Saubhagya Scheme To Power All Indian Households

When it comes to running water and clean energy, resources aren’t always available to all. Independent groups have been doing what they can to provide for rural areas, implementing Eco-Boxes and bleach lamps. Though the power grid issue seems to be improving, development is slow and India has had enough. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched the Saubhagya Scheme, which promises to provide electricity for over 40 million Indian families by December 2018.

Millions of rural Indians still rely on lamps fuelled by kerosene, the use of which the scheme hopes to cut. Kerosene is a huge health and environmental hazard and restricting its use would further India’s ambitious climate goal to cut emissions.

Roughly 300 million Indian citizens have no access to electricity. Along with the scheme, the government plans to keep from charging poorer families. However, as opposed to targeting villages, the scheme will single out individual households.

Remote, and often inaccessible, villages have proved to be a major challenge in the electrification drive. The government has said it will distribute solar packs (comprising LED lights, a fan and a plug) and a battery bank to households in these villages.

The project will also help state-owned power distribution companies with debts. It’s a helping hand I’d have no problem shaking!

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U.K. Installing Water Vacuums To Collect Waste

Technological advancements such as swimming robots and metallic glass have helped to alleviate water pollution. Despite this, consumers are polluting lakes and oceans quicker than we can restore them. To combat unreliable waste management, Indiegogo creators are taking “Seabins” to the U.K.

The Seabin’s creators say that each unit can collect around 1.5kg of waste a day and hold up to 12kg until it’s full. That amounts to 20,000 plastic bottles or 83,000 plastic bags a year.

At a plump price tag of £3,000, the Seabin is a splurge, but perhaps a necessary one. It functions simply and efficiently and is hardly a struggle to transport.

It houses a combination of a large natural fibre net and a dock-based pump (fed by the hook-like metal pole). This only collects debris floating on top of the water and sucks in surface oils, ensuring fish are safe.

Throw a few dozen Seabins into the Pacific and I’d say oil spills could be the least of anyone’s worries. It’s two thumbs up for this clever device.

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Battery Breathes Air And Stores Energy For Months

From powering homes to treating cancer, the simple battery has come a long way. To up the ante of renewable energy sources, MIT has developed an air-breathing battery that stores energy at zero emissions.

“This battery literally inhales and exhales air, but it doesn’t exhale carbon dioxide, like humans — it exhales oxygen,” says Yet-Ming Chiang, the Kyocera Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT.

Cost of production is 1/30th that of regular lithium-ion batteries. Over five years, researchers experimented with various materials such as sulfur and potassium permanganate. While its impact was a priority, pricing was also heavily considered.

“It’s a creative and interesting new concept that could potentially be an ultra-low-cost solution for grid storage,”

In the end, the battery is definitely the first of its kind and is not only unique, but highly efficient.

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Dutch Startup Using Crows To Clean Cigarette Litter

It’s more than likely that we call groups of ravens an unkindness due to their unforgiving intelligence. A Swedish experiment training birds to earn food rewards had one raven hacking the project entirely. The thoughtful budgie even took the time to teach other birds the secret. Now, startup Crowded Cities is testing the brainpower of crows, using them to pick up litter.

The idea is to train the crows to drop cigarette butts in a ‘Crowbar,’ which scans the item to confirm it’s a cigarette butt, and then gives the crow a food reward to reinforce the behavior.

Considering the amount of cigarette butts that end up on sidewalks annually (about 4.5 trillion), these crows could make a difference. The butts are not only non-biodegradable, but toxic to marine life. For ultimate efficiency, the Crowbar uses a simple give-and-take mechanism.

[Everything] is done with the intention that the crow will fly away and inform others of this system, so that more crows participate in cigarette butt collecting.

Research has found that crows are as cognitive as apes, so the success of the Crowbar should be anticipated.

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U.S. Navy Developing High-Tech Prosthetic Limbs

Human or animal, prosthetics are making their way into the lives of the disabled. In Colorado, OrthoPets has manufactured devices for over 13,000 animals. A new medical algorithm is helping paralyzed patients to “relearn” muscle movements. But it seems the most advanced therapy of all is in the hands of the U.S. Navy. The Office of Naval Research is developing smart prosthetics that can also monitor health.

[The] prosthetic limb [has] built-in sensors that can track changes in movement, various health issues, and early signs of infection.

The device detects pH levels, body temperature, strain levels, and whether the prosthetic needs to be replaced.

“One game-changing application of this technology would be as a tool to inform doctors when prostheses can be safely loaded after surgery, leading to more accurate determination of when patients are ready for physical therapy after receiving a new prosthetic.”

In other words, the prosthetic is a glorified Fitbit with far more physical benefits. While I’m assuming it’s possible the prosthetics will be pricey, at least they’re available for veterans who need them.

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Modified Chickens Are Laying Cancer-Fighting Eggs

With alternative treatments for cancer on the rise, we’re also seeing an increase in unusual remedies. If anything from avocado husks to flexible batteries are on the market, using livestock should be no surprise. At least not to engineers in Japan. Researchers are genetically modifying chickens to lay eggs filled with cancer-preventing drugs.

