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Nanostructured metal-oxide catalyst efficiently converts CO2 to methanol

Nanostructured metal-oxide catalyst efficiently converts CO2 to methanol | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered a new catalytic system for converting carbon dioxide (CO2) to methanol — a key commodity used to create a wide range of industrial chemicals and fuels. With significantly higher activity than other catalysts now in use, the new system could make it easier to get normally unreactive CO2 to participate in these reactions.

 

“Developing an effective catalyst for synthesizing methanol from CO2 could greatly expand the use of this abundant gas as an economical feedstock,” said Brookhaven chemist Jose Rodriguez, who led the research. “It’s even possible to imagine a future in which such catalysts help capture CO2 emitted from methanol-powered combustion engines and fuel cells, and recycling it to synthesize new fuel,” he said.

 

The team was particularly interested in exploring a catalyst composed of copper and ceria (cerium-oxide) nanoparticles, sometimes also mixed with titania. The scientists’ previous studies with such metal-oxide nanoparticle catalysts have demonstrated their exceptional reactivity in a variety of reactions. 

 

Chemical fingerprinting was combined with computational modeling to reveal the most probable progression of intermediates as the reaction from CO2 to methanol proceeded. These studies revealed that the metal component of the catalysts alone could not carry out all the chemical steps necessary for the production of methanol. The most effective binding and activation of CO2 occurred at the interfaces between metal and oxide nanoparticles in the cerium-oxide/copper catalytic system.

 

“The key active sites for the chemical transformations involved atoms from the metal [copper] and oxide [ceria or ceria/titania] phases,” said Jesus Graciani, a chemist from the University of Seville and first author on the paper. The resulting catalyst converts CO2 to methanol more than a thousand times faster than plain copper particles, and almost 90 times faster than a common copper/zinc-oxide catalyst currently in industrial use.

 

Read more here:

http://www.kurzweilai.net/nanostructured-metal-oxide-catalyst-efficiently-converts-co2-to-methanol

 

Research article published in Science here:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6196/546.short


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

The transformation of CO2 into alcohols or other hydrocarbon compounds is challenging because catalysing the formation of carbon-carbon bonds is very difficult. To illustrate, Victor Grignard won the Nobel Prize in 1912 for developing reagents which forms carbon-carbon bonds.


Nonetheless, this technology has vast implications in space exploration and sustainable energy:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Space+Exploration

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Sustainable+Energy

 

On carbon fixation, an artificial leaf devised using real chloroplast is described here: http://sco.lt/7MI8mX

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A Message From The Curator

A Message From The Curator | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it

World of Tomorrow is a collection of articles on the latest scientific discoveries, future technology and space exploration.

 

Images in the cover photo above are:
Solar Roadways http://sco.lt/6e11P7
Freddie Wong donning Glass http://sco.lt/7AZhQ1
Franklin Chang Díaz and Vasimr engine http://sco.lt/5LzScr

 

Please follow my topic and share my scoops if you found the curated articles interesting, and check out the popular tags listed in the post above. I also welcome suggested scoops related to this topic and give credit where credit is due.

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

I teach chemistry at UCSI University, Malaysia and most of my research is centered around phytochemistry.

My research interests can be viewed here:
http://scholar.google.com.my/citations?user=iVv3xbAAAAAJ&hl=en


I manage the Facebook and Google+ pages belonging to the Faculty of Applied Sciences, UCSI University. Curated scoops are shared here:
https://www.facebook.com/Applied.Sciences.UCSI

https://plus.google.com/117901649282247944098/posts

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New technology could power battery-free electric cars within five years

New technology could power battery-free electric cars within five years | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
Australian scientists have developed graphene-based supercapacitors that are so light they can be used to create electric vehicles that are powered by their own body parts, instead of batteries.

 

Electric cars are often touted as the future of sustainable transport, but they're held back by the fact that they require really heavy, slow-releasing batteries to power them - even the top-end Lithium-ion batteries on the market charge extremely slowly and weigh a lot.

 

A far better option would be to use supercapacitors - devices that can release energy in large bursts - but they’re unable to store as much energy as batteries, and so it would take a lot of them in order to power something as big as a car. Scientists have instead been working on ways to combine batteries and supercapacitors in order to make batteries more powerful and lighter in the short-term. But the ultimate goal is to develop a supercapacitor that could also store large amounts of energy.

 

Now nanotechnologists from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia have developed an ultra lightweight supercapacitor that can easily be combined with regular batteries to dramatically boost their power while decreasing their weight - and within five years could eliminate the need for batteries altogether.

 

"Supercapacitors offer a high power output in a short time, meaning a faster acceleration rate of the car and a charging time of just a few minutes, compared to several hours for a standard electric car battery,” said Marco Notarianni, a PhD researcher from QUT who worked on the project, in a press release.

 

"After one full charge this car should be able to run up to 500km - similar to a petrol-powered car and more than double the current limit of an electric car,” saidJinzhang Liu, a materials engineer who also worked on the supercapacitor, in the release.

 

The technology could also have other exciting potential - such as being put on the back of your smart phone to help it charge extremely quickly.

 

Read more here: http://www.sciencealert.com/new-technology-could-power-battery-free-electric-cars-within-five-years

 

Read the associated research article here:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378775314017133

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Recently, electric car company, Tesla has released all its patents in a bid to start the electric car revolution http://sco.lt/8qMOWX

 

This technology would further improve the viability of electric cars.

