Science & Technology

Electric airplanes for UPS

By Jerry Brownstein

The UPS delivery service is going green with all-electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (EVTOL). The plane has a flying range of 400 km, with cargo capacity of over 600 kg and a cruising speed of up to 270 km per hour. It uses four fixed vertical lift propellers to go up and down, with one pusher propeller to go forward. The elegant design of this airplane was inspired by the Arctic tern, an amazing bird that flies long migration routes of up to 90,000 km each year.The EVTOL will take off and land on the roofs of UPS centres. On each roof there will be a rapid recharging station [...]

Jet-Pack for rescue missions

By Jerry Brownstein

A new jet-pack flying suit, that looks like something from the movie ‘Iron Man’, is perfect for emergency wilderness search operations. In a recent test in England, the jet-pack’s inventor Richard Browning completed in a few minutes a rescue search that would normally have taken several hours on foot. Flying at a height of between three and six metres he zoomed over the hills and scaled England’s third-highest mountain in just eight minutes. The suit has a top speed in excess of 130kph, and is technically capable of reaching high altitude, but for safety purposes it is flown much lower. [...]

Overhead electric power for trucks

By Michelle Robertson

An innovative ecological solution to charging electric vehicles while on the road, and reducing emissions dramatically, has been launched in Germany. It’s called the eHighway system, and trucks equipped with electric motors and batteries are currently testing the concept. Developed by Siemens and funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, the system allows “big rig transit vehicles” to travel with the same amount of flexibility as electrical railways while dramatically reducing Co2 emissions. It works like this: The truck drives underneath a power line at speeds of up to [...]

Airships of the future

By Jerry Brownstein

To most people the giant airships known as Zeppelins are nothing more than memories from the 1930s, but they may be making a comeback. Several large aeronautics companies are designing modern airships that could carry huge loads of cargo with just a fraction of the fuel used by airplanes. Airships need relatively little fuel to take off or to propel themselves, and that makes them a much more carbon-efficient way to move air cargo - which is set to triple in the coming decades. In addition to fuel efficiency, airships have other potential advantages. They take off and land more like a balloon [...]

Robots that fight weeds

By Michelle Robertson

A new form of digital agricultural technology could reduce the need for herbicides and the genetically modified (GM) crops that tolerate them. The ecoRobotix is a solar-powered robot that looks like a table on wheels. It scans rows of crops with its camera, identifies weeds and then zaps them with jets of blue liquid from its mechanical tentacles. This high tech method of protecting crops plant-by-plant could revolutionize farming, and its founders believe it could reduce the amount of herbicide farmers use by 200%! They say that their ‘See and Spray’ weed control machine would also allow the [...]

Smart Cane for the visually impaired

By Jinny Throup

Visually impaired Turkish engineer Kursat Ceylan has developed a ground-breaking smart cane to assist those with poor eyesight through the use of smart technology. The “WeWALK” looks like the normal long white cane that many blind people use, but it is completely different. This cane is compatible with a smart phone’s Bluetooth system, plus it has built-in speakers, Google Maps and a Voice Assistant to help blind people navigate. In addition there are special vibration sensors which alert the walker to obstacles that are not normally detected by regular canes. The team behind WeWALK aims to make [...]

Bike helmets that look like hats

By Jinny Throup

Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, a bicycle helmet has been designed that looks like a regular hat. The Park & Diamond helmet, created in the US by David Hall and Jordan Klein, is as thin and stylish as a baseball cap, yet as durable as a traditional bike helmet. In addition, it can easily be folded up and stored in a bag or on the bike’s water bottle holder. Hall and Klein became determined to give cyclists an incentive to wear preventative headgear after a near fatal bike accident left a close relative in a coma. So they set out to create a product that was equal parts stylish [...]

Slow lane for phone zombies

By Jinny Throup

The UK’s first “slow lanes” for people who insist on looking at their phones while walking, have opened in Manchester City centre. Two adjacent 75 metre long “mobile safe lanes” have been installed on a busy pedestrian thoroughfare used by tens of thousands of people every week. Arrows and signs mark out separate walking lanes on the pavement that are exclusively for slow-walking smartphone users. Research has shown that being distracted by technology whilst walking is an issue that people want addressed. So the city is hoping that these designated pathways will help to prevent people who walk [...]

Converting plastic waste into fuel

By Jinny Throup

Researchers at Purdue University (US) have discovered a new chemical process that can convert more than 90% of polypropylene plastic waste into high quality fuels in a matter of hours. The process uses selective extraction and hydrothermal liquefaction to convert the plastic into a flammable oil that can then be mixed with other chemicals to create fuel. The leader of the research team, Dr Linda Wang, claims that this technology has the potential to drastically reduce the amount of plastic waste in the world. It can also make the recycling industry more economical by allowing it to produce valuable [...]

