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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Dental Robot Doesn’t Need Human Assistance

Since developing a surgical robot, engineers across the globe have been pushing the limits of machines in medicine. This Chinese dental robot can perform implant surgery without any human assistance.

The implants were fitted to within a margin of error of 0.2-0.3mm, reaching the required standard for this kind of operation.

The robot addresses the shortage of dental technicians as well as frequent surgical errors. China imports roughly 1 million implants annually, which hardly satisfies the 400 million patients needing new teeth. The Fourth Military Medical University’s hospital takes care of 3D printing dentures.

[Dental staff] programmed the robot to move into the correct position to carry out the operation, and determined the movements, angle and depth needed to fit the new teeth inside a cavity in the patient’s mouth.

The robot adjusts to patients’ movement, which is definitely a plus. It also makes the experience a lot less intimidating, knowing your gums won’t be in for a prickly surprise. It seems surgeons are in for some serious competition.

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“Brainternet” Brings The Human Mind Online

The human brain knows no limits. The fact that we only use 10% of it remains a myth, as antennas and bendable batteries are furthering biomedical engineering. Lately, researchers at Wits University in Johannesburg have made the greatest breakthrough yet with the “Brainternet.” (But it’s not exactly what you might think!)

The project works by taking brainwave EEG signals gathered by an Emotiv EEG device connected to the user’s head. The signals are then transmitted to a low cost Raspberry Pi computer, which live streams the data to an application programming interface and displays the data on an open website where anyone can view the activity.

In essence, you can download information about your brain and pretty much study the thing. So, no, you can’t update your Twitter in your sleep. However, the technology is still potentially valuable in transferring brain data.

“Brainternet can be further improved to classify recordings through a smart phone app that will provide data for a machine-learning algorithm. In [the] future, there could be information transferred in both directions – inputs and outputs to the brain,”

Sorry to disappoint you, millennials, but keep in mind that understanding brain functions could make mind-controlling Facebook possible eventually. For now, stick to a MacBook.

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Solar Wallpaper Harvests Energy Using Photosynthesis

It goes without saying that solar is taking over fossil fuels by storm. Communities are fashioning panels into their infrastructure, including a Danish international school that dons a record-breaking 12,000 consoles. To work on making solar power more cost-effective, developers are creating solar blocks. However, scientists from two London universities may have found the most efficient way to incorporate solar power into homes with energy-producing wallpaper.

The solar bio-battery is part of a new type of renewable energy research known as microbial biophotovoltaics (BPV), which make use of cyanobacteria and other photosynthetic algae to convert light into electricity.

Though the process sounds daunting, all you need is a working inkjet printer. Not only is the wallpaper cheap to produce — it works as a disposable and biodegradable power tool. Technology such as biosensors will no longer require bulky devices that suit only a single purpose.

“Imagine a paper-based, disposable environmental sensor disguised as wallpaper, which could monitor air quality in the home. When it has done its job it could be removed and left to biodegrade in the garden without any impact on the environment.”

If that’s what scientists are promising, I sure do hope we won’t have to imagine any longer.

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Surgical Robot Is Ridiculously Fast

There is much debate as to whether certain jobs should be handed over to artificial intelligences or remain to be carried out by a human workforce. Human error plays a huge role in why most industries choose to replace employees with machines. Researchers from the University of Utah are helping to minimize these risks with a new robot that can complete complicated procedures up to 50 times quicker than its human counterparts.

The robot can reduce the time it takes to drill into the skull from two hours to two-and-a-half minutes.

The robot is guided around vulnerable areas of the skull by data gleaned from CT scans and entered into the robot’s programming.

The CT scans show the programmer the location of nerves or veins that the bot will have to avoid.

Not only is the machine less prone to erring, it is also cutting surgery costs, as shorter surgeries are cheaper. While robotic surgeons are mostly prototypes, the day they become the norm doesn’t seem too far off.

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How Will Artificial Intelligences Shape The Future?

Day by day, doing work is made easier by various technologies such as household machines, virtual assistants, and the Internet. With people relying heavier on technology each year, we must ask ourselves how artificial intelligences will shape the future. Michael Hanuschick, Janet Baker, and James Kuffner provide their input.

Baker is skeptical about the developing AI, but concludes that proper use of technology is all about awareness:

“Powerful technologies will be used and abused… We must be aware and take active roles in advancing our capabilities and protecting ourselves from harm––including the harm from escalating prejudices we foster by isolating ourselves from differing ideas (e.g., with polarized news feeds) and productive discourse about them.”

Kuffner believes that AI exists for the better:

“AI will enhance and augment the human experience. Historically, humans have formed strong bonds — even relationships — with their automobiles (machines).”

Hanuschick thinks AIs can effectively handle small tasks, while the bigger ones must be dealt with by us:

“Jobs based on fairly simple and repetitive tasks will probably continue to disappear, but anything more complex is likely to be around for quite some time. I haven’t seen evidence that a true AI, with the ability to understand and reason, will be seen in our lifetimes.”

Many fear that AIs will eventually replace the human workforce, but others are optimistic that they will complement our vision for the future. And while AI’s customizable looks may be the least of our worries, who wouldn’t want a robot version of Brad Pitt?

Do you think AIs will benefit our community?

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