New North African solar farms could send 4.5 gigawatts of energy to Europe

September 7, 2017 by  
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The age-old plan to power Europe with solar farms in North Africa and the Middle East may finally become a reality. This past June, Tunisia-based TuNur filed a request to export 4.5 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy to Europe. That’s enough to power 5 million homes or 7 million electric cars! If the joint venture between UK-based solar specialist Nur Energie and Tunisian and Maltese investors proves successful, the energy landscape in Europe will be forever changed. Said Daniel Rich, the chief operating officer at TuNur: “Today you have a market in need of low carbon dispatchable power, which has the mechanisms to import power from other countries. Next door is a region with extreme solar resource and in need for investment and development. Finally, there are technologies that can satisfy the demand at very competitive pricing and have a very high local impact.” The National reports that project is making fast progress. By 2020, the TuNur solar plant in Tunisia will be linked with Malta, a feat which will cost approximately €1.6 billion. (The island is already linked to the European mainland via an undersea power line that connects to Sicily.) A second cable link will connect Tunisia to central Italy at a point north of Rome. A third cable, which would link Tunisia to the south of France, is presently under review. Related: European firms eye artificial island for North Sea wind and solar farm The project will do more than provide Europe with clean energy – it will stimulate over $5 billion of investment in Tunisia . Approximately 20,000 direct and indirect jobs — specifically in the interior regions which are least developed — will also be generated. + TuNur Via The National Images via TuNur , Pixabay

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New North African solar farms could send 4.5 gigawatts of energy to Europe

Plastic fibers found in over 80% of tap water samples from five continents

September 7, 2017 by  
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If you had a glass of water from the tap today, you likely ingested plastic. Orb Media conducted an investigation of plastic in our tap water over 10 months, and their results were shocking: over 80 percent of samples they collected – in places like the United States Capitol building or the shores of Uganda’s Lake Victoria – contained plastic fibers. The authors of the study say we’re living in the Plastic Age – and the contamination probably is not limited to our water. Orb Media and a researcher from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health scrutinized plastic fibers in our tap water for the report, titled Invisibles, for what Orb Media described as the “first public scientific study of its kind.” Microplastics contaminating our water come from a variety of sources, from synthetic clothes to tire dust to microbeads to plastic utensils. According to Orb Media, “We have produced more plastic in the last 10 years than in the entirety of the last century.” They said experts said plastics are probably in your food too – like baby formula, sauces, or craft beer. Related: Plankton Pundit video shows exact moment plastic enters the food chain The research authors tested tap water in the United States, Europe, Indonesia, India, Lebanon, Uganda, and Ecuador. The United States had the greatest amount of plastics in their water at 94 percent of samples; the researchers detected the fibers at the Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, Congress buildings, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next greatest amounts of contamination. Europe had the least – but plastics were still found in 72 percent of samples there. It’s easy to blame waste management or sewage treatment systems. But one marine biology professor said designers have a role to play too. Associate Dean of Research at Plymouth University Richard Thompson told Orb Media, “Plastics are inherently recyclable . What’s preventing us from recycling I’d argue, is inadequate, inappropriate, or…lack of proper consideration on the design stage for what’s going to happen at the end of life.” Senior Research Associate at the University of New South Wales Mark Browne said, “It’s all of our fault.” + Invisibles Via Orb Media and The Guardian Lead image via Depositphotos , others via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Plastic fibers found in over 80% of tap water samples from five continents

