by block.one wants to “Decentralize Everything”. Mr. Larimer has already put two notable blockchain systems live: BitShares and Steem. Both of these systems remain online and recently benefited from increased interest in the crypto-asset space in general. To this date, EOS has raised $200 million in revenue from token sales.

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Brock Pierce, co-founder of block.one, told Reuters that EOS is designed to be a foundation for blockchain business applications. Attendees heard a lot about EOS at last month’s Consensus conference put on by Coin Desk. Block.one claims its platform has eliminated transaction fees and can process millions of transactions per second.

The startup, which recently started selling the EOS token to create a decentralized distribution of tokens to be used with the EOS.IO software has introduced the concept of automating business processes, monitoring assets, and creating multiple applications based on prior technology introduced by Mr. Larimer, who is the inventor of the “Proof of Stake” and the “Decentralized Autonomous Corporations” concepts.

According to its website,

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(…) block.one provides end-to-end solutions to bring businesses onto the blockchain from strategic planning to product deployment.

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Blockchain

Token Analysis: Is NEO (Formerly Antshares) ‘China’s Ethereum’?

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NEO has been called “China’s Ethereum”. The Western market first collectively learned about Antshares, a smart contract and decentralized application (dApp) platform, just ahead of the company’s rebrand to ‘NEO’ – which is Greek for “newness”, novelty and youth. That merely one exchange offers bitcoin-NEO trades has led to a bottleneck in supply. Prices skyrocketed in the weeks ahead of the rebrand. Antshares’ ICO was in the fall of 2016.

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NEO development began in 2014 and the blockchain-startup ONCHAIN is overseeing its enterprise version. Already the platform offers more languages than Ethereum supports. NEO’s partners include crowdfunding platform WINGS and multinational technology corporation Microsoft. Reports last year of a partnership between Alibaba and the former AntShares were false, though the companies have worked together.

NEO’s collaboration with Wings is for research and development purposes. With Ali Cloud and ONCHAIN, NEO is working on a proof of existence e-mail repository.

That NEO representatives seemingly have the okay from the government – having attended a government-sponsored industry conference – could bode well for the blockchain project. As ONCHAIN’s CEO, and Antshares founder, Da Hogfei, tweeted:

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NEO Price History as Antcoin

The token price, still trading under its former ticker ‘ANC’ or ‘ANS’ across the web on this article’s publish date, and until the rebrand is complete in the third quarter of 2017, skyrocketed particularly from June 19-20. The platform increased from $1.65 on June 15 to $10 at the time of writing on June 20. It then corrected and currently sits at just shy of $7, according to CoinMarketCap. Antshares’ all-time high sits at $11.79.

The decentralized smart contract platform’s first price history, according to CoinMarket Cap, started this past fall. The project’s native token started trading at a price of 55 cents before settling between approximately 10 cents and 30 cents. ANC trended south until the end of October 2016, when it reached a nadir of 8 cents. The price then skyrocketed to 31 cents. After a quick price increase, the price drifted downwards until March 2017 when it, along with much of the crypto-asset complex, increased in value.

Per the rebrand, not only does Antshares become NEO, but Antcoin (ANC) becomes ‘GAS’. “So, it is no longer a ‘dividend interest’ sort of asset, but a utility sub-token for network functionalities,” a NEO community member told Hacked.com.

Under the Hood

NEO smart contracts are based on NEO’s Virtual Machine, which is similar to Ethereum’s Virtual Machine. NEO plans to soon release its “Smart Economy” platform, which has also been termed “Smart Contracts 2.0”.

NEO is designed to solve the same problems as Ethereum. NEO’s incorporation of sharding and concurrency in its computer science model solves scalability problems. Ethereum has yet to make such changes to better scale that smart contract and dApp platform.

NEO

Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance

By using Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance (dBFT) for its blockchain operations – a consensus method proponents claim offers better security for blockchains – NEO places itself in the company of the well-known blockchain project Hyperledger, and the lesser-known Stellar. “Specialized bookkeeping nodes” reach consensus via “delegated voting” per NEO’s dBFT model. It takes a two-thirds vote for approval of a current copy of a blockchain.

“After investigating and studying the crypto-industry and blockchain technologies for several years, we came to the conclusion that the delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance alternative (or dBFT) is best suited for such a system,” Erik Iz, co-founder and core developer at Antshares, stated on BitcoinTalk. “It provides swift transaction verification times, de-incentivises most attack vectors and upholds a single blockchain version with no risk of forks or alternative blockchain records emerging – regardless of how much computing power, or coins an attacker possesses.”

Nest Smart Fund

With the rebrand in NEO’s past, the team is looking forward to expanding its western-focused marketing efforts, a NEO community member told Hacked.com. Moreover, it’s partnered on a “do over” for the cryptocurrency community.

“Nest is a whole new form of smart fund written in Antshares smart contracts,” writes NEO about its new ‘DAO’ style fund called Nest Fund, which uses NEO smart contract technology.

The DAO, or ‘decentralized autonomous organization’, had set out to become a decentralized venture capital fund based on Ethereum’s smart contract code. It failed.

NEO adds about its attempt at a similar fund: “Nest aims to, with the power of blockchain, eliminate and neutralize problems like high threshold, high risk, low efficiency and moral risks. Participants invest, manage and exit with smart contracts instead of application to certain organizations. Antshares’ Blockchain enables everyone to join the Nest, with a 0 threshold and 100% transparency, with a safe and free exit option at any given time.”

For a cryptocurrency community that likes to be right – they told you so about Bitcoin, after all – Nest could garner serious interest for users looking to make a point, and prove the ideas behind crypto right.

Numerous Blockchain Products

Nest Fund isn’t the only blockchain-based service or product offered by NEO. Other than its parent, ONCHAIN, NEO leads projects including blockchain-based browsers,  a web-based crypto-asset wallet, as well as an online crowdfunding fund that is not the aforementioned Nest. The team also partnered with Microsoft Azure to bring blockchain technology to the server experience. This project is similar to partnerships pioneered by Azure in the west.

NEO, Microsoft Azure servers

The Verdict

Antshares is available on just five exchanges currently, and that limits the amount of buying demand for ANC. Just a single exchange buys and sells ANC for Bitcoin. Now, as many westerners learn of NEO for the first time, the demand will only increase.

But a lack of information available in English about NEO could slow demand. When NEO’s implementation of blockchain technology receives increasing press in the English-speaking world – and it likely will considering its corporate partners – there could be further price implications. The crypto-asset is currently the 23rd largest, according to Coin Market Cap. On CoinCap.io, it is the 21st largest.

Only time will tell with NEO, but there are lots of intriguing projects in the works at the blockchain company, including authentication work with Chinese authorities to map real-world assets with smart contracts. The company also has numerous patents, including ones for cross-chain interoperability. It’s partnered with numerous blockchain projects, like Bancor, Agrello, Coindash and Binance.

Due to NEO’s corporate partners –  among whom are included Microsoft, etc. –  and its under the radar Ethereum-esque functionality, we give the project a 7.75 out of 10. 

Token Details

In order to use the new version of the platform, NEO, Antshares users do not need to do anything other than download the new client/app when it is ready later this year. ‘ANC’ becomes ‘NEO’, and ‘ANC’ becomes ‘GAS’.

ANC – as it is still currently referred to throughout much of the digital asset realm until the rebrand to ‘GAS’ is completed – can be purchased on the western-facing digital asset exchange Bittrex. In the east, the asset can be found at exchanges Yunbi, Yuanbao, Jubi, and 19800.

Featured image from NEO company presentation

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