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Australian scientists have created a tractor beam that can move particles up to 20 cm

Australian scientists have created a tractor beam that can move particles up to 20 cm | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
Physicists have developed the first ever long-distance optical tractor beam, and it can both repel and attract objects.

 

A functional tractor beam, like the kind used in the Star Wars films to pull ships in, is one of those sci-fi technologies that scientists dream about. And scientists from the Australian National University are a step closer to creating one that can both repel and attract objects.


“Demonstration of a large scale laser beam like this is a kind of holy grail for laser physicists,” said Wieslaw Krolikowski, one of the researchers, in a press release. Impressively, their tractor beam entails only one hollow laser beam, which is bright around the edges but dark in its centre, and it can move particles 100 times further than previous experiments.


In fact, it’s the first long-distance optical tractor beam ever created, and it has successfully moved gold-coated glass particles one fifth of a millimetre in diameter a distance of up to 20 centimetres. The technique could be used to help control atmospheric pollution by filtering tiny and delicate particles out of the air and the scientists also believe the tractor beam could be scaled up.


“Because lasers retain their beam quality for such long distances, this could work over metres. Our lab just was not big enough to show it,” said co-author Vladlen Shvedov in the release. Previous tractor beams have been created in water, or have relied on momentum within the photons, or particles of light, to make objects move. But this new method relies on the energy from the laser heating up the particles and the air around them.

 

The research is published in Nature Photonics.

http://www.nature.com/nphoton/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nphoton.2014.242.html

 

Read more here:

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20142110-26371.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

It would still be some time before the tractor beam would be powerful enough to pull anything larger than small particles. The energy required to pull large objects would be immense. Nonetheless, manipulating matter with something that does not have mass is really interesting science.


An article about water based tractor beams have been scooped here:  http://sco.lt/65nqb3

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4D printing creates structures that self-assemble

In the future, manufacturing may get a whole lot easier, with scientists now developing 4D printing technology that allows them to create structures that can actually build themselves.

 

This episode of RiAus’s A Week in Science explains how 4D printing works, and some of its incredible potential.

 

Right now, 3D printing allows us to create highly complex structures using a computer design. However, these parts still need to be put together into a final structure. But 4D printing goes a step further, and prints high-tech materials that, when activated by a substance such as water or heat, assemble themselves.

 

These structures are made by combining plastic and a smart "memory material", which can remember a previous shape and revert back to it under certain conditions, like this amazing shape-shifting paperclip.

 

This means researchers can print flat-pack objects that are easy to ship, but then can assemble themselves on arrival - potentially saving us hours of messing around with Allen keys and cryptic Ikea instructions.

 

Read more here:

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/features/20142410-26386.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Really cool piece of future technology.

 

Check out other cool future technology here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Future+Technology

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Eric Chan Wei Chiang's comment, October 30, 2:17 AM
@Sepp Hasslberger this scoop may interest you.
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Scientists have built the world’s thinnest electric generator - and it’s only one atom wide

Scientists have built the world’s thinnest electric generator - and it’s only one atom wide | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
Researchers have created a graphene-like material that generates electricity every time its stretched, and could power the wearable technology of the future.

 

Scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Columbia Engineering in the US have shown they can generate electricity from a layer of material that’s just one atom thick. The generator is made from molybdenum disulphide (MoS2), which is a clear, flexible and extremely light material that opens up huge possibilities for the future of electricity generation.

 

The new electrical generator is an example of piezoelectricity, or electricity that’s generated from pressure. Piezoelectric materials have huge potential to be used to create materials that can charge devices, such as footwear that powers an iPod. But until now, scientists have struggled to make these materials thin and flexible enough to be practical.

 

However, it’s been predicted that a substance capable of forming single-atom-thick molecules, or two-dimensional layers, would be highly piezoelectric. The scientists tested the piezoelectric response of these flakes by stretching the

 

material, and measuring the flow of electrons into an external circuit. Interestingly, they discovered that when the material had an odd number of layers, it generated electricity when stretched. But when it had an even number of layers, there was no current generated.

A single one-atom-thick layer of the material was able to generate 15 millivolts of electricity when stretched.They also found that as the number of layers increased, the amount of current generated decreased, until eventually the material got too thick and stopped producing any electricity at all.

 

This suggests that they’re a promising candidate for powering nanoelectronics, and could be used to create wearable technologies.

 

Now the scientists have proved that this is the case for the first time ever. Their results have been published in Nature.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature13792.html

 

Read more here: http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20142010-26364.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

This is another great innovation for generating clean energy. Other innovative designs include:

 

Completely transparent solar cells http://sco.lt/8SV8C1

Smartphone charged by sound http://sco.lt/7HVy6r

Last but not least, Solar Roadways! http://sco.lt/6e11P7

 

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This new umbrella creates a force-field of air to protect you from the rain

This new umbrella creates a force-field of air to protect you from the rain | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
Is this the end for awkward and unwieldy umbrellas? Designers in China have teamed up with university students to invent a better kind of umbrella - a device that creates a force-field of air around you to shield you from the rain.

 

Umbrellas are kind of terrible. They’re a pain to carry around with you all day, they turn inside-out in the wind, and it’s a wonder that more eyes aren’t poked out by those protruding metal edges when a crowd of people funnel out of a train station and unfurl them all at once. But how do you make an umbrella less unwieldy, while maintaining the coverage?