Flying sea taxis

By Michelle Robertson

An eco-friendly alternative to city travel has emerged in Paris where a new type of boat may become a pleasurable and beautiful part of the city’s transport network. The “Sea Bubble” flying water taxis are inspired by the aeronautical industry. They use a unique form of hydrofoil technology that combines the steering/navigational system of boats with design elements from aeronautic and automotive engineering. The result is an elegant craft that literally flies over the river. It is 100% electric with a lithium battery, and can potentially travel at the same speed as a car. People who want a ride [...]

Innovative 3D orange juicing machine

By María V. R.

3D printing is bringing imaginative solutions to many industries, and the international design firm Carlo Ratti Associati has done this with the humble glass of orange juice. They have developed an ecological juice bar that makes fresh-squeezed orange juice, while using the discarded orange peels to make 3D printed disposable cups to drink it in. This prototype juicer is a three metre tall orange squeezing machine topped with a massive dome that holds up to 1,500 oranges. At the base of the machine is a 3D printer. Once the order is placed the machine begins to work its magic, as the oranges slide [...]

Edible water at the London Marathon

By Michelle Robertson

There was no need for plastic at the London Marathon after 200,000 water bottles were replaced by “pods” that are both edible and biodegradable. These water pods are called “Ooho!” and they are made out of seaweed by Skipping Rocks Lab of London. Simply biting into the pod releases the water inside, and the outer seaweed cover is light and tasteless so it can be swallowed.  The pod can also be safely thrown away if you do not want to eat it, as it biodegrades in a matter of weeks, as opposed to plastic bottles which take hundreds of years. “We use seaweed as the building blocks for [...]

“Igloos” for the homeless in Paris

By Jinny Throup

A French engineer has designed a pop-up “igloo” to serve as a waterproof shelter for homeless people in Paris. Made from polyethylene foam and lined with aluminium foil on the inside, the igloo keeps the occupant safe from freezing conditions as their body temperature heats the space up to 15 degrees warmer than outside. The igloo, which has solar lighting, is compact and foldable, and assembles easily in seconds. The design is washable, repairable and recyclable. The initial feedback is very positive and it is hoped that this innovative design will offer homeless people some privacy and safety [...]

Graphene water filter

By Michelle Robertson

The creators of a revolutionary new type of water filter say that it can rapidly turn highly polluted seawater into drinkable water. Using a type of graphene called Graphair, scientists from Australia claim to have found a way to provide the solution for billions of people around the world who don’t have access to safe drinking water. They say that their discovery is 99% more effective than conventional water filters. The lead author of the research team, Dong Han Seo of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), explained that the filter can “replace the complex, [...]

SpaceX readies for manned flights

By Jerry Brownstein

The US has not sent an astronaut into space since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011, but that will soon change. SpaceX, a California-based company founded by the billionaire Elon Musk, has sent a manned mission to the International Space Station in July 2019. A recent test launch of the ‘Crew Dragon’ capsule that will carry the astronauts went perfectly, and all systems are ‘Go’. In this test the unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and brought supplies to the Space Station orbiting 400 km above the Earth. SpaceX has carried supplies and [...]

Tesla goes open source

By Jerry Brownstein

The electric car company Tesla has released all of its technological patents for free use as part of an effort to fight climate change. Elon Musk, the colourful billionaire founder of Tesla, promised that the company “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” It is a remarkable move in an industry where the smallest idea or seed of invention is carefully guarded to protect its monetary value. In the past Tesla had always filed patents to prevent other companies from copying their technology. They feared too much competition from the big [...]

Apple supports data protection

By Jerry Brownstein

Apple CEO Tim Cook has called on the US government to help internet users control the data about their lives that is collected online. He says that the public needs new rights to manage this information and that, “consumers should have the power to delete their data on demand, freely and easily.” In recent years scandals involving big tech companies like Facebook and Google have brought the urgency of this situation more to light. The way that these tech giants acquire your personal information goes far beyond what most people could imagine. All of your hobbies, habits and preferences are meticulously [...]

Microchip technology helps healing

By Jinny Throup

A breakthrough technology has been invented that scientists claim will help to heal numerous wounds including damaged blood vessels, nerves and organs. Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT) transforms skin cells into a special type of cell that can be used to repair damaged tissues. It does this by injecting the skin cells with a microchip that contains genetic code. This technology allows skin cells to be converted into elements of any part of the body, and these can then be applied to the damaged area. As it is the body’s own cells that are being converted, the immune system does not attack them so [...]

