This week, we present a host of tech meant to save people and perhaps save the planet.
Carbon nanofibers are grown in labs under extreme conditions, namely inside a vacuum chamber filled with ammonia gas and heated to 700 degrees Celsius. This week, researchers from North Carolina State University demonstrated that they could grow vertically aligned carbon nanofibers without ammonia and using ambient air. The advance will make the process cheaper and safer. The nanofibers could one day be used like wires to power tiny electronics.
Deserts are taking over the planet. The UN estimates that more than 1 billion people in some 100 countries are threatened by desertification, which consumes more than 46,000 square miles of arable land each year. The Green Machine concept, designed byMalka Architecture
and Yachar Bouhaya Architecture for the Venice Biennale, is a rocket platform that would be commissioned as a mobile oasis to roam over drylands and plant seeds.
Giant balloons would capture water condensation from the air, while the treads would inject seeds, fertilizer and water into the ground. Power would come from solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable energy sources. Enough electricity could be generated to support a small community. The architects are working on a project to address desertification on the Moroccan side of the Sahara Desert.
Francisco Meseguer, UPV/CSIC
Most solar cells convert the visible part of the sun's spectrum into electricity. But the infrared part of the spectrum remains elusive. Now researchers in Spain have created photovoltaic spheres just a micrometer or two across that trap infrared light until it's absorbed by the silicon and turned into electricity. That could improve the efficiency of solar power and make solar panels more cost effective.
Qiu Song, Kang Pengfei, Bai Ying, Ren Nuoya, Guo Shen via eVolo
This year's eVolo Skyscraper Competition churned out an amazing list of futuristic architecture. Take this piece from Chinese designers Qiu Song, Kang Pengfei, Bai Ying, Ren Nuoya and Guo Shen, who won honorable mention for their Sand Babel Tower. The twisting structure is built from sand using a 3-D printing manufacturing process and it's powered by the sun.
For those of us who still have cassette tapes collecting dust in closets, it's a little hard to believe that CDs and DVDs are about to join them. Instead of packing them into a box, though, one group of artists in Bulgaria turned them into a work of art. Mirror Culture is a curtain of 6,000 optical discs strung up over the entrance to the Sea Garden public park in Varna. Borislav Ignatov of Ignatov Architects, lead the project and describes it as a "literal reflection and recording of our time.”
The most powerful winds are located higher in the sky than land-based wind turbines can reach. That's why Altaeros Energies is sending an inflatable, high-altitude floating wind turbine 300 meters over the skies of Fairbanks, Alaska. The Buoyant Airborne Turbine is a helium-filled ring with a wind turbine suspended inside. It has a power capacity of 30 kilowatts and will create enough energy to power about 12 homes.
These sculptures look like giant wicker baskets but they're actually water harvesting structures that can turn atmospheric water vapor into more than 25 gallons of potable water per day. The WarkaWater, designed by Arturo Vittori and inspired by the Warka tree, could hydrate the more than than 750 million people around the world that do not have access to safe drinking water.
The structure has two layers: an external semi-rigid exoskeleton built from juncus or bamboo and an internal plastic mesh. Dew forms on the mesh and then drips into a basin at the base. Each tower costs about $550 and can be built in less than a week. Vittori is currently looking for financing to build two WarkaTowers in Ethiopia by 2015.
ETH Zurch and NCCR Robotics
A new competition, the Cybathlon, is being organized for people with disabilities that use advanced assistive devices, including robotic technologies. The event, conceived of by ETH Zurich and the Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics, will take place in 2016 and be comprised of different disciplines that apply the most modern powered knee prostheses, wearable arm prostheses, powered exoskeletons, powered wheelchairs, electrically stimulated muscles and novel brain-computer interfaces.
This autonomous airship is being developed to carry out long endurance missions 12 miles above the Earth’s surface. Designed by French-Italian aerospace company Thales Alenia Space, alongside Airbus Defense & Space, Zodiac Marine, and CEA-Liten, the rigid blimplike aircraft will work something like a satellite, conducting observations, maintaining security as well as improving telecommunications and broadcasting signals.
Although door handles are one of the filthiest surfaces in a building, I can never bring myself to use a piece of paper towel to grab a handle after washing my hands in a restroom, for example. It’s just a tad more neurotic than I care to be.
However, I would totally use the PullClean. Designed by British design studio Agency of Design, it’s a concept that customizes door handles to dispense hand sanitizer. Therefore, reluctant folks like myself and those who skip hand washing altogether have no excuse not to disinfect.
The PullClean’s clever approach is designed to look like a nondescript handle, but a blue section at the bottom pumps out hand sanitizer. While the device could easily be ignored, it’s equipped with Count Clean software that not only monitors how often people sanitize their hands, but also how much sanitizer is in the handle. That way, staff knows when more sanitizer is needed and how often people are using PullClean.
Agency of Design began trials of the device in U.S. hospitals and are already seeing rates of hand sanitizing jumping from 22 percent to 77 percent. That’s pretty impressive, especially considering the Center For Disease Control estimates that 1 in 25 hospital patients get a staph infection during their stay.
PullClean could hit the market later this year and sell for $200. Until then, check out the following video of the device and for the sake of us all, wash your hands.
Credit: Agency of Design