 

Over the past two years, a team of designers in China has been working with postgraduate students at the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics to invent a new type of umbrella that works without those spiky, flimsy metal poles. In fact, it doesn’t even need a canopy. Instead, it keeps you dry by creating a ‘force field’ of air that circulates around you. 

 

Dubbed the Air Umbrella, this nifty little hand-held device contains a lithium battery, a motor, and a fan, and together they work to create a continuous cycle of air that flows out from the tip. This air flow is strong enough to constantly deflect rain particles away from the user, and the team says that two people can fit under it comfortably.  

 

They’re working on extending the battery life of all models, but plan to start delivering their products to Kickstarter backers from December 2015. Support their Kickstarter campaign here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1243275397/air-umbrella

 

Read more here: http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20141510-26335.html

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Who says that the Chinese could only copy other people's designs? Granted there are a lot of cases of copyright infringement from within China.

 

More technological advances by the Chinese can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=China

 

Other innovative crowdfunded projects have been scooped here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Crowdfunding

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Bill Gates is building a machine to diagnose nasty diseases

Bill Gates is building a machine to diagnose nasty diseases | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is celebrating 10 years of its Grand Challenges in Global Health program, where it asks scientists to brainstorm solutions to gnarly health problems and then offers grants to the best ideas.

 

On Thursday, he gave an update on a new challenge: “Can you create a new device that quickly diagnoses HIV, TB, malaria, and other diseases… accepts different samples, like blood, saliva, and sputum… is affordable… and reliable… and will work in a small clinic that has only a few hours ofelectricity a day?” he wrote in a blog post.

 

Sounds like something akin to a “Star Trek” tricorder, the handheld device from the sci-fi TV show that analyzed the world. But there’s already a $10 million X Prize challenge for that sponsored by Qualcomm. (That grand prize will be awarded in 2016.)

 

There are five teams working on the challenge, he says. “Today we know that it’s technically possible to build a device and that there are partners ready to help,” he says. But he knows that’s not enough. There are questions such as if these machines can be made affordably enough and if it will do any good to diagnose people in areas where medical treatment is scarce.  But it is Gates’ attitude toward the challenge that is also inspiring.

 

Read more here: http://venturebeat.com/2014/10/09/bill-gates-is-building-a-machine-to-diagnose-nasty-diseases/

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Bill Gates often thread where few others dare. Technology is playing an increasing role in our health

 

ICT is currently used to help Ebola http://sco.lt/5OkxUn

 

Brain scans are providing a less ambiguous way to diagnose mental illnesses http://sco.lt/8xB2Pp

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Sync - Director's cut

Charlie Cooper is a special agent of the future - the mind of a man running entirely on a computer, able to transfer his consciousness to bio-mechanical bodies at will. But when a computer virus corrupts his system, he must face one of his greatest challenges yet: mortality.
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

A really good piece of science fiction. The premise of syncing human consciousness with bio-mechanical bodies may become a reality with the advent of optical computing http://sco.lt/6TyY8f and brain-like data storage devices http://sco.lt/4xTrqT

 

The "technological singularity" highlighted in the film may also be a possible scenario as a supercomputer recently pass the Turing test http://sco.lt/79HlnF

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Giant 3D-printed robot spider sees world through an iPad

You’re looking at a walking, robotic 3D-printed hexapod that can see its terrain and is controlled wirelessly from an iPad.

 

PhD student Matt Bunting from the University of Arizona in the US has built a robotic hexapod as part of an exploration into how computer vision and locomotion can work together.

 

The first iteration of his robot spider was displayed earlier this year at the International Consumer Electronics Show in the US, and he’s now improved the design with 3D printing and a better computer. "I decided to give it a makeover with a 3D printer and I added an Intel Atom-based computer on the top. Then a few weeks ago we converted the computer to run on Intel Edison,”Bunting told Nate Lanxon from Wired UK at the 2014 Maker Faire in Rome this month.

 

Intel Edison is a new low energy, tiny computer - about the size of an SD memory card - designed for use in wearable electronics because it's got Bluetooth and WIFI already built in, but it’s also perfect for Bunting’s spider robot. A USB port in the back of the robot allows him to install computer vision tasks to get it exploring its nearby terrain using its camera vision.

 

Read more here: http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20140510-26286.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

The possibilities of 3D printing are limitless, from food, to bionics and robotics. More scoops here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=3D+Printer

 

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Scientists find quicker, more sustainable way to produce hydrogen fuel

Scientists find quicker, more sustainable way to produce hydrogen fuel | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
A new method will allow researchers to make larger-than-ever quantities of hydrogen from water, and can be powered by renewable energy sources.

 

Chemists from the University of Glasgow in Scotland have just taken a huge step towards producing clean hydrogen fuel in a sustainable way. Unlike fossil fuels, hydrogen gas can be burned to generate electricity without producing toxic emissions. It’s produced easily from water through a process known as electrolysis, which uses electricity to break the bonds between hydrogen and oxygen, to release them as gas.

 

The most advanced method of hydrogen production at the moment is known as proton exchange membrane electrolysers (PEMEs). As a University of Glasgow press release explains: “PEMEs require precious metal catalysts to be held in high-pressure containers and subjected to high densities of electric current, which can be difficult to reliably achieve from fluctuating renewable sources.”

 

This new method, on the other hand, allows larger-than-ever quantities of hydrogen gas to be produced at atmospheric pressure and using lower power loads, such as those generated by renewable power sources. Even more impressive, it also stores the hydrogen in a carbon-free liquid, which solves some of the safety issues which have so far limited the use of hydrogen fuel.