Solar hydro panel for water

By Michelle Robertson

Harvesting vapour from the air and turning it into drinking water – that’s the genius of a new device that could be used all over the world. This solar-powered invention named SOURCE has atmospheric water generators which apparently work in almost every climate and every day of the year. It’s able to produce up to ten litres of clean water per day from the air by collecting water vapour and condensing it into liquid. It can also hold up to 30 litres of collected water. SOURCE is a self-contained unit that is designed to be mounted onto the roof of a building. It usually has two hydropanels, but [...]

Growing rice in saltwater

By Michelle Robertson

Millions of people could benefit from an incredible new breakthrough which allows rice to be grown in saltwater. This could boost China’s rice production by a massive 20%. Thanks to researchers at Yangzhou University, over 200 types of rice have thrived after being planted in an area that was flooded with diluted seawater. Researchers were literally stunned by the results saying, “The test results were way above our expectations.” This news means that vast new areas of cultivation within the country can now be utilised, and this will incentivize farmers to plant rice in zones which were until [...]

Smart bandages

By Jinny Throup

A team of researchers at Swansea University (UK) has invented a smart bandage that allows the medical staff to keep up to date about a patient’s progress remotely. The dressing is designed to detect any problems, such as infection, during the time between a patient’s appointments. Using very small sensors based on nanotechnology and 3D printing, the bandage is designed to alert the doctor through 5G mobile technology. This amazing bandage can also have a wireless connection to the patient’s smartphone, and can monitor physical activity levels which impact recovery speed. What this means [...]

Roll-up solar power

By Michelle Robertson

An innovative roll-out mobile solar system generates electricity in a way that is ideal for remote locations and emergency situations. The Renovagen Rapid Roll I can provide enough solar power for a small city. Ready to be transported in a mobile shipping container whenever needed, this easy to set-up system can be deployed for many situations in remote locations including festivals, mining, construction, film production and telecommunications. It is also well suited for military use and disaster relief, as each unit is able to provide enough power for either a 120 bed mobile clinic or desalinization [...]

Electric VW minibus coming

By Jerry Brownstein

Volkswagen is revamping its iconic microbus to be a fully electric vehicle with all the latest technology. First produced in 1950, the Volkswagen microbus became a symbol for the American counterculture movement in the 1960s. It was discontinued in 2013 due to safety concerns including its lack of airbags and anti-lock brakes. Volkswagen introduced a completely revamped concept of the microbus in early 2017, and it is scheduled to be on the market in 2022. The new model called the I.D. Buzz is fully electric and it will use a touchscreen to control the car's functions instead of knobs or buttons. [...]

Solar powered floating home

By Jinny Throup

A floating solar powered home made from almost 100% recyclable materials has been designed by architect Giancarlo Zema and developed by the EcoFloLife company. It’s called the ‘WaterNest 100’ and it can be positioned in any large calm body of water. The floating home is completely solar-powered, and made from recycled and sustainable materials, so it offers an attractive and low-impact way to live in harmony with nature. The pod-shaped unit is 12 metres in diameter, 4 metres tall, and is constructed from recycled laminated timber and a recycled aluminium hull. The rounded wooden roof is [...]

Giant airplane to launch rockets into space

By Jinny Throup

The billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, has put into motion an audacious plan to build the world’s largest airplane which will be used to launch rockets into space. The plane, known as Stratolaunch, is a twin-fuselage, six-engine giant with a wingspan wider than the length of a football field. The idea is to strap rockets underneath the wings of the plane and fly them to 35,000 feet before releasing them. This would give the rockets a head start on their journey to space without need for the massive amount of lift power that it takes to get to that height. Other advantages over conventional [...]

Eco-friendly roads in Tokyo

By María Vila Rebolo

In preparation for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, Tokyo is installing “solar roads” to boost its reputation as an eco-friendly city. These roads will generate energy through a series of solar panels that are installed underneath the surface of the streets. A special resin will cover the surface of the roads so that heavier vehicles can drive on the roads without damaging the technology. The first solar roads were introduced on cycling roads in the Netherlands in 2014, and later on a few motorways in Normandy, France. By installing these solar panels before the Olympic Games the Japanese [...]

