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Scientists have combined biology, agriculture, and technology into a cohesive science to do the impossible. They have managed to construct a cyborg rose that has polymer veins running through it. This could be an evolutionary find that defines the whole field of crop growth and agriculture in a new way.
The concept of incorporating plants with computers and electric circuits can help scientists regulate and control the growth of plants, trees, and crops. This exceptional feat was made possible by Magnus Berggren and his team at the Linkoping University in Sweden. They started their research with the idea that the living tissue and veins inside a human body act as a conductive material to transfer neural messages to the brain.
This concept was then applied to a rose by plugging the rose with fuel cells that can power the plant to maintain its physiological properties by regulating the process of photosynthesis. This experiment has opened the doors to a completely new field of science, which will allow scientists to weave electrical circuits into plants and manipulate their growth and produce per capita.
However, this research was not completely uneventful. It was difficult at first to find a suitable conductive material for the plant’s flesh, which has to conduct electricity and be water soluble at the same time. The scientists faced many difficulties as most of the materials they used were toxic and caused the vascular system of the rose to clog while failing to adhere to the inner surface and xylem.
Finally, after much struggle, they found a polymer named PEDOT (poly 3, 4-ethylenedioxythiophene), which readily soaked into the rose and converted into a conductive solid gel. When the outer layer of the plant’s flesh was removed for evaluation, the scientists found a system of intricate wires winding through the stem of the rose. A postdoctoral researcher, Eleni Stavrinidou, took microscopic pictures of the electrical system inside the rose and said, “The performances, the shape of the wires, were just outstanding, unbelievable.”
The research team, after their success, is looking forward to manufacturing botanical circuits that will have the ability to record hormonal changes in plants. This biological circuitry will influence the physiological and growth properties of the plant, which is a better option than genetic modification.
One of the hurdles that the research team is now facing is the mortality rate of the polymer-embedded rose. Their goal is to keep the plant alive until it is completely flushed with the conductive gel. With this discovery, there will be a time, in a not so distant future, when we will be able to eradicate the woes of world hunger by producing food that is safe from GMOs and harmful chemicals.
According to Andrew Adamantzky, Director of Unconventional Computing Laboratory at the University of West of England, Bristol, UK, “In the very distant future – neither ourselves nor our kids will see this – we can grow vegetable computers in our gardens.”
Scientists at MIT have managed to design a next generation, high-tech band aid that they are calling the “Band Aid of the Future.” It is a sticky band, constructed with a stretchable hydrogel substance, which incorporates temperature sensors, LED lights, and drug conveyance systems. The band aid is designed to respond to changes in body temperature that can drive the flow of medicine into the body through the delivery channels.
The LED lights on the band aid light up, as a warning signal, when the medicine is at a low level. Scientists at MIT claim that the rubber-like matter allows the band aid to be placed on any surface or body part as it is flexible and adaptable. Difficult areas like elbows, knees and other joints, which respond poorly to regular bandages, can be covered in this innovative hydrogel element, which is designed to keep the electronic chips intact while adapting to the skin.
The dressing is embedded with electronic devices, like conductive wires, LED light circuits, semiconductor chips, and temperature sensors. Xuanhe Zhao, the lead scientist on the study, said, “Electronics are usually hard and dry, but the human body is soft and wet. These two systems have drastically different properties. If you want to put electronics in close contact with the human body for applications such as health care monitoring and drug delivery, it is highly desirable to make the electronic devices soft and stretchable to fit the environment of the human body. That’s the motivation for stretchable hydrogel electronics.”
The next generation hydrogel substance was initially constructed to be fused with hard metal surfaces, like gold, aluminum, and silver. Although they are generally brittle and non-springy, the hydrogels used in these bandages are equipped with a titanium wire network, which enables the band to develop resilient, rubber-like properties. Due to the durability and strength of titanium wires, these bands can be stretched a number of times without causing damage to the internal structure or its electronic conductivity.
The production of constant conductivity allows the band aid to perform as a “smart dressing.” The temperature control and the medicine delivery channels remain unaffected, even when the dressing is stretched to its limits. The drug administration and the temperature variables can be monitored via an electronic circuit, and the team of scientists hopes that these properties can be utilized to treat burns successfully.
The long-term objective of this new innovation is to insert microscopic electronic delivery systems into the human body, such as drug delivery probes, neural probes, and glucose sensors. Zhao explained the numerous future applications of the reformed hydrogel band aid by saying, “The brain is a bowl of Jell-O. Currently, researchers are trying different soft materials to achieve long-term biocompatibility of neural devices. With collaborators, we are proposing to use robust hydrogel as an ideal material for neural devices, because the hydrogel can be designed to possess similar mechanical and physiological properties as the brain.”
Just imagine if our roads could act as solar panels and are able to generate power for our houses as well as charge the electric vehicles that drive on them.
The Netherlands built the world’s first solar road in Krommenie, dubbed as SolaRoad, a year ago. It is an experimental bike path that functions as a giant solar panel. The results have surprised the designers, as over the past year the path has generated 70 kWh/m2 of energy, which is sufficient to power about three houses.
Here are some important features of the revolutionary SolaRoad:
- SolaRoad path only covers 70 meters or about 230 feet.
- The road is strong enough to support 12-ton fire trucks without any damage.
- Solar Panels are placed between glass, silicon rubber, and concrete.
- The road has skid-resistant glass and hence supports bicycles and vehicles as well as pedestrian traffic.