 

It does this by using a “liquid sponge” to lock up the protons and the electrons that have the potential to create hydrogen. The “sponge” is a metal oxide that starts off yellow and then turns blue as it's loaded up with this potential to create hydrogen

 

This new method is 30 times faster than current techniques, and also requires a far lower energy load, so that it can be powered by renewable energy sources such as solar or wind. The process is reported in this week’s edition of Science.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6202/1326.abstract

 

Read more about the technology here:

http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20141209-26169.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

The concept of hydrogen fuel cells has been around for years. However, technical difficulties restrict their use. This study address some of these difficulties to hydrogen fuel more economically viable. 

 

More scoops on new and sustainable energy sources can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Energy+Generation

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Sustainable+Energy

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Jetpack that helps you run faster

What if every soldier could run a four-minute mile? That's the goal behind 4MM, or 4 Minute Mile, a student project to create a wearable jetpack that enhances speed and agility. 

 

Developed by researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) as part of a project called 4MM, this new jetpack is designed to help its wearer run a mile (1.6 km) in four minutes. The project is being run in conjunction with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and aims to develop new technology that helps soldiers on the ground move faster and carry more weight. A faculty mentor, Jason Kerestes is the mastermind behind 4MM. He built a prototype of the jetpack and is now testing and refining his design to be as effective as possible.

 

Thomas Sugar of ASU’s Human Machine Integration Lab had been working on new robot technology that could assist amputees when DARPA asked if he could also develop robots that could help able-bodied people, allowing them to run faster and carry more weight while they were at it.

 

Read more here: http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20141409-26173.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Having a jetpack strapped to your back is staple fodder in science fiction. It is really interesting to see this invention work.

 

More interesting technological developments scooped here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Future+Technology

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China plans world's largest supercollider

China plans world's largest supercollider | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
Chinese scientists are designing a particle-smashing collider so massive it could encircle a city.

 

The underground particle-smashing ring aims to be at least twice the size of the globe's current leading collider - the Large Hadron Collider (CERN) outside Geneva. With a circumference of 80 kilometres, the Chinese accelerator complex would encircle the entire island of Manhattan.

 

A preliminary conceptual design for this leading-edge particle physics laboratory is now being drafted by China's elite sphere of physicists, joined by a circle of Western counterparts. Called the Circular Electron Positron Collider (CEPC), China hopes it will shine as a symbol of the country's rise as a global superpower in terms of pure scientific research.

 

"This machine is by and for the world," explains Professor Gao Jie, one of the leaders of the project at the Institute of High Energy Physics in Beijing. Beijing plans to speedily expand cooperation between China's foremost physicists and their European and American counterparts with the new collider. 

 

The new collider research outpost, situated on the Avenue of Eternal Peace in the centre of Beijing, is aiding in the conceptual design that plans to be submitted to China's top leadership in December, according to Professor Arkani-Hamed, a scholar at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, the one-time home of Albert Einstein.

 

Read more here: 

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/09/china-unveils-world-largest-supercollider-science-physi-2014919131524321817.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

The rise of China in some ways mirrors the rise of other global superpowers during the middle 20th century such as America, Russia and Japan. Other technological advancements of China are scooped here: http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=China

 

Nonetheless, CERN's supercollider is a technological marvel in its own right http://sco.lt/6N5B8j

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New wearable robotic exoskeleton gives you superhuman powers

In this video, Conor Walsh, head of Harvard’s Biodesign Lab, and members of his team explain how the biologically inspired Soft Exosuit targets enhancing the mobility of healthy individuals and restoring the mobility of those with physical disabilities. Made from soft materials and worn from the waist down, the device has been designed to gradually assist the wearer in the movements they’re making, supplementing their natural power by up to 20 percent. 


“You actually don’t really notice that it’s helping you. But as soon as you turn the system off, it makes you instantly feel that your legs are heavy, which shows that your legs have adapted,” says Walsh.


Not only could this suit be used to enhance the movements of soldiers and firefighters, making them faster, more agile, and better able to transport heavy equipment, but it could also be worn by stroke victims to make the slow and painful recovery process easier, and the elderly, to protect them from life-threatening falls and injuries. But don’t worry about your grandma looking like a cyborg - the exoskeleton has been designed to be so lightweight and flexible, it can be worn under clothing. 

 

The suit works by mimicking the action of the leg muscles and tendons when a person walks, with an actuator system giving small, carefully timed assistance at the ankle and hip joints without restricting the wearer’s movement. The breakthrough is in the 'structured functional textiles' that transmit those applied forces all over the body during natural movement. Wearable, flexible sensors integrate into the fabric to gauge the body’s movement and provide support at the right moment.

 

Read more here: http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20141209-26166.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Bionics is a rapidly expanding field. Much of the technology is designed to restore or enhance the functionality of the human body.

 

Other similar technologies have been scooped here:

 http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Bionic

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This giant 3D printer can build houses from mud in the poorest regions

A new Italian company is demonstrating a super-tall, portable machine that will bring 3D-printed dwellings to impoverished countries.

 

Created by Italian 3D printer company WASP, the giant, three-armed printer was demonstrated at Maker Faire Rome last week.

 

While there are already 3D printers out there that can rapidly build houses, this model is unique as it can be assembled on site within two hours, and then filled with mud and fibre to construct extremely cheap dwellings in some of the most remote places on Earth.