Electric bike kit

By Jinny Throup

A UK startup company called Swytch has developed what it claims to be the “world’s lightest, most affordable electric bike conversion kit.” It includes a new front wheel with an integrated electric motor that connects to a removable battery pack that is attached to the handlebars. The company offers a variety of standard front wheel sizes to fit any bike. Because the Swytch powers the non-drive front wheel, it doesn’t have to be integrated into the gearing system, which makes it much simpler to install and operate than rear wheel conversions. The bike’s battery pack can easily be removed [...]

Homes made with AirCrete

By Michelle Robertson

A new lightweight, low-cost building block that is fireproof and waterproof has been created by inventor Hajjar Gibran. It’s called AirCrete, and it is made from a foamy mixture of air bubbles and cement.  It’s inexpensive to produce and very easy to use - a fantastic alternative that cuts construction costs dramatically.Hajjar says: "As well as being waterproof and fireproof, it’s also insect proof and offers good thermal and acoustic insulation. It will not rot, warp, or corrode.” Unlike concrete which is hard, heavy, cold and difficult to work with, AirCrete is [...]

Light bulbs that kill flu virus

By Carmen Loren

Recent research may have found a way to safely use ultraviolet light to cure influenza. Scientists have known for decades that ultraviolet light is highly effective in killing bacteria and viruses by destroying the molecular bonds that hold their DNA together. This was discovered when researchers exposed a common strain of flu virus to the light of an ultraviolet lamp and found that the virus completely disappeared. UV light is routinely used to decontaminate surgical equipment in hospitals, but not for treating patients. The problem with using this as a treatment for flu in humans is [...]

Tesla launches the world’s biggest battery

By Jerry Brownstein

The world’s largest lithium ion battery system is delivering power in South Australia. This Tesla ‘Powerpack’ system stores energy generated by a nearby wind farm, and it is capable of providing electricity for as many as 30,000 homes. It is three times more powerful than any other battery in existence. Activating this massive system fulfils a bold pledge by Tesla CEO Elon Musk who said that he would finish building the battery within 100 days or provide it for free. Musk made his risky vow on Twitter during an exchange with an Australian billionaire who was sceptical of the project. As it [...]

Roads made with cigarette butts

By Michelle Robertson

Scientists have found a way to turn a worldwide litter problem into something productive – by using discarded cigarette butts to create new pavement. Researchers at RMIT University in Australia say that this new construction material “can rid the environment of a huge waste problem” by mixing used filters into asphalt. The resulting blend is able to handle very heavy traffic loads, and it also reduces thermal conductivity - an environmental problem that is common in city streets. Head researcher Dr Abbas Mohajerani explained that this could potentially eliminate 1.2 million tonnes [...]

The paper cycling helmet

By Jerry Brownstein

If you were looking for a strong material to protect your head from a cycling accident, I imagine the last substance you would think of would be paper. Yet Isis Schiffer of the Pratt Institute of Design in New York has done just that. Current bicycle helmets are made of styrofoam and polystyrene. They are bulky and difficult to carry which causes many cyclists to abandon them altogether. Isis has created a foldable paper helmet that she calls the EcoHelmet. It is easy to carry, totally recyclable and simple to manufacture. The helmet’s design relies on a honeycomb pattern that distributes [...]

Tesla’s solar roof tiles

By Jerry Brownstein

One of the drawbacks of installing solar panels on the roof of your house is that they are not very aesthetically pleasing to look at... but that problem may soon be a thing of the past. Elon Musk and his Tesla company have come up with solar panels that are integrated within stylish roof tiles. They not only look good, but will deliver 98% of the efficiency of a standard solar cells, and will last two to three times longer than traditional roofing materials. This [...]

Rating the ecology of tech companies

By Michelle Robertson

The winners and sinners in the electronics sector were revealed by Greenpeace in their 2017 Guide to Greener Electronics. The guide is a culmination of research into the  “transparency, commitment, performance and advocacy efforts” of the major players in the technology business. It is part of the ‘Rethink-IT’ campaign which aims to highlight how these companies could improve by switching to cleaner energy sources, reducing their consumption by using recycled materials, and making their products fully repairable. Coming out on top of the overall ratings was Fairphone which makes an [...]

Gloves that speak

By Michelle Robertson

Two American students have invented gloves that turn sign language into the spoken word, opening a whole new means of communication for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. These wonder gloves – aptly named SignAloud – are programmed to react to the hand gestures of the wearer as they form the phrases of American sign language. They send this data wirelessly to a central computer, and audible speech comes out through a small speaker on the gloves. These gloves are lightweight and ergonomic enough to be used as an everyday accessory, “similar to a hearing aid or contact lenses” according to the inventors. [...]

