Tag: innovation

New Ink-Remover May Be Key to Recycling Office Paper

By Brett Israel | October 27, 2009 12:28 pm

copy-machine-webKindles, iPhones, laptops, and maybe an Apple Tablet make avoiding the printer a cinch. However, should someone actually need to read off dead trees, a new method to remove ink from white paper could make office paper far easier to reuse. All it takes is a solution of 60 percent dimethylsulphoxide and 40 percent chloroform and a little agitation to shake off the ink, and used paper will be almost as good as new, according to a new study.

From Physorg.com:

[Researchers] found that a combination of solvents can remove toner print from paper without harming the paper to make it reusable, although the resulting paper is not quite as white as new paper.

Physorg.com also has a an image of the comparisons between printing on paper treated with chemical solutions versus printing on a fresh sheet.

It’s hard to imaging any office keeping a wet lab and actually doing this, and sloshing through all that solvent can’t be very safe or economical. So here’s an alternative idea: Just stop printing altogether and read things digitally like everyone else.

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Image: flickr / michaelkpate

MORE ABOUT: environment, innovation

Color-Changing Solar Tiles Will Blow Your Mind, Heat Your House

By Boonsri Dickinson | October 9, 2009 2:05 pm

roofU.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu thinks one solution to the energy debate is obvious: turn all the roofs in the U.S. white. It’s true that doing so would result in major energy savings. But even if white roofs became standard tomorrow, it would take 20 years before the energy savings equaled the greenhouse emissions we produce annually.

Plus, not everyone would benefit, particularly in places where it gets so bitterly cold that having white roofs in the winter would cancel the energy savings made in the summertime.

Fortunately, MIT graduates have created a solution: color changing roof tiles that adjust to the temperature of the season. The tiles turn white when it’s hot outside (or when the tile is 80 percent covered by sunlight), and black when it’s cold (or when 30 percent or less is covered by sunlight).

MIT’s Web site reports:

[The tiles] use a common commercial polymer (in one version, one that is commonly used in hair gels) in a water solution. That solution is encapsulated—between layers of glass and plastic in their original prototype, and between flexible plastic layers in their latest version—with a dark layer at the back.

When the temperature is below a certain level (which they can choose by varying the exact formulation), the polymer stays dissolved, and the black backing shows through, absorbing the sun’s heat. But when the temperature climbs, the polymer condenses to form tiny droplets, whose small sizes scatter light and thus produce a white surface, reflecting the sun’s heat.

In the future, color-changing tiles won’t be your only option for reducing energy consumption: You might also be able to grow vegetables on your roof, or even use solar panel shingles to heat your house.

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Image: MIT

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

Conservation and Boozing Collide: Turning Rainwater Into Beer

By Brett Israel | September 30, 2009 12:45 pm

Atlanta was hit hard with heavy rains and severe flooding last week. But for a part of the country that was in such a deep drought the governor resorted to praying for rain, it makes sense that the good citizens of the ATL aren’t letting this newfound water go to waste. In fact, the conservationists at 5 Seasons Brewing Company in Atlanta are using their collected rainwater to make beer.

From The Huffington Post:

The local brewery uses 100% filtered rainwater that’s captured on-site to create their “green beer” (not to be confused with the St. Patrick’s Day type). The brewers believe that rainwater is cleaner and softer than city water, which makes their beer even better.

And here’s the video, from CNN:

Embedded video from CNN Video

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Image: flickr / brendan.wood

"Levitating" Transporter Pods: The Cars of the Future?

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 22, 2009 10:16 am

SkyTran station - mountain webMeet SkyTran, a proposed rapid transportation system that uses computer-controlled vehicles that use magnets to “levitate” from their rails. A passenger would enter a pod, type in where he or she wants to go, and the computer system would do the navigating (and driving). The pods would carry up to three people and travel up to 150 mph. The system would be computerized to deploy the pods to crowded areas, and smart enough to re-route to avoid traffic jams.

Discovery Channel reports:

The pods are designed to hang beneath an elevated guideway. They are propelled by the interaction of electromagnetic fields. Unimodal expects the pods to eventually be capable of traveling at speeds of up to 150 mph.

The California based company that came up with the design, Unimodal Systems, wants to make SkyTran a reality. According to their Web site:

The internet allows more throughput and better connectivity than the circuit switching method of the classic telephone network. SkyTran does the exact same thing for transportation – individually switched SkyTran vehicles rather than single-destination trains.

First, the company would like to build the systems in crowded areas like airports or downtown. The next step would be to hook the pods up with public transportation systems like San Fran’s BART. And ultimately, the company plans to break into the consumer market and reduce our reliance on cars.

Anyone curious about how the system would look can check it out when it goes on display in NASA Research Park at Ames (sometime in the near future).

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Images: SkyTran

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

Did You Leave the Stove On? The "Smart House" Will Tell You

By Allison Bond | September 3, 2009 5:26 pm

it’s a houseWho hasn’t left the house in the morning, only to wonder if the stove is still turned on? Thanks to a new “smart home” that’s in development, you may be able to kiss those fears goodbye.

Sensors in the home monitor an inhabitant’s daily habits, such as when he or she turns on the oven or the lights. That way, if an appliance is accidentally left on, the house’s “brain” can recognize the mistake and turn it off.

New Scientist reports:

To maintain a resident’s sense of privacy Casas [the computer system that analyzes the sensors’ output] works without cameras, RFID chips or microphones. Instead less “invasive” sensors that detect motion, temperature, light, humidity, water, door contact and the use of key items, such as opening a bottle of medication or switching on the toaster. “We don’t want to give residents the feeling that Big Brother is watching them,” says [researcher Parisa] Rashidi.