 

WASP CEO Massimo Moretti explained to Make:, the magazine that produces the faire, that this allows developers to work more closely with natural forms, rather than the square-shaped block homes that common brick dwellings are made from.

 

The mud that goes inside the printer first needs to be mixed with another natural fibre, such as wool, to help bind it together, creating a grainy paste that can then be squeezed out into the desired shape, sort of as though you were icing a cake.

 

Although they may not look like much, these homes can be up to three metres high, and when dry create a tough and sustainable shelter for people in rural or impoverished areas. Instead of traditional foundations, the ones created by the WASP printer at the Maker Faire Rome used cleverly designed layers of the mud mixture to make the walls strong.

 

Read more here: http://www.sciencealert.com/news/20141510-26336.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Previously, designer Arturo Vittori  created water towers that can pull water out of thin air and provide remote villages with more than 25 gallons of clean drinking water per day http://sco.lt/6vdTN3

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Scientists have invented a brain decoder that could read your inner thoughts

Scientists have invented a brain decoder that could read your inner thoughts | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
Scientists have figured out how to read the words of our inner monologue, a finding that could help people who cannot physically speak to communicate with the world. 

 

Talking to yourself or having mindless internal thoughts is something which most of us can admit to. But imagine if we told you that someone could eavesdrop on your private thoughts? This sounds very creepy, but it's exactly what scientists are working towards achieving. When you hear someone speak, sound waves activate specific neurons that allow the brain to interpret the sounds as words.

 

Now scientists have created an algorithm that does the same thing, but with brain activity instead of sound waves. To learn how to translate people's thoughts, researchers from the University of California in the US looked at the brain activity of seven people undergoing epilepsy surgery. The participants were asked to first read aloud a short piece of text, then read it silently in their head.

 

While they read the text aloud, the team built a personal ‘decoder’ for each patient, by mapping which neurons were reacting to different aspects of speech. They made this map using Electrocorticographic (ECoG) readings of electrodes implanted in the patients. 

 

Once they'd worked out which brain patterns related to which words, they then used their decoder to try to read brain activity during silent reading, and found that it was able to translate several words that the volunteers were thinking.


"Ultimately, if we understand [how to] covert speech well enough, we'll be able to create a medical prosthesis that could help someone who is paralysed, or locked in and can't speak," Pasley said.


The findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroengineering.

http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fneng.2014.00014/full


Read more here: http://mail.sciencealert.com.au/news/20143110-26435.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Previously, two very similar experiment was conducted to learn which brain impulses were used to control an arm. This allowed the control of a robotic arm http://sco.lt/6rxrHd; as well as restore the use of a paralysed arm http://sco.lt/6eA0tF

 

There was also a successful attempt at direct brain to brain communication between different continents http://sco.lt/4kfyS1

 

More scoops on the human brain can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Brain

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This Robo-Snake Learned How to Climb Sand Dunes From Real Snakes

This Robo-Snake Learned How to Climb Sand Dunes From Real Snakes | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
Ever tried to run up a sandy slope? It's not easy— for us, or for robots. But for desert-dwelling snakes, it's a piece of cake (let's hope you've never tried to run up a sandy slope while being chased by a snake). The sidewinding action of rattlesnakes was the biological inspiration for the first snake robot that can climb sand, which you see above.

 

But, perhaps most interestingly, the research ended up being a breakthrough not just in robotics, but in zoology, too.

Daniel Goldman, of Georgia Tech, says that, as his team (he was the zoologist and physicist, Howie Choset was the roboticist) was able to better recreate the movements necessary to get a snake robot to climb sand, they learned about how snakes originally evolved their sidewinding abilities and learned more about the body mechanics that makes snakes such good sand dwellers.

 

"The goal of this study was to learn about the biology of a snake," Goldman, author a new study in Science, told me. "We thought, if we get lucky and find something while studying the snakes that's implementable to make the robot better, well, then we'll do it."

 

But moving like that also expends a lot of energy. Instead, snakes stay lower to the ground, elongating themselves and pushing less of their bodies off the ground. "As the slope became steeper, the snake laid down more body, increasing its purchase on the sand until nearly half the body was in contact," Socha wrote.

 

Armed with that knowledge, Choset and his team were able to modify their own robot, which had previously just been able to sidewind along flat sand, until it was able to make its way up 20-degree slopes.

 

You can imagine some military or rover applications coming out of this in the future: "The Mars rover goes up hills very slowly and very deliberately," Goldman said. "It has no where near the performance of something like this that sidewinds."

 

Watch the video here: http://motherboard.vice.com/en_au/read/this-snake-robot-learned-how-to-climb-sand-dunes-from-real-snakes

 

Read the associated research article from Science here:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/346/6206/224

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Would this technology be implemented in NASA's 2020 Mars Rover mission? http://sco.lt/55r0qn

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So Lockheed Martin Says It's Made a Big Advance in Nuclear Fusion...

So Lockheed Martin Says It's Made a Big Advance in Nuclear Fusion... | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
Making perfect energy isn’t so easy: Companies and government labs have spent 60 years being just a decade away from nuclear fusion.

 

Yesterday, Lockheed Martin joined a long line of companies claiming to be hot on the trail of nuclear fusion, the long-promised savior of our energy economy. Unlike the atom-splitting fission reactions that run our submarines and nuclear power plants, fusion smashes atoms together at high temperatures, creating new particles in a reaction that emits massive amounts of emission-less, radiation-less energy.