A ship to vacuum plastics out of the sea

By Javier Alcaraz

From the UK comes an innovative idea that could offer a solution to the huge amount of plastic that is building up in our oceans. A small British company, Bluebird Marine Systems (BMS), has conceived the 'SeaVax', an un-manned ship powered solely by sun and wind, that can vacuum up to 22 million kilos of plastic per year. The movement of the ship, with no need for a human crew, would be controlled via satellite. As well as sucking in all sorts of marine garbage (including oil spills), it would chew up and compress all of the waste. The first model was built with the help of private investors, [...]

Canopies for water, shade and electricity

By Michelle Robertson

Harnessing both sunshine and rain into reusable resources, while also providing shelter from both elements - this is the achievement of an innovative solar canopy designed by two Indian entrepreneurs. Their start up company, called ThinkPhi, claims that this is "the world’s most advanced integrated plug and play system for shade, water and energy.” It looks like an inverted umbrella and features solar panels on the top surface along with a canopy to collect and funnel rainwater into the filtration system. This could be a valuable asset for remote populations that have little or no water or electricity [...]

The Future of Urban Living

By Jerry Brownstein

A new neighbourhood is being built near Amsterdam with an innovative design that has the potential to change the way we live. This will be the first ReGen Village - a new type of community that will be fully self-sufficient: growing its own food, making its own energy, and handling its own waste in a closed loop. The town will be integrated with its own farming system. Some of the crops will be grown in the ground, but much of the food will be produced in high-tech vertical farms using the most advanced methods. These include a combination of aeroponics, aquaponics, permaculture, edible food forests, [...]

Kinetic wave power

By Jerry Brownstein

The Wavestar project offers a revolutionary method of harnessing the kinetic energy of waves and converting it into electricity. Located in Denmark, Wavestar machines are equipped with kinetic energy harvesters called 'floats' that move up and down with the waves, and their motion is used to rotate power generators. The technology enables continuous energy production with a smooth output. The first of these power stations has recently become operational. Each station will have 20 floats with a diameter of 10 m, and the ability to provide energy for up to 4,000 households. Our oceans are [...]

Ecological Hobbit houses

By Michelle Robertson

Imagine a house that is so cleverly designed that it coordinates beautifully with nature, can be expanded whenever you want, is eco-friendly, super energy efficient and extremely simple to build. This sounds almost too good to be true, yet these are the qualities of the unique ‘Hobbit Houses’ which have recently become a reality. They feature prefabricated vaulted panels that can be covered in grass and soil to give a green-roofed appearance – they literally blend into the landscape. Not only that, but a home can be put together and finished in just three days.[...]

Elon Musk’s plan for going to Mars

By Jerry Brownstein

Elon Musk has become famous for seeing the future and making it happen Now. He has achieved this goal in rocketry, solar energy, electric cars and more, but his ultimate aim is to have humans colonize the planet Mars. At the International Astronautical Congress of 2017 he said, “I really want to make the idea of a colony on Mars seem possible to more people – like it’s something we can achieve in our lifetimes.”  He feels that there are two fundamental paths facing humanity today: “One is that we stay on Earth forever, and then there will eventually be an extinction. The alternative [...]

Tesla electric semi truck

By Jerry Brownstein

Elon Musk is intent on bringing the future closer to the present, and he has been extremely successful in promoting solar energy, efficient space travel and electric transportation. It seems like he unveils a new creation every month, and one of his latest is the Tesla electric semi truck which he plans to start delivering in 2019. Here are some of the design and performance features that it promises:- 20% less expensive to operate than diesel (and 50% less when driven in convoy).- Range of 800 km on one battery charge.- Zero to 100kph in just [...]

The 'Sea Bin' collects plastic debris

By Michelle Robertson

A new invention has been installed in the waters of several European ports to help fight the growing problem of plastic pollution. This ingenious way to help remove tons of rubbish is called Sea Bin, and it collects and disposes of all manner of debris including bottles, plastic bags and cigarette butts. Each unit has a capacity of up to 12 kg per day, which means it can collect the equivalent of 20,000 plastic bottles or 83,000 plastic bags every year. Two Australian inventors, Pete Ceglinski and Andrew Turton, created this device to be more efficient than existing solutions. Most harbour [...]

Silent fireworks

By Jinny Throup

A town in Italy has recently introduced new legislation which mandates that only silent fireworks can be used at celebrations. For the people of Collecchio in the province of Parma, this is a way of respecting their animals, and also reducing the stress that is caused by the loud explosions of a typical fireworks display. With their highly sensitive hearing, animals are often confused as to where the loud noises are coming from. This can result in heart problems, tremors and often running away in panic. But this is not just about animals. Many people would prefer [...]