The eggs were developed using genome-editing technology to produce a protein called interferon, which is used to treat hepatitis, multiple sclerosis and malignant skin cancer.

Injecting it into cancer patients three times per week can prevent cancer cells from multiplying, while also boosting T cells to fight tumors.

Conventionally, interferon costs anywhere between $250 to $900. Interferon from chicken eggs, on the other hand, won’t have patients clucking up more than half the price. What remains to be more dangerous than cancer itself is the price tag that comes with therapy.

“Cancer drugs are not a luxury item, like an expensive car, that people can choose to buy or not to buy…. When prices come down, mortality rates will surely follow.” [said Brian Bolwell of the Cleveland Clinic.]

Perhaps, one day we’ll all agree that curing cancer isn’t about the money. Kudos, Mr. Bolwell. Kudos.

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Micropod Technology Could Eliminate Booster Shots

We all know that flu shots are a necessary evil. While microneedle patches are replacing traditional injection procedures, patients still have to undergo numerous follow-ups. Now, MIT engineers are looking to eliminate the need for multiple booster shots with an advanced micropod technology.

“We are very excited about this work because, for the first time, we can create a library of tiny, encased vaccine particles, each programmed to release at a precise, predictable time, so that people could potentially receive a single injection that, in effect, would have multiple boosters already built into it,”

The pods, described as “tiny coffee cups” consist of an already FDA-approved material. For kicks, it’s called poly lactic-co-glycolic acid. Or just PLGA, really. The micropods have the potential to be practical in other ways, especially over long periods of time.

“The… technique could provide a new platform that can create nearly any tiny, fillable object with nearly any material, which could provide unprecedented opportunities in manufacturing in medicine and other areas,”

Because immune cells die over time and patient compliance when it comes to vaccines is low, the micropods are practically genius. Let’s face it — hospitals aren’t exactly the place to be.

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Tri-Specific Antibodies Treating HIV Infection

The medicine industry is booming, thanks to new technologies like bendable batteries and injectable bandages. While these new discoveries can treat cancer and repair organs, some researchers are working on improving older remedies. The US National Institutes of Health and Sanofi have combined antibodies into tri-specific antibodies targeting HIV infection.

“They are more potent and have greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that’s been discovered.” [said Dr. Gary Nabel of Sanofi.]

“We’re getting 99% coverage, and getting coverage at very low concentrations of the antibody,”

HIV strains mutate faster than immune systems can adapt, making resistance almost futile. Animal trials saw a 100% success rate in monkeys, while human trials will begin next year.

“Combinations of antibodies that each bind to a distinct site on HIV may best overcome the defences of the virus in the effort to achieve effective antibody-based treatment and prevention.”

Further testing may prove the usefulness of tri-specific antibodies in other fields. The battle against HIV is far from over, but it’s safe to say we’re getting there, one antibody at a time.

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Air Humidity: A New Source Of Electricity?

If all it takes to generate energy nowadays is a walk and a bit of sweat, it should come as no surprise that it’s also possible to create electricity out of thin air. Or, rather, air that is slightly humid.

[Biophysicist professor Ozgur Sahin’s] laboratory has developed one kind of ‘evaporation engine’, which works by using the movement of bacteria in response to changes in humidity.

Shutters either opened or closed to control moisture levels, prompting bacterial spores to expand or contract. This motion is then transferred to a generator and turned into electricity.

With technologies to convert wind, water, and heat into energy, it seems anything has the potential to do the same. As with anything in its early stages, researchers are treading carefully so as not to affect water resources. However, the machines may be a saving grace to drought-prone areas, as they reduce water loss.

“Some… regions suffer from periods of water stress and scarcity, which might favour implementation of these energy harvesting systems due to the reduction of evaporative losses.”

According to recent calculations, the technology could save 25 trillion gallons of water a year. It’s a godsend, considering how many people aren’t willing to give up hot, hourlong showers. It’s also a harsh reminder that we ought to do our part as consumers.

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Nerve Therapy Revives Consciousness Of Patients

A mere month ago, locked-in patients were given the opportunity to communicate via a computer interface. Now, researchers are using nerve therapy to revive the consciousness of patients in a persistent vegetative state.

The vagus nerve, which the treatment targeted, connects the brain to almost all the vital organs in the body, running from the brain stem down both sides of the neck, across the chest and into the abdomen. In the brain, it is linked directly to two regions known to play roles in alertness and consciousness.

The study, led by French scientists, brought a 35-year-old man out of PVS after being unresponsive for nearly 15 years. He can now track objects with his eyes and even turn his head when asked. Head of study Angela Sirigu believes the research can provide hope for families of locked-in patients.

“Personally I think it’s better to be aware, even if it’s a bad state, to be conscious of what’s happening. Then you can have a decision if you want to go on or if you want [euthanasia].”

At the very least, those in a locked-in state can be in control, which eliminates the nightmare of muscle loss.

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