 

Lockheed is the latest to join that club, with a new concept for a magnetic confinement fusion reactor—one of the main fusion approaches, along with the laser fusion that the United States’ Lawrence Livermore National Ignition Facility is working on. Because of its small size—projected to fit into a tractor-trailer—Lockheed’s team thinks it can design, build, and test prototypes in year-long increments, so they can iterate to a functional reactor faster.

 

Those successive prototypes will try to solve the central problem of a magnetic confinement fusion reactor: “Plasma confinement is what has plagued all the previous teams,” says Tom McGuire, who is leading the project at Lockheed. Inside a reactor, high temperatures break atoms apart into electrons and ions, forming blazing-hot plasma that needs to be kept from the edges of the reactor. Magnetic fields do the trick, holding the electrically charged ions in place. The plasma heats and heats and heats until those ions fuse, creating new particles, including uncharged neutrons that fly past the magnetic encasement and transfer their energy to the walls of the reactor—energy that’s then used to drive generators.

 

But plasma is finicky, subject to unpredictable ripples that can bubble past that magnetic field at any moment. So far, then, most confinement reactors have used huge, heavy magnets to keep the plasma in check, and that means massive, building-sized reactors. Lockheed’s advance, along with its smaller, testable size, is adaptability. McGuire designed a magnetic container that shifts the strength of its magnetic field to match those plasma ripples. “If we have a perturbation or a ripple that sends it closer to the wall, the magnetic field gets stronger and stronger, so it has the right kind of feedback to keep it stable,” McGuire says.

 

Read more here: www.wired.com/2014/10/lockheed-martin-fusion/

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

This technology has been in development for a very long time. Would it finally be realised? 

 

Other methods for generating clean energy have been scooped here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Sustainable+Energy

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Energy+Generation

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This new battery charges to 70% in two minutes, and lasts for 20 years

This new battery charges to 70% in two minutes, and lasts for 20 years | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
Researchers have developed a groundbreaking new lithium ion battery that charges super quickly and lasts 10 times longer than today’s batteries. It’ll be on the market within two years.

 

Sick of waiting an hour for your phone to charge before you leave the house? Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have come up with the best solution yet - a lithium ion battery that charges to 70 percent in just two minutes. 

 

Even better, it also lasts for 20 years, and will reportedly be available to the public within two years. Rechargeable lithium ion batteries are already common in our mobile phones, tablets and laptops - but most only last around 500 recharge cycles, which is around two to three years of typical use. And at the moment batteries take around two hours to fully charge.

 

The breakthrough came after the scientists replaced the traditional graphite that makes up theanode (the negative pole of the battery) in lithium-ion batteries with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide nanotubes that they created themselves.

 

The new battery drastically improves this process, and will allow you to charge your phone while you look for your keys on the way out the door. It would also help make electric vehicles a more viable alternative to fossil-fuel-powered cars, by reducing battery replacement costs and allowing drivers to recharge their cars in minutes. 

 

“Electric cars will be able to increase their range dramatically, with just five minutes of charging, which is on par with the time needed to pump petrol for current cars,” said Professor Chen Xiaodong who led the study, in a press release. “Equally important, we can now drastically cut down the toxic waste generated by disposed batteries, since our batteries last 10 times longer than the current generation of lithium-ion batteries.”

 

The Singaporean team has published details on how they formed the titanium dioxide gel in Advanced Materials, and have already had the technology licensed to eventually produce the devices. They expect they’ll be on the market within two years. Their research article can be read here: 

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201470238/abstract

 

Read more here:

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20141410-26327.html

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

The Singaporeans are really up an coming with their technological and scientific breakthroughs. Even with their very limited land, they have also developed a way to produce food in vertical urban farms http://sco.lt/9IE1oX. Speaking as a Malaysian, I hope that Malaysia would step up their game. 

 

Previously, a team from Queen Mary University of London developed a new smartphone prototype that can be charged simply by being exposed to ambient sounds such as traffic noise, voices, or loud music http://sco.lt/7HVy6r

 

A similar technology was also developed using nanotechnology. The firm developing the technology claims their battery can be fully charged in 30 seconds http://sco.lt/5mVotV

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Physicists set new records for silicon quantum computing

Physicists set new records for silicon quantum computing | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it

Researchers have developed the first silicon quantum computer building blocks that can process data with more than 99 percent accuracy, overcoming a major hurdle in the race to develop reliable quantum computers.

 

Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have achieved a huge breakthrough in quantum computing - they’ve created two kinds of silicon quantum bit, or qubits, the building blocks that make up any quantum computer, that are more than 99 percent accurate.

 

These quantum bits are made from silicon, the same material that makes up the transistors in today’s computers and phones, but the information in these bits is processed and stored in atoms, which means they’re capable of storing exponentially more information. In fact, if scientists can reliably create a functioning quantum computer out of these quantum bits, it has the potential to be millions of times more powerful than today’s most powerful supercomputers.

 

"We've now come up with two parallel pathways for building a quantum computer in silicon, each of which shows this super accuracy,” said Andrea Morello from the UNSW School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, who led the phosphorous atom team, in the press release.

 

The teams were also able to set a new record for how long a silicon quantum system retains information, known as coherence time. “Coherence time is a measure of how long you can preserve quantum information before it’s lost," said Morello in the press release. And the longer coherence time, the easier it is for computers to perform complex calculations

 

"For quantum computing to become a reality we need to operate the bits with very low error rates," said Andrew Dzurak, the director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility at UNSW, where the devices were made, in a press release.

