Discarded Electronics Are Literal Gold Mines

If you have seen any dystopian film or have read any piece at all of dystopian literature, you would know that a landscape made of metal offers intense horrors that bank on some of the deep-seated fears of today’s society.

Realistically speaking, we have been inventing ways to address the problem of metal such as recycling laptop batteries into a source of alternative energy or something as strangely innovative as making stylish backpacks out of car parts, but there is a need to push further. A trio of researchers recently took a shot at that and conducted a study which tries to answer how profitable it is to recover metals from old electronics.

In 2016 alone, the world discarded 44.7 million metric tons of unusable or simply unwanted electronics, according to the United Nations’ 2017 Global E-Waste Monitor report. That’s 4,500 Eiffel Towers-worth of phones, laptops, microwaves, and TVs. Only 20 percent of this e-waste was properly recycled that year. The rest was likely either incinerated, pumping pollution into the atmosphere, or added to a landfill somewhere, with its toxins now leaking into our soil and water supply.

It turns out, urban mining costs much less than traditional mining. The researchers from Beijing’s Tsinghua University and Sydney’s Macquarie University published their results in a scientific journal after collecting data from recycling companies in China. While the cost of recycling might vary from country to country, China’s status as the world’s biggest producer of e-waste makes light of the truth that the practice of urban mining could have a big impact on both economic and environmental matters.

[W]e already knew electronics contain precious metals in addition to all that glass and plastic. While a single smartphone might not contain all that much, consumers buy about 1.7 billion of the devices each year. In just one million of those, you’ll find roughly 75 pounds of gold, 35,000 pounds of copper, and 772 pounds of silver.

Necessary reminder though: this is no reason at all to justify our technological consumption practices. If anything, it should make us ask more conscientiously, what do I do with my smartphone once I find a new replacement that has great upgrades and loads informative online articles (like this!) much faster?

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Goodyear Rolls Out Moss Tire That Helps Clean Air

Last year’s greatest catalog expansion was not that of your favorite shoes or sunglasses, but wheels. Yes, commercial car tires got the ultimate makeover in 2017, introducing anti-flat and airless masterpieces. But manufacturers haven’t run out of ideas yet, with Goodyear rolling out one of its most genius products yet. The rubber company is engineering a moss-covered tire that absorbs moisture and expels oxygen.

Goodyear says if a Paris-sized city, with around 2.5 million vehicles, used Oxygene tires then it would eliminate 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year while also producing more than 3,000 tons of oxygen.

With 80% of people residing in areas with dangerously high pollution levels, the roads could use a breather. The Oxygene is 3D-printed, shock-absorbent, and immune to perforations. Michelin might have to step its game up.

The tire also “harvests the energy generated during photosynthesis” to power an assortment of onboard sensors and electronics including a sidewall light strip and an artificial intelligence processing unit. The tire also has V2V and V2X technology which allows it to warn other vehicles about lane changes and other maneuvers.

Yep — if my wheels could keep me on time, wash my laundry remotely, and call my sister, I’d throw em on the shopping list.

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Pixel Buds Can Translate Conversations

When Translate One2One launched back in June, it was the latest translation technology of its kind. Not to be undermined, Google recently launched a translation device of its own, in the form of Pixel Buds.

The translation software allows users to both listen to and speak in foreign languages using their smartphone. For listening services, holding down the earbud will translate another language into the user’s chosen language.

The gadget supports 40 languages and hosts a slew of additional features. As Google does, the Buds will retail for £159 (approximately $210) — or perhaps you’d prefer to sell an organ.

“With Pixel Buds, we’re excited to put all the power of the Google Assistant into a pair of headphones you can take with you everywhere,” said Google product manager Adam Champy, “so you can easily control your tunes, get walking directions to the nearest coffee spot or have a conversation with someone from another country without ever pulling out your phone.”

Alongside the release of Pixel Buds is the Pixel 2, which is a state-of-the-art smartphone. If you also choose to invest in the Google Lens smart camera, you may be the proud new owner of a pocket-sized cyborg.

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Refrigerator Camera Helps Monitor Food

The British food market is on a roll. Sainsbury recently manufactured a smart label that reminds home cooks when to use up an ingredient. However, the labels are only for ham packets. Kitchen company Smarter hopes its newest device will be a game-changer. FridgeCam is an affordable refrigerator camera that helps users monitor food in real time.

The Smarter FridgeCam takes food “selfies” which are sent to the user’s phone, allowing an instant reminder of what could be on the menu for their next meal. The app also monitors use-by dates, and issues automatic top-up reminders to buy more food products based on remaining quantities.

Why not use any camera? Well, for starters, I wouldn’t recommend shoving a point-and-shoot into your fridge. Plus, it costs less than $150, which is a steal compared to full-on smart refrigerators.

“The supermarkets tell us that the way we shop has fundamentally changed. People are shopping little and often and using different shops. The more we developed and trialled this technology, the more we found that it could not just help reduce food waste but it also encourages people to shop in a smarter and more efficient way,” [said Christian Lane, founder of Smarter]

The quirky gadget could help reduce the over-purchasing of food as well as encourage timely use. It may seem like a superfluous purchase, but at least you won’t be tossing perfectly good veggies.

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Metal 3D Printer Is Better Than Laser Technology

We all know the power of 3D printing. If it can produce replacement limbs for animals and even mimic brain tissue, what can’t it do? The answer is simple but equally as frustrating. 3D printing doesn’t come cheap, nor is it very fast. But this metal 3D printer, which is 100 times quicker and costs 20 times less, could change that.

Desktop Metal just developed a new metal 3D printer that is reportedly faster, safer and cheaper than existing systems.

The parts go into a “de-binding bath” that separates a substantial portion of the binding polymer. The parts then go into a sintering furnace. When the product is heated to just below the melting point, the binding agent burns off and a highly dense, sintered metal is produced.

The impressive gadget doesn’t use metal powders or laser technology, making it safer to install. But the excitement doesn’t stop there. It’s reportedly better than NASA and Boeing’s laser-melted printer.

The mass production system is built for speed and definitely delivers. It is faster than machining, casting, forging or other techniques, and each production printer can produce up to 500 cubic inches of complex parts per hour.

The entire system costs around $120,000, which is a steal compared to a $1 million laser machine. Desktop Metal is still taking baby steps, but I’m expecting nothing less than an explosion in the industry.

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Man Uses Game Boy To Photograph Jupiter

People never fail to impress me. I’ve seen million-dollar equipment built in the safety of one’s own home. Astronomy student Alex Pietrow is no exception. Using a Game Boy and antique telescope, Pietrow was able to photograph Jupiter, and clearly!

Pietrow used a Gosky Universal Cell Phone Adapter to attach the Game Boy Camera to the 6-inch’ Fraunhofer telescope in the Old Observatory of Leiden.

Pietrow set the sight of his late 90s Game Boy Camera a bit further… all the way to Jupiter. Surprisingly, the Game Boy Camera, which can capture black and white images at a 128×112 resolution… was able to capture not only Jupiter but also its four Galilean moons.

Way to put professional astronomers in their place! But the fun doesn’t stop there. Pietrow plans to use his invention to photograph Saturn as well.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at shooting celestial objects with your trusty Game Boy… you’re going to be in for a lot of work. Not only do you need a Game Boy and its Camera peripheral, but also a few devices meant to hack the Game Boy as well as either an installation of Windows XP on a computer with parallel port or some fiddling with drivers on Windows 7.

While I may not be smart enough to come up with anything like this, I do know that Pietrow is going places. He may even put billion-dollar telescope industries out of business!

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