Spectacular innovations always seem to be right around the corner. This week, we look at concepts that could become commonplace in the next few years, including edible mist, flexible touch screens, LED displays on vehicles and delivery drones. Above: This drone concept from Austrian firmWiGL Design
is aimed at the medical industry, where fast delivery of supplies and even organs can save lives. The drone takes off vertically and then transitions into a glider. A touchscreen offers secure locking and unlocking of contents.
General Motors has laid out the specs for its 2015 Corvette Z06, and the details are impressive. The car's 6.2-liter V8 LT4 engine will roar to life with 650 horsepower and 625 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful car the company has ever built.
Meza/Montemayor/Clarke/Greer at Caltech
A funny thing happens to materials on the nano-scale. Weak metal become strong and brittle materials become flexible. A team of researchers at California Institute of Technology want to capitalize on those traits and build supermaterials from the nanoscale up. Julia Greer and her team are exploring various nanostructures that allow scientists to incorporate hierarchical design into a material's architecture. The results could lead to very strong, lightweight materials or very thin, flexible materials that could be turned into any product you can think of.
Buildings just keep getting taller and taller. UK-based Chetwood Architects just unveiled plans for a pair of towers to be built in Wuhan, China. At 1 kilometer, the Phoenix Towers will be the world’s tallest pair of skyscrapers upon completion.
Charlie Harry Francis
The Edible Mist Machine produces 200 different flavors of mist that can be inhaled through a straw. The device comes from UK-based food inventor, Charlie Harry Francis, who has also created Popcorn Hairdryer, Nitro Ice Cream Buggy, Soup Washing Machine, Whirligig Glow in the Dark Ice Cream and the Olfactic Dog Nose just to name a few. The machine is not yet available for purchase, but can be hired for about US $1,100.
Thin, flexible electronic devices are closer than ever to becoming reality. German engineers at INM have found a way to print conductive nanoparticle ink directly onto thin plastic films. The material stays conductive even when bent, making it ideal for flexible electronics.
Si Hyeong Ryu via 2014 Electrolux Design Lab
Why not make good use of all that exercise? A concept treadmill, called The Wheel, dreamed up of industrial designer Si Hyeong Ryu, lets runners use their kinetic energy to wash clothes. The ring-shaped treadmill has canisters that can be filled with dirty clothes, soap and water. When the jogger runs, the motion spins the canisters, agitating the laundry.
The 2014 Camatte57 from Toyota is a cute little toy roadster meant to give kids an early appreciation for cars. A child can scan in his or her own artwork into a computer and have it displayed on the car's LED hood.
Eindhoven University of Technology
Adding wood fiber to ice makes a material called pykrete, which is three time stronger than pure ice. Who knew? A team of 50 faculty members and students from Eindhoven University of Technology, that's who. They want to use pykrete to build a 1:4 scale model of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia basilica. The 131-ft-high structure will be erected in Finland over a three-week period starting late this December.
Johann Kollegger and Benjamin Kromoser, TU Vienna
Concrete is strong, but forming it into a dome is expensive. Engineers Johann Kollegger and Benjamin Kromoser from the Vienna University of Technology have come up with a construction method that’s cheap and simple: inflating slabs of precisely shaped concrete that join together when they rise up.
A treasure trove of bronze and marble statues, gold jewelry and ancient scientific instruments may be buried in sand, hundreds of feet below the Aegean Sea, and a team of explorers is going after the 2,000-year-old hoard using the most advanced diving suit ever built.
Later this year, scientists and divers plan to explore the so-called Antikythera shipwreck, which settled on the seafloor around 50 B.C. off the coast of Antikythera, a Greek island. The team's secret weapon is a 6.5-foot-tall (2 meters), 530-pound (240 kilograms) metal diving suit equipped with 1.6-horsepower thrusters that can reach the extreme depths where the ship came to rest.
Aside from a brief mission in 1976 led by Jacques Cousteau, the shipwreck has remained undisturbed until now.
The wreck spans an estimated area about 130 feet (40 m) long and 33 feet (10 m) wide, located precariously just west of a steep vertical drop. The first exploration in 1900 almost sent the whole ship tumbling over the edge, said Foley, and some artifacts might have slipped down the trench over time. The team will use the Exosuit, made by the Vancouver-based company Nuytco Research, and other high-tech diving equipment to reach the bottom of the trench, which could be around 400 feet (120 m) deep.
Preparing for the excavation
Before they start unearthing treasures, the team will map the wreck as precisely as possible. An underwater robot with two cameras mounted side by side will roam the murky bottom for a few days and map the wreck in 3D. [The 7 Most Extreme Jobs in Science]
"This is the most important part of the project, actually," Foley said. Without a detailed map of the wreckage, the team risks disturbing delicate artifacts.
Once they have a visual of the area, divers in regular SCUBA gear will plunge down to the wreck with handheld metal detectors and a bag of tiny plastic flags. This part of the mission, Foley said, "is not so high tech." The divers will sweep the wreck site, and every time they get a hit on their metal detector, they'll plant a flag in the sediment. Then, they'll send the robot back to map the flags.
"All we really want to know is roughly where things are, where concentrations of things are, then we can start the excavation," Foley said.
The first diving excavators will be equipped with a closed-circuit rebreathing system that absorbs the carbon dioxide from each exhaled breath and allows the user to breath in the unused oxygen from each breath. The rebreathers will give the divers at least 30 minutes of bottom time. Then the team will bring out the big guns — the Exosuit that allows for virtually unlimited bottom time.
Reaching the bottom
Pieces of the Antikythera shipwreck could be hidden at depths of 400 feet (120 m). The sponge divers in 1900 could only reach depths of about 150 feet (50 m) and could only stay below the water's surface for a few minutes at a time. In contrast, a diver in the Exosuit can safely reach up to 1,000 feet (300 m) and can potentially stay submerged for up to 50 hours; a cable connecting the suit to the surface cycles out carbon dioxide and filters in new oxygen.
The suit also protects against decompression sickness, or "the bends." Divers, and even some sea creatures, get the bends when they swim to the surface too quickly and the rapid change in water pressure creates nitrogen bubbles in the blood. Divers using the rebreathers can only spend 30 minutes below, because it takes them about an hour and a half to resurface to ensure their bodies have time to adjust to the pressure change.
Here, the Exosuit again has an advantage. Operators on the ship can haul the user up to the surface in just two or three minutes since the wearer will not feel any pressure change in the metal suit.
The high-tech suit also offers advantages over remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). Unmanned ROVs commonly used to explore shipwrecks can't collect the delicate corroded artifacts that a diver can, and the Exosuit is equipped with claws for hands that will allow the wearer to sift through sediment and grasp any unearthed treasures.
"If we find what we think we're going to find, we're expecting this to turn into a five-year project," Foley said.
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