- Electricity generated by this road is fed into the electricity grid.
Over 9800 kWh of energy was generated from 70 meters of space, so imagine the potential of this technology if adopted on a wider scale.
Looking at the success of this project, engineers foresee that many more cities around the world will adopt the idea and use existing roadways to gather cheap and sustainable energy.
It sounds like an engineering fantasy or a scene out of a Harry Potter movie, but it is real that Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Defense, is developing unmanned, single-use, unpowered air vehicles that do their job and then just disappear.
Building on recent innovations in the Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program, DARPA has launched ICARUS (Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems), which is tasked with developing vanishing air vehicles that can be dropped from an aircraft to make precise deliveries to isolated locations and then evaporate into thin air.
VAPR researchers have already developed ephemeral materials, including a small polymer panel that sublimates directly from a solid phase to a gas phase and a glass material embedded with electronics that shatters into tiny particles after use.
In battlefields, many sophisticated technologies are often used and are left behind, which can fall into the wrong hands, making them very risky. Moreover, these discarded electronics can also harm the environment. Self-destructing electronics will rule out all these problems.
ICARUS will have other applications as well, like delivering food, water, perishable vaccines, insulin, and blood to people struck by natural disasters or epidemics, as well as for supporting military units in the field. Usually, the organizations that dispense such materials have to go back to collect the vehicles they used to drop the supplies, or they leave these vehicles to decompose.
According to International Business Times, Tesla has been forced to disable its controversial autopilot mode for Hong Kong owners after city officials requested the opportunity to perform a thorough safety review of the autonomous features.
Obviously, it makes sense for Hong Kong officials to be a bit cautious when it comes to an autopilot mode still in beta, considering the insane traffic the city generally experiences.
“The Autosteer and Auto Lane Change functions in our recent 7.0 software update are still pending approval from Hong Kong’s Transport Department,” the company wrote to Tesla owners in Hong Kong yesterday. “To ensure we comply with the country’s regulators, we will be temporarily turning off these two functions on all Model S in Hong Kong effective immediately.”
“We will be putting some additional constraints on when Autopilot can be activated to minimize the possibility of people doing crazy things with it,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on an earnings call earlier this month.
All in all, good on both parties for attempting what’s best to minimize crashes when it comes to Tesla’s autopilot mode right now.
Adidas collaborated with Parley for the Oceans to create a new 3D-printed shoe concept that is made out of plastic waste from the ocean.
The prototype features a 3D-printed midsole made from recycled polyester and fishing nets in addition to the upper part of the shoe which is comprised of “ocean plastic content.”
Adidas says the shoe “stands for how we can set new industry standards.”
“Protecting life underwater became the 14th development goal of the United Nations,” said Parley’s founder Cyrill Gutsch in a press release. “Therefore, Parley in Paris is all about updating knowledge, sharing visions, fine-tuning strategies, creating concepts and forging collaborations in order to kickstart change.”
While this is yet another interesting 3D-printed concept, I’m interested in actually seeing how practical some of these ideas are versus simply using them as marketing tools.
It’s an interesting idea and if we can clean up our seas in the process, good on Adidas and Parley for the Oceans
The California Autonomous Vehicle Testing Program has granted Ford a permit to begin testing its autonomous cars on public roadways next year.
California continues to be an extremely popular location to test autonomous cars as Ford joins the likes of BMW, Honda, Mercedes, Nissan, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Google when it comes to companies with self-driving car testing permits in the state.
Ford’s Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto is responsible for developing the company’s Ford Fusion Hybrid sedans, which will be the vehicles the company plans on testing on California’s public roads in 2016.
It will be interesting to see whether a major car manufacturer or tech company creates the first viable autonomous cars for the public.
More and more colleges and universities across the country are adding new courses to keep up with the improving economy and increasing demand for high tech jobs.
Many facilities deal in high-volume work with automated equipment, but they also need employees highly proficient in computer training in order to ensure their complex systems are safe from cyber attacks.
As a result, more classes are being offered in high growth areas, specifically Introduction to Automation Using Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC’s) and Cyber Security/Risk Management.
PLC courses focus on helping automation technicians, electricians, industrial maintenance mechanics, and energy management system operators learn the implementation of automated systems in manufacturing and service company settings designed to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Cyber Security courses are aimed at all those looking to protect computer systems from viruses, hackers, worms, and other threats to confidential information.
All in all, now might be the time to jump into some of these new PLC courses and improve your proficiency in a number of areas involving automated equipment.
The latest autonomous concept car from Mercedes-Benz, called Vision Tokyo, was recently introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show.
The company proclaims its new self-driving car idea is “a chill-out zone in the midst of the megacity traffic mayhem.”
And who am I to argue with that description, because after all, the design, including the exterior and interior of the vehicle, do look pretty chill.
An arc-shaped couch in the vehicle allows for up to 5 passengers to comfortably relax. The car also has a fuel cell drivetrain and futuristic wraparound displays.
Obviously, this concept is far from ready for production, but Mercedes does seem to be taking on a Tron-like theme with their ideas.
Perhaps the coolest feature of Vision Tokyo is the fact that a steering wheel can pop out on your command, allowing for a rider to have “personal contact whenever possible.”
Mercedes has also envisioned a hologram projection system for showing apps and maps in three-dimensional space, which can be seen in the images below.
Whether or not Vision Tokyo ever comes to fruition remains to be seen, but at least we are getting an idea of what some future self-driving cars might look like and the features they will entail.