Rice University mechanical engineering students have built a prototype shoe fitting that generates enough energy to power portable electronics and recharge batteries.
The fitting, called PediPower, diverts the energy of heel strikes while walking, which would otherwise be lost into the ground, through a small gear system and generator. In bench tests, it delivered an average 400 milliwatts, enough to charge a battery or operate a cell phone. Their creation joins another body-powered generator developed by U.S. and Canadian scientists—a knee brace that can recharge up to 10 cell phones at once.
The Rice seniors hope their innovation will be improved upon by the next group taking it up to boost power output and decrease size. The goal is for the device to reliably produce enough energy to power artificial heart valves.
HT to Laughing Squid for spotting this one.
The world is awash in antibiotics. We take them to fight off the bacteria that mean to colonize us. We feed them to animals to prevent the outbreak of disease in densely packed factory-farming operations. Even many of our cleaning and body care products, controversially, now contain them.
But many antibiotics don’t get fully metabolized within humans or animals and, through excretion, find their way into waste and surface waters. It’s a major environmental concern whose full ecological implications still aren’t clear.
And the problem creates a vicious cycle. Evolution gives our microbial adversaries the strategic advantage—the ability to adapt to our weapons and render them harmless. So we engage in a microscopic arms race, battering increasing numbers of antibiotic-resistant bugs with more and more drug compounds to keep them at bay.
So you could call it a small case of poetic justice when researchers figure out how to use the cellular machinery that renders some bacteria drug-resistant to reclaim antibiotics from contaminated water.
For those unfortunate enough to be trapped in a caved-in mine or under the rubble of a collapsed building, the chance of being rescued largely depends upon trained humans and dogs. The equipment they may be outfitted with—thermal imaging sensors, carbon dioxide detectors and flexible video cameras—may also provide some limited help.
But those buried too deeply for searchers to detect them must put all hope of rescue upon the slim possibility that first responders uncover them by chance. For this reason, researchers are trying to develop search and rescue robots that could vastly improve the odds for victims trapped underground.
“The dream and goal in this field is to turn a robot into a multifunctional device capable of moving everywhere,” says Daniel Goldman, a physicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “We’re seeking inspiration for how teams of little robots could self-organize to create structures that allow them to efficiently and effectively move around in nasty environments.”