Student discovers a natural antibiotic

By Jinny Throup

A fifteen-year old student from County Cork in Ireland, has been declared the BT Young Scientist & Technologist of the Year for his discovery of a natural antibiotic in the blackberry bramble plant. Simon Meehan found this “non toxic, organic, original antibiotic” after analysing ten plants in his local area, including some from his own back garden. He extracted anti-microbial agents from parts of the plants using ethanol, and then tested their antibiotic effects. Combining botany, microbiology and analytic chemistry, Simon was able to demonstrate the effectiveness of his discovery in killing [...]

Producing water from the air

By Jinny Throup

A 22-year old Indian engineering student has developed an invention that efficiently pulls moisture from the air and converts it into drinking water. Jawwad Patel set his intention to ease the hardships that accompany water scarcity in arid and remote areas. His device, known as the “Dewdrop”, sucks in air using a fan, filters out dust, and then condenses the moisture to produce mineralized water. The water is then stored for drinking and when the container is emptied, the process begins again. This is not the first invention to pull and store water from the air, but it is the first that is easy [...]

A smart street in London

By Jinny Throup

Technology which is capable of generating electricity from human movement has now been installed on Bird Street in London’s West End. This energy-harvesting ‘smart street’, installed by Pavegen, converts the power of footsteps into electricity. People can even track the amount of energy that they are creating on this power generating pavement by connecting to an app. The energy that you produce is then converted into vouchers, discounts, and most importantly, clean electricity. Pavegen CEO, Laurence Kemball-Cook is keen to explain that this technology has commercial advantages by bringing [...]

Free online robot offers legal help

By Jerry Brownstein

Hiring a lawyer can be expensive, but a new chatbot called ‘DoNotPay’ allows you to access the same advice for free. A chatbot is a computer program which is designed to simulate human communication. This one was created by Stanford University (US) student Joshua Browder, as a way for people to appeal parking tickets, using what he describes as "the world's first robot lawyer”. Since its launch in 2015, DoNotPay has successfully challenged over 160,000 tickets. Up to now it has only been available in parts of the UK and in New York City, but it will soon be active in many more places.DoNotPay [...]

A ‘Forest City’ to fight pollution

By Jerry Brownstein

The ecological vision of Italian architect Stefano Boeri is starting to take shape with two of his ‘vertical forest towers’ soon to be constructed in Switzerland and Milan. But it is in the Southern Chinese region of Liuzhou where he will realize his largest project ever – a ‘Forest City’ that is designed to soak up some of that country's infamous air pollution. What makes this project so unique is that the entire city will be covered in trees and plants – not just in the parks, gardens and city streets, but on the facades of all of the buildings as well.There will be a total of more than [...]

Headphones that translate 40 languages

By Carmen Loren

Language barriers are becoming easier to cross in our increasingly technological world. In recent months several devices have emerged that facilitate communication between people who speak different languages. One of them is already on sale and it could revolutionize the way we travel, communicate, work and do business in other countries. The tech giant Google has released headphones called Google Pixel Buds that can translate up to 40 languages in real time. In order to work the buds must be connected to the latest Android smartphone launched by the company. Users of these revolutionary [...]

Solar powered residential pod

By Michelle Robertson

Living off the grid is the ultimate dream for many... a dream that includes the freedom to move wherever you want with everything you need. That’s the promise of a new ‘mobile micro dwelling’ that’s powered by solar energy and a battery. It’s called the Ecocapsule, and it is designed to be comfortable for two people with a bathroom - complete with shower and waterless toilet, plus a small kitchen including a sink and two-burner stove. The living area has a convertible sofa that folds out to a double bed and there is even some desk space.The [...]

Solar Paint: a new source of clean energy

By Jerry Brownstein

A team of researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia has developed a paint that can be used to generate clean energy. Combining the titanium oxide already found in many wall paints with synthetic molybdenum-sulphide, the material absorbs solar energy as well as moisture from the surrounding air. It then splits the water into hydrogen and oxygen, collecting the hydrogen for use in fuel cells. With this product any surface can be turned into an energy harvesting and fuel producing structure - houses, barns, fences, etc.. It will take some time before the [...]

Ikea refugee shelter

Millions of displaced refugees could benefit from an ingenious flat pack shelter designed by Ikea. It has the durability of a small house, solar panels on the roof to provide power, and can be easily dismantled to fit inside two boxes when ready to relocate. The aptly named ‘Better Shelter’ can be firmly anchored to the ground, andis said to last six times longer than a typical emergency tent. It has already been sent to thousands of refugees around the world, and has won the Beazley design of the year award from London’s Design Museum. It’s easy to assemble in a few hours with pictured instructions [...]

