Browsing: Innovations

Patches covered in microscopic needles could tattoo vaccines into the skin to boost a patient’s defense against disease, researchers say. Vaccines help bodies develop immunity to diseases by exposing immune systems to potential invaders. Scientists are now developing DNA vaccines that deliver genes from contagions into patients; the cells of vaccinated people then churn out molecules from those potential intruders that function like wanted signs, helping immune systems recognize dangerous threats. In principle, DNA vaccines possess a number of benefits over regular vaccines. For example, instead of wasting time and resources generating and purifying proteins from germs for use in vaccines, manufacturers can…

Science fiction authors and futurists have long speculated about the Singularity: a coming technological event that transforms humanity in ways people can’t even begin to understand. The term “singularity” has been applied to many different types of developments, from accelerated technological progress to an event that suddenly disrupts the course of human history. But the most common idea of “The Singularity” may be the advent ofsmarter-than-human AI: machines or robots that learn, reason and grow on their own. Scary visions of the Terminator or Cylons may spring to mind. But is the Singularity really something to worry about? Is it something that…

As enthusiasm grows for 3-D printers, so does a familiar complaint to just about everyone still living in a 2-D inkjet world: the maddeningly high cost and inefficiency of replacement cartridges. Enter the Filabot, a contraption that turns just about all your household plastic waste into “ink” for 3-D printers. 3-D printers melt strips of plastic filament into a gooey paste that is spewed out one layer at a time to create all sorts of plastic parts, gizmos and architect models. The printers are a sign of the future, when we can print just about anything we’d ever want with…

Scientists are using principles of natural selection to evolve a more efficient solar cell. Engineers at Northwestern University wrote a computer program that “mates” design elements and assesses the fitness of their “offspring” to come up with the most efficient possible organic solar cell. Organic solar cells are made with the so-called organic elements — carbon, oxygen and nitrogen — and are cheaper to make, lighter and more flexible than the traditional silicon cells available in solar panels today. Organic cells aren’t as efficient at turning the sun’s energy into electricity as silicon cells. Many research groups are working to…

A hypersonic “SpaceLiner” would whisk up to 50 passengers from Europe to Australia in 90 minutes. The futuristic vehicle would do so by riding a rocket into Earth’s upper atmosphere, reaching 24 times the speed of sound before gliding in for a landing. Many challenges still remain, including finding the right shape for the vehicle, said Martin Sippel, project coordinator for SpaceLiner at the German Aerospace Center. But he suggested the project could make enough progress to begin attracting private funding in another 10 years and aim for full operations by 2050. The current concept includes a rocket booster stage…

What if your floor said hi to you whenever you came home? A new invention, still in its prototype stage, could make that happen. Researchers have created a glass floor, named Gravity Space, that recognizes the people and objects standing on it. Gravity Space could work for applications ranging from flipping on your favorite TV channel when you come into the room to monitoring the activity levels of elderly people, the New Scientist reported. This isn’t the first people-recognizing floor we’ve seen. TechNewsDaily previously reported on a “smart carpet” prototype for nursing homes and a patent granted to IBM for a floor for smart…

Growing swarms of facial recognition software can identify people whose faces end up in pictures posted online without their permission. But a new “privacy visor” aims to beat such software by using a dazzling light display to restore a sense of privacy. The wearable technology takes privacy measures a step beyond the baseball cap and sunglasses worn by celebrities, or even the asymmetrical face paint and hairstyles proposed by a Web designer studying art at New York University. Instead, it embeds LED lighting inside a pair of commercially available goggles to confuse facial recognition software with dazzling near-infrared light “noise.” Any such…

The Sun’s energy may seem limitless, but the ability to convert it into electricity with silicon solar cells has been pretty limited — at less than 10 percent efficiency. Now researchers have announced a new kind of cell using nanowires, filaments just a few nanometers thick, to make solar cellswith efficiency as high as 13.8 percent. (A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.) The trick is to use nanowires of just the right thickness to capture the most photos and with a variety of materials to absorb a broader range of wavelengths in sunlight. Here is the press release: Breakthrough for solar…

LED (light emitting diodes) lights have long promised to replace incandescent bulbs and fluorescent lights by being more energy efficient. They were first usedin calculators and digital watches back in the 1970s and work by havingelectrons moving through a semiconductor material. By the late-2000s, researchers were predictingLED’s would revolutionize lighting. But they are expensive to make and their white light is harsh and blue-tinted, not warm. New research at the University of Georgia shows a way to make white LED light with a warm glow, by using a single light emitting material called a phosphor. Here is the press release: Athens,…

Normally, when we think of clocks, we think of time — seconds, minutes, hours. When we think of scales, we think of weight — ounces, grams, pounds. However, a new clock developed by physicists at the University of California, Berkeley is said to be the most fundamental clock ever created, combining a clock’s function with a scale’s, telling time in matter. Like lots of important inventions that furthered mankind — plastic, velcro, stainless steel, and the vitally important slinky — the invention of this clock was sort of an accident. Theatomic clock, which is the most accurate time-telling device of…