Each week, we scour the worlds of innovation, tech for good and social impact to bring you seven of our top stories…
- Project Cassiopeia – a plan to harvest solar energy from space and beam it down to Earth using microwaves – has been announced by Martin Soltau, the co-chairman at Space Energy Initiative (SEI). By collaborating with industry experts and academics, this is something that could be into action as soon as 2035. The project would see satellites placed in a high Earth orbit that, once deployed, would harvest solar energy and beam it back down to Earth. In theory, the solar energy harvested from space has the potential to supply all the world’s energy by 2050!
- Cornell researchers are working on what they say is a next frontier in domestic human-machine interaction – a new technology that combines robotics with computer intelligence that people can inhabit. Keith Evan Green, director of the Architectural Robotics Lab, calls them ‘robot rooms’. They will be reconfigurable, intelligent environments that will surround and support people occupying small spaces, from high-rise studios and hospital rooms to self-driving vehicles and spacecraft.
- Drones have become an essential for mountain rescue teams. Now with 21 drones, the Scottish Mountain Rescue teams relies on this technology to save people every month. These drones check terrain, such as cliffs, helping expeditions plot where it is safe to rope down to casualties. Tim Hamlett, leader of Assynt MRT in the north west Highlands, described drones as a game changer in terms of missing person searches.
- A team of German scientists have discovered new substances that have a similar pain-relieving effect to opiates – but without the negative side effects like respiratory depression and addiction. This is because they work by stimulating adrenalin receptors, as opposed to opioid receptors which cause these negative side effects. The development of non-opioid pain relief could be life changing for a multitude of people who have found opiates helpful for their physical pain, but harmful to their mental health.
- Staffordshire County Council are using a new method to carry out road repairs by harnessing thermal technology and solar power. The new machinery uses these sustainable sources of power to heat the road surface to over 400 degrees, allowing the crew to easily re-lay the surface and add more bitumen where needed. This method not only reuses existing tarmac, minimising waste in the process, but it also harnesses renewable sources of energy, paving the way for future sustainable infrastructure development.
- Researchers from MIT and Brown University have worked together to develop new technology that could enable better control systems for prosthetic limbs. The researchers demonstrated both the accuracy and safety of using magnetic sensors to track muscle length during movements – making it easier for people with amputations to control prosthetic limbs. The production of this new technology could help to improve the control and efficacy of bionic limbs for people who have lost limbs.
- Farm equipment suppliers are now introducing ‘no-till machinery’ – farm equipment that is designed to cause minimum disturbance to the soil. It includes seed planters that drop seeds into small holes rather than using a big blade to dig a long trench. This method helps preserve the fertility of the soil which has been degrading in quality across the world in recent years. On average 30 people in the Indian farming sector alone are taking their own lives every day in part due to poor harvests, so this new technology could help farmers achieve better harvests and therefore have better livelihoods and better overall well-being.
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