Bricks that are like Legos

By Michelle Robertson

The new Smart Brick is an exciting development for the construction industry that offersa less expensive and more efficient material for building houses. This invention could be particularly important for new housing in poverty stricken areas. The bricks are like Lego toys in that they come in a variety of forms for different purposes, and easily connect together without the need for cement. Ronnie Zohar was inspired to develop these bricks with energy-saving features when he realised that the problem of heating or cooling a building doesn’t come from air escaping through windows or doors but [...]

Hydrogen powered train with zero emissions

By Carmen Loren

Germany has introduced the world’s first zero-emission passenger train at the end of 2017. It’s called the Coradia iLint, and it was designed and developed by the French transport company Alstom. The train will be powered by huge lithium-ion batteries which will get their energy from a hydrogen fuel tank on the roof of the train. The only waste resulting from this process will be excess steam released into the atmosphere, making it a much more sustainable alternative to the country’s 4,000 diesel trains that are currently in use.The train will be able to cover a range of 800 kilometres [...]

Tesla converts Samoan island to 100% solar power

By Jerry Brownstein

The Samoan island of Ta‘u in the South Pacific has been chosen as a perfect example of how to combine solar energy with high capacity battery storage to bring sustainable energy to remote locations. The island had always relied on diesel generators to power their homes, shops and water pumps. Every year 500,000 litres of fuel had to be imported, and there were countless times when the supply boats didn’t arrive on time, forcing power outages throughout the island.  Elon Musk has recently merged his two companies, Tesla and Solar City, and together they are perfectly suited to transform [...]

Tesla builds a sustainable town

By Michelle Robertson

The world’s first ‘Tesla town’ located in Australia is the epitome of an environmentally sustainable development. Elon Musk’s Tesla company has built this futuristic ‘mini-suburb’ of 60 houses on 16.5 hectares near Melbourne. It’s called Yarra Bend, and compared to normal construction, it is projected to reduce energy consumption by 34%, use 43% less water and reduce landfills by 80% due to efficient waste management. High-tech rooftop solar panels will generate and store enough green energy to power not only each individual home, but everyone’s electric cars. [...]

Self-driving buses in Helsinki

By Jerry Brownstein

Finland’s capital is one of the first cities in the world to test self-driving buses. The electric powered vehicles can carry up to 12 passengers along a fixed route, and people can get on and off of at pre-defined points along the route. The buses were previously tested on closed roads, but this trial with autonomous buses carrying riders along public urban streets is the first of its kind in Europe. Finland is one of the only countries in the world that does not legally require every vehicle on public roadways to have a driver, so the country is fast becoming a popular testing site for self-driving [...]

Self-filling water bottle

By Michelle Robertson

A revolutionary invention that collects humidity from the air and turns it into drinkable water will not only be a godsend for thirsty cyclists on long bike rides, but potentially a system to be utilised in areas of the world where moisture is high but water is not readily available.Vienna based designer KristofRetezár has come up with theFontus, a handy gadgetwhichcan be attached to a bike,allowing water to be generated during long-distance journeys where pit stops may be few and far between.This device basically works on the principle of condensation.The Fontus takes in humidity from the air, [...]

The instant ‘PopUp House’

By Jerry Brownstein

The French architecture firm Multipod Studio recently unveiled the prototype for a customizable home made from stackable blocks. They call it the ‘PopUp House’, because it can be designed, ordered, and built in less than a month. This is an example of the growing sustainable architecture movement called passive construction. Their ideal is to create homes that are well-designed, easy to build, low-cost, and energy-efficient. The PopUp House, which can be ordered online, costs between €1,000 and €1,500 per square meter, depending on the quality of the materials and amenities. Once a home is [...]

An ethical and modular mobile phone

By Javier Alcaraz

“Ethical, open and built to last” is the promotional slogan of a very special mobile phone called Fairphone 2. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that the Dutch manufacturing company behind it puts ethics at the core of its business. The first phone they brought out by the company was called Fairphone 1, and it guaranteed that the minerals used for its components were conflict-free and that they were not linked to the exploitation of workers. With Fairphone 2 they have gone another step forward by creating the first modular phone on the market. This Android phone has been designed to last, with parts [...]