Zipline drones deliver life-saving medical supplies in under an hour

September 5, 2017 by  
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83% of rural Africans lack access to critical healthcare services – and delivering emergency supplies is often difficult or impossible due to ailing infrastructure. Zipline is changing that with the world’s first commercial medical delivery drones . A single drone can deliver up to 500 life-saving packages of medical supplies to remote areas in 24 hours. The project, which was just awarded a 2017 INDEX: Award , is a collaboration between Zipline and the Rwandan Government. The service is designed to deliver medical products to any area of Rwanda within 15-35 minutes – no matter how remote. Related: 5 brilliant designs that will change the world in 2017 To activate the system, health workers only need to text an order, which goes to a centralized distribution center. Once the order is put in motion, a drone is dispatched to the area, dropping the ordered items by parachute with a high degree of precision. According to the startup’s website, a single Zipline drone can carry up to 1.5 kilos (3.3 pounds) for up to 150 kilometers (93 miles), making up to 500 deliveries in one day – even in extreme weather conditions. In early 2017 Zipline began delivering blood to over 20 blood transfusion facilities in western Rwanda, and the project is set to begin service in Tanzania with 120 drones and more than 1,000 clinics. + Fly Zipline + INDEX: AWARD 2017

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Zipline drones deliver life-saving medical supplies in under an hour

Scientists develop tiny robots that drill into cancer cells to kill them

September 5, 2017 by  
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Tiny new robots are proving to be life-saving tools in the fight against cancer. As first reported in the journal Nature , scientists at Durham University in England, in collaboration with researchers at Rice and North Carolina Universities in the United States, have developed nanomachines that are capable of drilling into cancer cells, killing them within minutes. These light-activated nanobots, the size of a molecule, move so rapidly that they can burrow through cell linings of cancer. The researchers found that in order for the nanomachines to function effectively, they need to spin two to three million times per second in order to not be inhibited by objects (or what is known as Brownian motion, or the erratic movement of tiny particles in fluid.) When triggered by ultraviolet light, the nanobots begin to spin, allowing them to cut through cancer cells either to destroy the cell or create space for the delivery of beneficial drugs. “These nanomachines are so small that we could park 50,000 of them across the diameter of a human hair, yet they have the targeting and actuating components combined in that diminutive package to make molecular machines a reality for treating disease,” said Dr. James Tour of Rice University. “For many years I never had envisioned the nanomachines being used medically, I though they were way too small, because they are much much smaller than a cell, but now this work has really changed my thoughts.” Related: Nanotech Robots Travel Through Blood to Turn Off Tumor Cells According to Dr. Robert Pal of Durham University, these micro cancer slayers may be well suited to target those cancers that are resistant to existing chemotherapy. “Once developed, this approach could provide a potential step change in non-invasive cancer treatment and greatly improve survival rates and patient welfare globally,” said Pal. After initial experiments on microorganisms and small fish are completed, the team will advance to rodent subjects, then eventually clinical trials on humans if prior results are positive. Via Yahoo News Images via Dr. Robert Pal/Durham University and Tour Group/Rice University

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Scientists develop tiny robots that drill into cancer cells to kill them

Karton creates ultra-durable cardboard furniture for every room in your home

September 5, 2017 by  
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Cardboard furniture doesn’t have to be boring. A startup from Melbourne, Karton Group has just opened a new Brooklyn showroom featuring a wide range of practical furniture pieces, all made from incredibly durable cardboard that is 100 percent recyclable. Although the company originated in Australia, the young startup has recently opened a showroom in Brooklyn, New York featuring their range of cardboard furniture . Everything they produce is made from recycled materials and free from toxins. The furniture pieces, which are constructed with super high-grade corrugated paper board, include everything from a bed frame, nightstand, and chest of drawers to an elegant work desk. Although the design of the furniture line was inspired to provide affordable furnishings, the aesthetic is surprisingly clean and polished . Related: This beautiful furniture by Emilie Mazeau-Langlais is actually made from cardboard For those worried about stability, the cardboard furniture is said to be exceptionally durable. Designed to last for more than 10 years, the fun furnishings are as practical as it gets. As for sturdiness, the Karton Bed, for example, has a load capacity of over two tons. Another bonus? The furniture can be assembled in a matter of minutes, without tools. The designers use an innovative system of folds and tabs to shape the furniture into place following simple, printed assembly instructions. The company also offers various step-by-step video tutorials online. + Karton Group

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Karton creates ultra-durable cardboard furniture for every room in your home

