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Could a mixture of water and clay replace plastics? The desire to wean the world off oil has sparked all manner of research into novel transportation fuels, but manufacturing plastics uses large amounts of oil too. Researchers at the University of Tokyo, Japan, think their material could be up to the task.
Takuzo Aida and his team mixed a few grams of clay with 100 grams of water in the presence of tiny quantities of a thickening agent called sodium polyacrylate and an organic “molecular glue”. The thickening agent teases apart the clay into thin sheets, increasing its surface area and allowing the glue to get a better hold on it.
This means that, while the mixture is almost 98 per cent water, it forms a transparent and elastic hydrogel with sufficient mechanical strength to make a 3.5-centimetre-wide self-standing bridge.
Link and words from newscientist.com, photo by Takuzo Aida and Nature.
Possible future communication devices:
Telecom shops already seem to be growing phones in infinite variations. Nonetheless, students of the University of Dundee managed to find an original twist by creating a series of extremely specialized phones that communicate music, communicate nearness, or give you a massage when you get a message. I especially like the ‘tribal’ design of the series of devices. Although the wood style is somewhat illustrative, it is well chosen to provoke a debate about the tribal communication technology penetrating our everyday lives.
When a disaster strikes, it’s often difficult to get shelters up in time for displaced residents. Enter Concrete Canvas’s new Concrete Cloth, a durable waterproof building material made of cement sandwiched between fabric. The cloth, which won Material ConneXion’s Material of the Year 2009 award, can be molded into any shape when bonded with water — and it takes just two hours to set!
Great, but it has one problem that they need to change:
There’s just one drawback to Concrete Cloth: the material contains PVC, a plastic that leaches toxic chemicals
.Fix that, instant shelters! Via inhabitat.com.
Thinner than hair, but won’t be availible until 2020:
Sanyo is in the news today, and again it’s about the company’s green tech power. The company today announced [JP] it will do everything to become Japan’s top player in the domestic solar industry by 2012 and eventually one of the top three solar companies on a global level. At the same time, the Nikkei reports [registration required, paid subscription] that Sanyo has succeeded in developing a solar cell that’s thinner than a human hair.
The company says it will benefit greatly from a new feed-in tariff program by the Japanese government introduced this month for green energy firms. Another factor for Sanyo’s self-confidence should be the speed with which it innovates. Their new prototype solar cell is just 58 micrometers thick, about one-fourth of most solar cells currently out there. (Sorry, there’s no picture available yet)
It’s made of two types of silicon whose structure Sanyo optimized to achieve a conversion efficiency of 22%. It’s said to be as bendable as paper, meaning it can be used for a variety of purposes, for example on uneven surfaces.
Sanyo says this technology might help reduce prices by as much as 25% when compared to solar cells available today. The company wants to commercialize the solar cells by 2020.
Scientists of the University of Pennsylvania are creating electronics that almost completely dissolve inside the body, through the use of thin, flexible silicon electronics on silk substrates.
While implanted electronics must usually be encased to protect them from the body, these electronics don’t need protection. The whole process is pretty much seamless: The electronics on the flexible silk substrates conform to biological tissue. The silk melts away over time and the thin silicon circuits left behind don’t cause irritation because they are just nanometers thick.
To make the devices, silicon transistors about one millimeter long and 250 nanometers thick are collected on a stamp and then transferred to the surface of a thin film of silk. The silk holds each device in place, even after the array is implanted in an animal – so far the technique is tested on mice – and wetted with saline, causing it to conform to the tissue surface.
In a paper published in the journal Applied Physics Letters, the researchers report that such circuits can be implanted in animals with no adverse effects. And the performance of the transistors on silk inside the body doesn’t suffer.
The researchers are now developing silk-silicon LEDs that might act as photonic tattoos that can show blood-sugar readings, as well as arrays of conformable electrodes that might interface with the nervous system.
Toumaz Technology out of Abingdon, UK has announced it partnered with the Imperial College London to perform a clinical trial on the company’s “Digital Plaster” vital signs monitor. The technology, which we covered in the past (see flashbacks below), allows for continuous monitoring and wireless transmission of temperature, heart and respiratory rates to help speed up workflow and get rid of some of the cables.
Article discussing the initial trial:
The focus of the trial will be to verify that the physiological data acquired by the digital plaster system within a clinical setting is equivalent to that acquired using current gold-standard monitors in use in hospitals – equipment that is often bulky, expensive and fixed, such that patient mobility is impaired. The Sensium digital plaster is wireless and unobtrusive, meaning that patients can remain ambulatory in hospital while still being monitored. This flexibility allows continuous vital sign monitoring to be extended to patients who would not normally be monitored, thereby offering the potential to increase patient safety. The Sensium digital plaster is a disposable device with a working lifetime of several days, after which the plaster is disposed of in the appropriate waste receptacle.