Tesla’s ultra speed transport system

By Jerry Brownstein

The renowned innovator Elon Musk is at it again. His company Tesla has announced that they are about to begin construction in California (US) of an ultra-speed transportation system called Hyperloop. It is the world’s first supersonic overland transport system with the ability to reach speeds over 1,200 kph. Like most other Musk-inspired creations, the Hyperloop concept seems like something out of science fiction. Dirk Ahlborn, the head of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) says, “We feel that we’re at a stage where the theoretical questions have been answered, so now we’re moving [...]

A house made from hemp

By Michelle Robertson

Who would have thought that,aside from being a material for making clothes, paper, food and skincare products, the most useful plant in the world could alsobe thebase material for constructing homes.The non-profit organization Nauhaus Institutein North Carolina, US, has built an experimental 375 square metre house using ‘hempcrete’. This is a mixture of hemp with lime and water which ispoured into the exterior supports of the building. It creates solid yet breathable walls with incredible insulation that is capable of maintaining a steady internal temperature. In addition it has the added [...]

The incredible laser shaver

By Michelle Robertson

Those annoying nicks and cuts caused by shaving may be a thing of the past thanks to a new razor that eliminates hair using a laser. Back in 1989, Morgan Gustavsson invented a laser that could remove unwanted hairs, but it only worked on dark colour hairs. He has always wanted to create a laser that could be brought to bear on the everyday shaving market, and now he has done it with what he calls the Skarp Razor. Along with his partner Paul Binun, they made a key breakthrough by discovering a new chromophore – the part of a hair molecule that determines its colour.Recognizing this trait [...]

Four dollar smart phone

By Michelle Robertson

Who would have thought that one day we’d be able to buy a smartphone for less than the cost of a glass of wine? Priced at about $4 (€3.50), an Indian company has launched what’s thought to be the least expensive smartphone in the world. Yet despite its extremely modest price tag, it comes complete with 8GB internal storage, 1GB RAM, front and rear cameras of 3 and 3.2 megapixels, 3G internet compatibility and even a 1 year guarantee. It’s called the ‘Freedom 251’, and it looks remarkably like the iPhone 4.The company behind this is Ringing Bell, which describes itself [...]

3D printed homes

By Michelle Robertson

A revolutionary new construction method uses 3D printing and recycled materials to build small houses for less than €5,000 each. The first test of this system created a staggering 10 homes in just one day! This was achieved by the Chinese company WinSun which used four 10m x 6.6m printers to spray a mixture of cement and other construction materials that build the walls layer by layer. The final result is an impressive yet compact single storey house that could potentially be the answer to the country’s chronic lack of economical housing.These [...]

Buses with no drivers

By Jane Charilaou

In 2016, the first tests were carried out on public roads, two driverless buses carrying up to 9 passengers will soon begin to operate in the town of Sion, located in the canton of Valais, Switzerland. The buses are set to navigate around the main tourist areas of the old town, and will be able to autonomously navigate roads and identify obstacles. The vehicles will still be monitored by actual people – but from a distance. The system, explained the Swiss operator PostBus, works similarly to how flights are coordinated and monitored by air traffic control staff. The company behind the [...]

Tesla superchargers reach Spain

By Javier Alcaraz

With the launch of the station in Girona, Tesla has opened its first supercharger electric car charge point in Spain. Located in the Costa Brava and made up of four 120 kW charging points, the station will allow an 80% recharge of the vehicle’s battery in just around 30 minutes. Tesla plans a progressive expansion of its superchargers across Spain. For this year, the launch of two new stations is scheduled in Tarragona and Zaragoza. The company’s aim for 2016 is to install a total of 13 new stations in the Iberian Peninsula, covering main routes such as Barcelona-Madrid-Lisbon.

Stackable shelters for disaster relief

By Jerry Brownstein

As Michael McDaniel watched the events of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he was shocked by the grim living conditions of the victims. First they were herded into large stadiums with crowded facilities, and separated families holding up signs in search of each other. Later some of them were moved to temporary trailers provided by the government’s emergency service (FEMA), but there were too few of these and it took a long time to get them on site.This spurred in McDaniel the desire to figure out a better solution –a housing apparatus that could be quickly assembled in [...]

Graphene: the material of the future

By Jerry Brownstein

Graphene is a form of carbon that is only one single atom thick. It is the thinnest material known to exist, yet it is incredibly flexible, strong and a powerful conductor of both heat and electricity. Studies at the American Chemical Society discovered that graphene is 200 times stronger than steel, and so thin that one gram of it can cover an entire football field. The possibilities for its use are endless, including supercharged quantum computers, flexible devices and even computers that can interface with the cells in your body.Graphene is one of the few materials in the world that [...]