Chinese researchers develop flexible salt-powered batteries

August 14, 2017 by  
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As the world rushes to transition to a new energy economy, researchers are uncovering novel methods to harvest energy from mundane, everyday sources. A research team in China has created a new battery that could be safely used in wearable or implantable devices, thanks to its use of salt-based electrolytes. This breakthrough could drastically improve the quality and safety of battery-dependent medical technology and may even pave the way for sweat-powered devices. In order to be effective, implantable or wearable batteries need to be flexible to allow functional bending on organic surfaces. In prior iterations, these batteries usually included a mix of toxic chemicals that serve as the electrolytes through which electrical charge can flow. This new battery uses non-harmful electrolytes such as sodium sulfate and saline. Because there is less of a concern regarding leakage of these chemicals, the battery’s design does not require extra material to protect humans from exposure and is significantly less bulky. Related: Inexpensive new battery generates power with just a drop of saliva One particularly interesting implication of a salt-based battery is the idea that the batteries could prove effective at harvesting sweat and other salty bodily fluids to power a workout assistant device. The researchers also noted that the batteries have a marked ability to convert dissolved oxygen into hydroxide ions, which could prove useful in medical applications.  “We can implant these fiber-shaped electrodes into the human body to consume essential oxygen, especially for areas that are difficult for injectable drugs to reach,” said researcher Yonggang Wang. “Deoxygenation might even wipe out cancerous cells or pathogenic bacteria since they are very sensitive to changes in living environment pH. Of course, this is hypothetical right now, but we hope to investigate further with biologists and medical scientists.” Via Engadget Images via Deposit Photos , Tim Simpson/Flickr  and Andy Armstrong/Flickr

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Chinese researchers develop flexible salt-powered batteries

Stanford scientist develop a blood-separating centrifuge out of paper

January 12, 2017 by  
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If you were a kid before the age of smartphones, you probably played with a whirligig at least once. The design for this simple toy, which will spin twine threaded through a button at rapid speeds with only a gentle pull, inspired Stanford University researchers to create a cheap and effective medical tool for countries in need. The “paperfuge” is, quite literally, a centrifuge made out of paper . The human-powered device can separate blood in just 90 seconds and costs only $.20 to make. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPePaKnYh2I There are still many parts of the world without access to the medical technology necessary to properly diagnose and treat disease. Stanford bioengineers hope to change that by providing a cost effective centrifuge to affected regions so medical professionals can detect deadly diseases , such as malaria, HIV, African sleeping sickness and tuberculosis. With the paperfuge, there is no need for electricity, as it is powered by human touch. Related: Shining lasers on human blood could help detect tumors The engineers behind the design say the device can spin at speeds up to 125,000 rpm. The paperfuge can also exert centrifugal forces of 30,000 Gs and separate blood in just a minute and a half. “To the best of my knowledge, it’s the fastest spinning object driven by human power,” said Manu Prakash, a Stanford bioengineering assistant professor. Prakash’s lab is also responsible for creating a “ foldscope ” miscroscopy instrument that costs lest than one dollar to produce and a tiny chemistry kit inspired by children’s music boxes. + Stanford University Via Stanford University Images via Youtube (screenshot)

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Stanford scientist develop a blood-separating centrifuge out of paper

New brain implant allows paralyzed monkey to walk again

November 10, 2016 by  
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A new high-tech implant could be the key to helping the brain communicate with damaged nerves – at least in rhesus macaques. Swiss neurosurgeon Jocelyn Bloch and her colleagues at Lausanne University Hospital successfully tested a device that can allow monkeys with spinal cord damage to walk again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sjeytKmlCk In the experiment , Bloch and her colleagues at Lausanne University Hospital worked with a monkey that had its spinal cord partially cut. While there was nothing wrong with the monkey’s brain or leg, nerves weren’t able to communicate with the limb to tell the muscles when to move. When Dr. Bloch placed electrodes on a part of the monkey’s brain associated with leg movement, and another set along the spinal cord, below the injury, these signals were able to bypass the damaged nerves entirely. The electrodes are connected to a device that passes brain signals through a computer, and then back to the spine. In a video of the experiment, you can see a macaque go from limping and deliberately avoiding putting weight on the leg, to suddenly walking on a treadmill with the affected leg. Related: Thought-Controlled Robotic Arm Returns the Sense of Touch to Amputees The new technology builds on research into prosthetic limbs . There have been many attempts in recent years to manufacture prosthetics that can be controlled by the wearer’s thoughts. However, this is the first time this technology has been used to bypass faulty nerves and reactivate an injured limb directly. The implants are already undergoing a human clinical trial to see if the treatment is just as effective in humans as it is in other primates. Via NPR Images via EPFL