 

Read more here:

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20141310-26322.html

http://phys.org/news/2014-10-physicists-silicon-quantum.html

 

The associated research article can be read here:

http://www.cqc2t.org/biography/publications?uid=102

 


Via Jocelyn Stoller
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

This technology would complement the highly stable, next-generation nanoscale memory devices developed by scientists from RMIT University in Australia. The device attempt to mimic the memory storage capabilities of the human brain http://sco.lt/4xTrqT

 

Hewlett-Packard recently unveiling its new optical computer and this technology would be on the shelves sooner http://sco.lt/6TyY8f

 

More powerful computers means that an actual artificial intelligence may soon become a reality http://sco.lt/79HlnF

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6 Ways Technology is Helping to Fight Ebola

6 Ways Technology is Helping to Fight Ebola | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
As Ebola continues to ravish Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, people from all around the world are working together to stop the disease. In addition to the life saving work of medical staff, logisticians and community organizers, information and communication technology (ICT) is also playing a vital part in supporting their work. Below are six examples showing how ICT is already making a difference in the current Ebola crisis.

 

1. Tracing outbreaks with mapping and geolocation

 

2. Gathering Ebola information with digital data collection forms

 

3. Connecting the sick with their relatives using local Wi-Fi networks

 

4. Sharing and receiving Ebola information via SMS text messages

 

5. Mythbusting for diaspora communities via social media

 

6. Supporting translations of Ebola information remotely online

 

Read more at http://techchange.org/2014/10/08/ebola-technology-ict/

 

 


Via nrip
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

The spread of Ebola is a worrying trend http://sco.lt/8AK7FJ

which has gotten the attention of President Obama http://sco.lt/6yO8xd

 

WHO statements about the transmission of Ebola and the current status of the outbreak is scooped here: http://sco.lt/6Qpd3p

 

Innovative means of using technology to curb the spread is welcome indeed.

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nrip's curator insight, October 8, 6:23 PM

Adding to this list, my associates and I have built a mobile Ebola diagnosis and data collection prototype. If interested in exploring possible uses of the same for your organization, please drop me a message.

Lauren Silva's curator insight, October 8, 8:06 PM

In an age where social media and technology affects the everyday human often, it is beneficial to view an article that details the benefits of technology in the world. This article doesn't specify how technology may stop ebola, it focuses more on how it can spread awareness, hope and understanding. The article doesn't pretend like the epidemic isn't happening, but instead focuses on the ups of what is. Family members can still communicate, awareness is spread, and information is reached all through technology.

nrip's comment, October 9, 3:36 AM
@Lauren Silva Thanks for your comments
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Scientists have created next generation data storage devices that mimic the memory of the human brain

Scientists have created next generation data storage devices that mimic the memory of the human brain | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
The new technology could revolutionise the way we store data, and take scientists a step closer to creating a bionic brain.

 

Scientists from RMIT University in Australia have built a new nano-device that will act as the platform for next-generation nanoscale memory devices that are highly stable and reliable.

 

There are two types of memory - volatile and non-volatile. Non-voltile memory can access stored memory even when not powered, and at the moment the main non-volatile storage we use is flash memory. While this works well, the technology has reached its scaling limits and it’s getting harder and harder to make devices smaller while storing more memory.

 

But the Australian scientists have now created the platform for revolutionary new nanoscale devices that will allow computers to store significantly more data by mimicking human memory. These stacked structures were created using something called thin film, which is a functional oxide material more than 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.

 

The technology relies on memristors - which is a type of circuit element that technology experts predict will be more powerful than current hard drive technologies, such as Flash, SSD and DRAM. These memristors have the potential to be built into non-volatile solid-state memory, and could also serve as the building blocks for computers that can mimic the actions of the human brain. The newly developed technology is one of the most promising platforms to create these structures, and can be used at room temperature.

 

The researchers described their work in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, and believe their platform could eventually lead not just to better data storage, but also devices that can process the world around them. Read the research article here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adfm.201401278/abstract

 

Read more here:

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20140110-26265.html

 

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Previously, a supercomputer recently passed the Turing test, such advances may really propel us into the age of artificial intelligence http://sco.lt/79HlnF

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Scientists have created the most effective “invisibility cloak” so far, and you can make one for $100

Scientists have created the most effective “invisibility cloak” so far, and you can make one for $100 | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
One of the most promising invisibility cloak devices has been unveiled, along with instructions on how to create it at home.

 

Created by scientists at the University of Rochester in New York, the device can hide large objects from sight using cheap and readily available lenses.

 

“There’ve been many high tech approaches to cloaking and the basic idea behind these is to take light and have it pass around something as if it isn’t there, often using high-tech or exotic materials,” said John Howell, a professor of physics at the University of Rochester in a press release.

 

“This is the first device that we know of that can do three-dimensional, continuously multidirectional cloaking, which works for transmitting rays in the visible spectrum,” graduate student Joseph Choi, who helped develop the technology with Howell, said in the release.

 

Previously, scientists had struggled to hide objects from varying angles, so they would be masked when you looked at them from straight on, but would be visible again when you moved your head. Now this new device has been used to cloak a hand, a face and a ruler from all angles. And the applications are pretty incredible - for example, a doctor could look through the lens and see the organs he was operating on below his hand. They could also let drivers see through their vehicle to their blind spot. Not to mention the fact that it can make you invisible, which is just freaking awesome.

