Seven from Seven: Turning Ocean Vapour Into Drinking Water, And Batteries Made From Trees

6th January 2023

Each week, we scour the worlds of innovation, tech for good and social impact to bring you seven of our top stories…

  1. NHS staff at the Milton Keynes University Hospital have been working with British artificial intelligence start-up, Academy of Robotics, to trial an automated assistant named Helper Bot. The trial began in November 2022, when the NHS robot was trained to autonomously navigate the hospital. Work will continue into 2023, as the penguin-shaped robotic assistant delivers medicine across various routes throughout the hospital. During busy periods, the robot will help to relieve the significant workload faced by NHS workers.
  2. Infineon Technologies is extending its collaboration with non-profit organization Rainforest Connection to pursue the common goal of monitoring vulnerable rainforest regions with modern sensor technology. Artificial intelligence is used to identify sounds of threats. For example, when the sound of chainsaws is detected, rangers are alerted on site and directed to the location. This facilitates greater safety for rangers, helping monitor much larger areas to protect the world’s remaining endangered forests from being illegally logged in the process.
  3. Scientists have developed a new water purification system that can filter out small plastic particles, as well as other pollutants, quickly and with high efficiency. They have discovered a new porous material, an Amorphous Porous Polymer, which has high-efficiency adsorption, meaning it can remove 99.9% of microplastics in water. The material could be used in the future to purify contaminated water and supply drinking water in areas where there is no power supply.
  4. Using the same virtual reality technology that allows gamers to turn their bedrooms into battlefields, the team at Cambridge University’s IMAXT Laboratory are offering scientists the chance to step inside tumours. This unlikely alliance of video game designers and cancer researchers has given visual form to spreadsheet data which could revolutionize cancer treatment. Numbers are transformed into an interactive picture, giving completely new perspectives on cancers which could turn out to be a diagnosis game-changer.
  5. Finland-based Stora Enso, one of the largest private forest owners in the world, is collaborating with Swedish company Northvolt, to manufacture batteries from tree sap by 2025. Lignin, a polymer found in tree sap, contains carbon which is vital for the anode part of car batteries. As demand for electric vehicles soars, scientists are searching for sustainable, cost-effective materials to make car batteries. As such, Lignin has the potential to increase the use of electric cars through the development of these sustainable batteries, ultimately helping reduce global carbon emissions as electric cars hit the mainstream.
  6. Scientists from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have tapped into a limitless supply of fresh water – water vapour above the oceans. A new study explains how this unlimited supply of water could be converted into drinkable water. By condensing water vapour into liquid water from moist air that travels from the ocean surface to a nearby shore, cooling systems which use renewable wind energy can then recycle the water. It is predicted that just one of these installations has the potential to meet the average daily drinking water needs of 500,000 people, meaning this new technology could supply one of the world’s greatest challenges – clean drinking water shortage.
  7. A pioneering new cancer treatment using the same biotechnology as the Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine is set to be trialled in the UK. The vaccine, using mRNA technology (messenger-ribonucleic-acid technology) will be designed for the immune system of each patient, presenting the immune system with a unique genetic code from the cancer so that only the tumour itself is attacked rather than the other healthy cells. Patients in England could get access to the personalized therapies from as early as September 2023.

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