The trial is being conducted in three phases, an initial phase with non-patient volunteers followed by two patient study groups: patients recovering from surgery, and patients with specific medical conditions in the general wards.
Wearable electronics aren’t news, but being able to make them cheaply and easily is. Xerox has developed an ink with which you can print circuits onto plastic, film, fabric, and nearly anything you can think of.
No information on when it’ll happen or the machines used in the printing process, but the applications are huge.
Link and photo from gizmodo.com.
The folks at BERG developed this neat method for visualizing the sensitivity of an RFID reader. Rather than using an expensive set of test equipment to measure the magnetic field intensity, they just hooked their reader up so that it lit an LED every time their card was detected, and then captured it using a camera.
Link and video via makezine.com.
In a display of how times are changing in regards to visual representations of the differently able as well as the mass-media relationship with prosthetics and those who use them, athlete Sarah Reinertsen graces the cover of this week’s ESPN Magazine.
Reinersten was the first female leg amputee to complete the Ironman World Triathlon, she was also featured in The Amazing Race 10. More NSFW pictures from the shoot can be found on ESPN’s site as well as within the magazine, which was released Friday, October 9th.
LA graffiti writer Tony, aka TemptOne, has a rare neuromuscular disease that has caused progressive muscle weakness and eventual paralysis. Despite not being able to move a muscle, his eyes still function normally. With the help of the Not Impossible Foundation, he was once again able to get back to work:
Video via F.A.T. (Free Art & Technology), where the project phases are shown. Since the Not Impossible Foundation is open source and non-profit, the source code for this device could be used by anyone.
Thanks to Joseph Holsten for the link!
Now we have the Hap.tickle Greeting, designed by Lina Saleem, that allows us to send a tickle to our loved ones and dearest friends.
Since “tickling” strengthens social connections (according to Charles Darwin), Hap.tickle Greeting can help you connect with separated friends. The wearable itself is decadently designed with ruffles, frills and vibrating motors (of course) on the backs and sides of the garment. When the garment receives a message via SMS, the motors gently begin to pulse sending loving tickles down the sides and spine of the wearer.
Hugs, massages, and now tickles. The catalog continues to be built.
Regular velcro helps the slow and undexterous keep their shoes securely on. But steel velcro? Well, that stuff can support up to 35 tons of pressure.
Developed by German engineers, this new version of Velcro is dubbed Metaklett, and it can support 35 tons at temperatures up to 1472 degrees. It’s made from “perforated steel strips 0.2 millimetres thick, one kind bristling with springy steel brushes and the other sporting jagged spikes.”
Link and photo via dvice.com.
Mullins has been instrumental in changing the public perception of prosthetics. After setting multiple world records at the 1996 Paralympic games, she has used her modeling, athletic and film careers to end the idea that prosthetics are a mark of disability. Instead, she’s shown the world that bionic limbs can enable some amazing things. As a guy who’s barely 5’8″ on a good day, listening to Mullins talk about how easy and fun it is to change her height on a whim does sound like a pretty incredible ability to have.
TEDMED has speakers on:
A couple of the five featured interfaces on Technology Review:
Norbert Eisenreich, a senior researcher and deputy of directors at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT) in Pfinztal, Germany, said his team of scientists have come up with a substance that could replace plastic: Arboform — basically, liquid wood.
It is derived from wood pulp-based lignin and can be mixed with a number of other materials to create a strong, non-toxic alternative to petroleum-based plastics, Eisenreich said, as reported by DPA news agency.
Car parts and other durable items made of this bio-plastic already exist, but the chemical hadn’t been suitable for household use until now, due to the high content of sulphurous substances used in separating the lignin from the cell fibers.
The German researchers were able to reduce the sulphur content in Arborform by about 90 percent, making it much safer for use in everyday items.
Bolstering Arboform’s environmental credentials, Eisenreich’s team also discovered that the substance was highly recyclable.
“To find that out, we produced components, broke them up into small pieces, and re-processed the broken pieces — 10 times in all. We did not detect any change in the material properties of the low-sulphur bio-plastic, so that means it can be recycled,” said Inone-Kauffmann.
In other, related, news, Apple claims that Jailbreaking your iPhone encourages terrorism.
A quick, easy and cheap method of detecting pathogens, viruses and toxins? The printed technology looks promising:
Scientists at McMaster University have come up with a new methodology to create cheap biosensors using an inkjet printer. By applying a “lateral flow” sensing paradigm commonly seen in pregnancy test strips, the developers showed how one can implement a FujiFilm Dimatix Materials Printer to create sensors that can detect the presence of toxins, specifically acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors such as paraoxon and aflatoxin B1.
Link, photo and words via medgadget.com.