 

The device can also be scaled up depending on the size of the lens, and would allow large objects to be cloaked. It also works for the whole visible spectrum of light, which means there are no limitations to what it can block.

 

Read more here: http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20140110-26264.html

 

Their research article can be read here: http://arxiv.org/abs/1409.4705

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Interesting application of optics. Would be interesting to see how this technology can be applied. The most obvious of which would be illusions for stage shows. 

 

Read more scoops on future technology here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Future+Technology

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Chinese scientists are working on a supersonic submarine

Chinese scientists are working on a supersonic submarine | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it

Researchers in China are reportedly developing a submarine that moves in its own air bubble, reducing drag and allowing it to travel faster than commercial airplanes.

 

Researchers at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China have told the South China Morning Post that they’re working on technology that could allow a submarine to travel the 9,816 km from “Shanghai to San Francisco in 100 minutes”. Currently, the fastest submarines are stuck at speeds of 74 km/h.

 

That impressive feat would require the submarine to travel at a rate faster than the speed of sound, or supersonic speeds, and, in theory, it is possible, by creating an air bubble that the vessel ‘flies’ through, technology known as supercavitation.

 

But, and this is a big but, it’s unlikely the Chinese will be able to move a submarine that fast anytime soon. As Jordan Golson explains for Wired, supercavitation is a proven technology that can definitely speed up submarines. But while, in theory, it’s possible, there are some big obstacles.

 

Who said travel by sea was outdated?

 

Read more about the technology and its hurdles here:

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20142808-26078.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Fans of the Xcom franchise would recognize the image above as a Barracuda, a submersible aircraft featured in Terror from the Deep.

 

Given the technological hurdles, high-speed trains travelling across the Atlantic may be realised sooner  http://sco.lt/8atbZx

 

More of China's recent technological developments have been scooped here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=China

 

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China plans to build a railway from Beijing to the US

China plans to build a railway from Beijing to the US | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
China’s new high-speed rail network will include a 13,000-km underwater tunnel across the Atlantic. 

 

Railway engineering doesn’t get more ambitious than this.  China’s newly unveiled plan to connect the world by high-speed rail includes lines to London, Germany, Turkey, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, but their “express to the US” is the most ambitious part of the project.


If current China’s plans succeed the US-China link will become the world’s longest underwater tunnel. Wang Meng-shu, from the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told Jivanda that the train would travel at 354 km/h (220 mp/h) and the trip would take two days. 

 

Reuters reports that China is already is discussions with Russia. We just hope construction starts soon!

 

Read more here:

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20141305-25511.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

This would open up a lot of economic opportunities. More of China's mega-projects scooped here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=China

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Teenager from India invents device that can convert breath to speech

Teenager from India invents device that can convert breath to speech | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it
A high school student from India has invented a device that can convert a person’s breath into speech.

 

Sixteen-year-old Arsh Shah Dilbagi has developed a new technology called ‘TALK’, which is a cheap and portable device to help people who are physically incapable of speaking express themselves. Right now, 1.4 percent of the world’s population has very limited or no speech, due to conditions such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), locked-in syndrome (LIS), Encephalopathy (SEM), Parkinson’s disease, and paralysis. So that's literally a group of people that could match the entire population of Germany, and all of them unable to speak.

 

Stephen Hawking has a device to help him communicate, but it's extremely expensive, costing several thousand dollars, and is also quite bulky. What Dilbagi has managed to do is invent a device that achieves the same thing, but can be purchased for just $80.

 

The way TALK works is that it’s able to translate the user’s breath into electric signals using a special device called a MEMS Microphone. This technology is composed of a pressure-sensitive diaphragm etched directly into a silicon chip, and an amplifying device to increase the sound of the user’s breath.

 

By expelling two types of breaths into the device, with different intensities and timing, the user is able to spell out words in Morse code. "A microprocessor then interprets the breathes into dots and dashes, converting them into words. The words are then sent to a second microprocessor that synthesises them into voice,” says Whitney Mallett at Motherboard. "The morse code can either be translated into English, or specific commands and phrases. The device features nine different voices varying in age and gender."


Read more here:

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20141509-26176.html


Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Another interesting innovation from Google Science Fair! Previously, 15 year-old Angelo Casimiro invented energy-generating shoes http://sco.lt/6BuQPh

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Windowless Airplane Will Give Passengers High-Res Panoramic Views

Windowless Airplane Will Give Passengers High-Res Panoramic Views | World of Tomorrow | Scoop.it

You don’t need a window for these views. Paris-based design company Technicon Design recently won an award for their IXION Windowless Jet Concept. The idea is to provide a 360-degree view using cameras mounted on the plane’s exterior to capture the scenery and then project that on high-res screen on the interior cabin walls and ceiling.

 

And actually any scene could be displayed on the interior. Let’s say the view is mostly clouds or ocean. How about displaying a rainforest? A flight through the Grand Canyon? A trip to the Moon?

 

Solar panels on the exterior would help power the displays.

 

Removing windows has its advantages, too. It reduces the materials and cost needed as well as reducing the weight of the plane. Not having windows allows for a greater flexibility of the interior design of the aircraft, too.

 

Read more here:

http://mashable.com/2014/08/15/windowless-airplane/

 

Watch the video featuring the windowless jet concept here:

http://vimeo.com/78458486

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

An interesting piece of innovation. Supersonic air travel may also be making a come back http://sco.lt/6gDdeD

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