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New brain implant allows paralyzed monkey to walk again

Britain to officially shutter all coal power plants by 2025

November 10, 2016 by  
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Last year the British government promised to replace coal with natural gas and alternative energy within a decade. But according to The Guardian , the country’s last coal power plant could close down by 2022 – and without government intervention. Britain’s Secretary of Energy Gary Clark told the Guardian that the move sends a clear signal to the world that the U.K. is a good place to invest in clean energy. “Taking unabated coal power out of our energy mix and replacing it with cleaner technology, such as gas, will significantly reduce emissions from the UK’s energy use,” Clark noted. And the British government is clearly heeding its own advice when it comes to investing in alternative energy sources. The country is investing roughly $1.22 billion (730 million pounds), over the next two and a half years. The majority of that money is expected to go towards offshore wind farm developments. Related: UK solar power outshined coal power plants for the entire month of May The British government is currently examining its options for forcing its eight remaining coal power plants to close by the 2025 deadline. One option would be to change the country’s Emission Power Standard (which sets a limit on the annual carbon emissions of coal power plants based on their capacity) to a level that the dated coal plants will most likely be unable to meet. Air pollution and climate action could also make coal power an unprofitable venture in the future, which would leave the plants to die a natural death – even earlier than the government’s deadline. Via The Guardian Images via zrfraileyphotography and x1klima , Flickr Creative Commons  

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Britain to officially shutter all coal power plants by 2025

New bionic eye chip allows blind woman to see lines, colors, and spots of light

November 1, 2016 by  
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Researchers are now one step closer to returning sight to the blind with a bionic eye . A University of California, Los Angeles doctor successfully implanted a bionic eye component in a 30-year-old woman, and she was able to see lines, colors, and flashes of light. The ” wireless visual cortical stimulator ” is part of Second Sight ‘s Orion I bionic eye. Second Sight makes the Argus II retinal implant , which can send information to a patient’s brain from a camera and eyeglass system. But it doesn’t restore sight completely and won’t work for some patients, so the company has been working on another device, the Orion I Visual Cortical Prosthesis. A doctor implanted the new wireless system directly on the woman’s visual cortex, and the patient saw light “with no significant adverse side effects,” according to the company. The technology aims to provide sight by bypassing the optic nerve to stimulate the brain’s visual cortex, according to chairman Robert Greenberg. Related: The World’s First Bionic Eye Implant Hits US Market Next Month Second Sight CEO Will McGuire said in a statement, “While we still have much work ahead, this successful human proof of concept study gives us renewed energy to move our Orion I development efforts forward. We believe this technology will ultimately provide a useful form of vision for the nearly six million people worldwide who are blind but not a candidate for an Argus II retinal prosthesis.” He also said the company would continue to develop the Argus II and work to make the prosthesis accessible for more people. UCLA neurosurgeon Nader Pouratian, who implanted the stimulator, seems hopeful about the technology. In a statement he said, “Based on these results, stimulation of the visual cortex has the potential to restore useful vision to the blind, which is important for independence and improving quality of life.” The next hurdle is U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. Second Sight needs the agency’s permission to conduct trials of the entire Orion I system including glasses and a camera. Second Sight will submit their application for the trials in 2017. + Second Sight Via Second Sight and Daily Mail Images via Wikimedia Commons and Second Sight Facebook

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New bionic eye chip allows blind woman to see lines, colors, and spots of light

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