Rashidi came up with three algorithms to put the information collected by the sensors to use. One detects patterns of events, such as switching on the light before or after turning the microwave on. Another maps where the inhabitant usually walks throughout the house, and the third correlates certain events with the time of day these tasks generally are performed.

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Image: flickr / pnwra

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

Can a Bolt of Lightning Create New Transplant Organs?

By Boonsri Dickinson | August 26, 2009 11:50 am

lightning.jpgGrowing artificial organs has been easy—it’s figuring out a way to supply blood to them that’s the hard part. Scientists have been trying to make blood vessels the same way they created synthetic computer chips. But producing artificial channels this way can be costly and inefficient. Enter Texas A&M University researchers, who have figured out a way to use lightning bolts to create channels that look a lot like our circulatory system.

The Discovery Channel reports:

The artificial organs begin as clear blocks of biodegradable plastic about the size of an inch-thick stack of Post-It notes. An electron beam fills the block with electricity, then the scientists drive nails into either end of the plastic block.

While the pattern displayed in the plastic block is not even close to being an actual working blood vessel, it’s an impressive start. Someday, the researchers hope this plastic tunnel system can help grow implant cells that will mature into a fully-implantable organ.

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Image: flickr/ adijr

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: innovation, medicine, organs

Teflon: Coats Your Pans, Saves Your Life

By Allison Bond | August 18, 2009 11:32 am

teflonThe non-stick coating that coats cookware like frying pans, known as Teflon, has a new purpose: Repairing a faulty windpipe.

A British physician used Teflon to repair a 70-year-old woman’s collapsed windpipe in the first procedure of its kind—although he’d also previously used Goretex, a waterproof fabric, to do the same thing. The Telegraph reports:

[Surgery patient] Mrs Butterwick, a former hotline operator… said she was amazed when she heard medics would use the substance in the procedure.

She said: “I said to doctors, but I just want to be able to breathe again, I don’t need to cook a full English on my windpipe.”

The three-hour operation seems to have put an end to Mrs. Butterwick’s 30-year cough, which was due to a condition known as Flat Trachea Syndrome.

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Image: flickr / Yogi

Carve a New Femur: Bone Implants Created from Wood

By Boonsri Dickinson | August 13, 2009 10:25 am

bone.jpgBone implants are typically made of metal or ceramic materials made of aluminum oxide or zirconium oxide. However, when these implants are actually implanted into the body, they can lead to a serious  problem—when the bone tries to grow into the implant, it may cause more bone breaks than it prevents.

Now, Italian scientists have developed a way to make artificial bone from wood— red oak, rattan, and sipo to be exact. The process involves heating a block of wood until turns into charcoal, then spraying it with calcium. Then the wood is processed until it is ready to be shaped into any sized bone you require.

This wood-derived bone would heal faster and be more secure than the implants used today. Discovery Channel reports:

“Our purpose is to convert native wood structures into bioactive, inorganic compounds destined to substitute portions of bone,” said Anna Tampieri, a scientist at the Instituto Di Scienza E Techologia Dei Materiali Ceramici in Italy.

The price tag for one bone implant would be $850—not bad considering the cost of continually treating more broken bones. Though keep in mind, these implants have only worked in sheep so far. The developers have many more to try out on other large animals before this idea makes its way into hospitals.

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Image: flickr/ cleema

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: bones, innovation, medicine

Miracle for Women? New Vaginal Gel Blocks HIV

By Boonsri Dickinson | August 11, 2009 1:58 pm

condom1.jpgCondoms are effective at preventing HIV infection, but they are not foolproof: They can break, be used ineffectively, or not be used at all. Now, University of Utah scientists are developing a “molecular condom” gel that could help women eliminate (or, at least, reduce)  the remaining and persistent risk of HIV infection.

The gel would be inserted into the vagina, and would turn semisolid when semen touches it, responding to pH levels in the vaginal tissues and forming a mesh of cross-linked polymers to trap the virus. It might also prevent other STDs like herpes and HPV, and even act as a means of birth control. All a woman would need to do is insert the gel a few hours before sex. Science Daily reports:

“The first step in the complicated process of HIV infection in a woman is the virus diffusing from semen to vaginal tissue. We want to stop that first step,” says Patrick Kiser, an associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Utah’s College of Engineering. “We have created the first vaginal gel designed to prevent movement of the AIDS virus. This is unique. There’s nothing like it.”

With infection in women soaring as high as 60 percent in areas like sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia, the power to wear condoms ultimately rests in the hands of their partners. This new gel could potentially give the women more control over their own infection rates.

Clinical trials will begins in a few years—and while we’ll remain hopeful, it’s hard to forget the disappointing path that other microbicides trials have taken, by not preventing HIV and even increasing the risk of its transmission.

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Image: flickr/ chi cowboy

Could Potholes Power Your Honda?

By Melissa Lafsky | July 9, 2009 4:33 pm

potholeWe need to figure out a way (besides oil) to fuel cars. This is not news. What is news is the innovative thinking currently being focused on solving this problem. Today’s example is a group of M.I.T. undergrads, who had the idea of harnessing the shock of hitting potholes as an energy source. Sci Am reports:

When a car’s wheel hits a hole or bump, a standard shock absorber disperses the impact energy through hydraulic fluid and moves a piston. In the M.I.T. design, the fluid is instead forced through a small turbine attached to a generator. The generator, powered by the compressions, can recharge batteries or power the vehicle’s electrical equipment. The students say that for heavy vehicles such as Hummers, the system can boost fuel efficiency from 2 to 10 percent, depending on the terrain. They have formed Levant Power Corporation to commercialize a product they are calling GenShock. Right now they are tailoring GenShock for U.S. Army vehicles and big-rig trucks, but it could possibly be adapted for passenger vehicles.

Will it work? Remains to be seen. But either way, it’s still better than ethanol.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
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