In 2007, Peter Homer won $200,000 in a NASA-sponsored contest for the design of these new space gloves, made by Flagsuit. The finger joints are made of Dacron polyester fabric, rather than metal, which allows for easier hand movement. Yet the gloves are strong enough to confine a pressurized latex bladder, which is necessary to prevent the glove from ballooning in space. In November, added a protective layer made of leather and Kevlar. Yes, he won another prize for that. Read more.
Training wheels have long been the go-to accessory for teaching kids how to ride a bicycle. Now there is another option: the Gyrowheel, from Gyrobike. The Gyrowheel, which replaces the front wheel of a child's bike, rights the bike whenever it starts to tip. How? It contains a motorized spinning disk. In technical terms, the disk creates a force called gyroscopic precession. In practice, it makes a bike really stable at low speeds. The wheel has three stability levels; as riders improve, they go to the lower levels. Read more.
Before bottles can be filled with noncarbonated sugary liquid, they must be sterilized, using either chemicals or heat. Advanced Electron Beams hopes to make the process easier and more eco-friendly with its new compact e25ITB Beam Emitter. The emitter shoots out a spray of electrons that breaks the chemical bonds of germs and bacteria inside the container. Using electron beams for sterilization isn't new, but AEB's emitter is much smaller than conventional models, which allows it to be integrated into assembly lines. Read more.
To be a viable source for fuel, algae must be dried completely, but the most common way of doing so—spinning it in a centrifuge—is costly, inefficient, and often damages the plant particles. Algaeventure Systems has developed a more efficient drying system based on osmosis and other natural processes. After algal solution is placed on the AVS Harvester, a moving screen pulls the plant particles in one direction as a conveyor belt pulls the water in the other. The resulting thin algal deposit dries, creating flakes that can be processed to create fuel and food. Read more.
When people think about reducing gasoline consumption, alternative-fuel and hybrid cars usually come to mind. Transonic Combustion, founded in 2006, has a simpler solution: a superefficient fuel injector designed to integrate easily into conventional cars. The TSCi injector pressurizes and heats gasoline to 400 degrees Celsius, bringing it to a supercritical state. It combusts without a spark and mixes with air quickly, allowing it to burn more efficiently. A Transonic test car achieved 64 miles per gallon at highway speeds. Read more.
Scientists have been searching since the 1970s for an efficient way to use carbon dioxide to create affordable plastic that is less harmful to the environment. Novomer has developed a process that promises to do just that. It uses a proprietary cobalt-based catalyst to bond carbon dioxide recaptured from ethanol manufacturing plants to epoxides derived from oil and natural gas. The resulting material requires half as much fossil fuel as traditional plastics. It is also free of BPA, a carcinogen found in some plastic. Read more.
One reason solar power is so expensive is that the energy-harnessing silicon wafers inside most solar panels are difficult to manufacture. 1366 Technologies has developed a streamlined process for producing wafers with the potential to cut manufacturing costs as much as 60 percent. The company's so-called Direct Wafer method involves skimming a cooled wafer directly from a vat of melted silicon. The process takes mere seconds, compared with two or three days using the current method. 1366 hopes to begin selling wafers to solar panel manufacturers by the end of 2012. Read more.
For the past few years, researchers have been trying to develop marketable uses of graphene, a tiny layer of carbon within graphite that conducts electricity extremely well. Vorbeck Materials recently became one of the first companies to do so with Vor-ink, a graphene ink that can be used to print circuit boards for electronics, such as store security tags and cell-phone keypads. Graphene ink is less expensive and more flexible than existing standards: The ink can be printed on a variety of materials, and the resulting circuit board can be bended or peeled off like a sticker. Read more.
For more than half a century, computers have processed information using a language of zeros and ones. Lyric Semiconductor has developed a computer chip that also uses values that fall between zero and one. As a result, the chip can process information using probabilities, considering many possible answers to find the best fit. The powerful chip could speed up online searches, spam filtering, and even the analysis of human genome sequencing. Lyric's first product is expected to appear in consumer electronics within two years. Read more.