tech engineering waste sewage innovation developing_world toilet solar agriculture biochar climate_change
Fiber-Optic Solar Toilet Turns Sewage To Plant Friend

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by Michael Keller

World Water Day is coming up this Saturday. One of the event’s goals is to bring attention to the billion people who live without access to safe drinking water.

A major obstacle standing before that objective is a lack of the sanitation that would prevent human waste from polluting water supplies. One innovation, a solar-powered, fiber-optic-equipped toilet that requires no water and sanitizes sewage with high heat, is among several that are trying to fix the problem and improve public health.

Developed by engineers at University of Colorado Boulder, the system uses eight parabolic mirrors that focus sunlight onto an area the size of a postage stamp. This energy is then piped through fiber-optic cables to a reaction chamber that heats waste to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. 

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tech robots agriculture developing_world farmer pump irrigation myanmar development poverty

Robots Test Tools For Myanmar’s Farmers

Proximity Designs is a Myanmar-based social enterprise that designs products to improve poor people’s lives. Some of the affordable creations they’ve made include foot-powered water pumps, drip irrigation systems, solar lanterns and even infrastructure projects like bridges.

An integral part of their design and manufacturing process involves putting prototypes through trials with robots that use them until they break. The group says their line of farming aids all get pushed to failure by their lab’s robot farmers, which helps improve how they’re made.

Building a reliable product is important if it is to be used under the strain of daily life in rural Myanmar. A product like a manual water pump relieves farmers of the backbreaking work of carrying up to 10 tons of water a day on their backs from distant wells.

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tech engineering origami microscope papercraft public_health malaria infectious_disease medicine developing_world

Origami Makes 50-Cent Paper Microscope That Magnifies 2,000 Times

Stanford University bioengineer Manu Prakash has developed a microscope made of paper that costs 50 cents to make. Using the magic of origami, the Foldscope device can focus through a sample mounted on a standard slide in micron-length steps. It can magnify objects 2,000 times with sub-micron resolution without needing any external power.

The instrument is part of Frugal Science for Public Health, an effort by Prakash’s team to democratize science. Healthcare workers can use it to diagnose infectious diseases like malaria and those caused by pathogenic bacteria, and it can also be used as a teaching aid.

See the ted talk below from which these gifs are made.

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tech engineering milk food_safety clean_tech food_and_drink dairy developing_world africa india usaid
Clean Tech Innovations Mean More Milk For Africa And India

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by Michael Keller

Getting milk from cow to customer is a fairly straightforward proposition: milk the cows, collect the milk from a bunch of different animals, transport it to a processor to get it ready to consume, package it and distribute it for sale to consumers.    

At least, that’s how it goes in the developed world. But even with dairy cows dotting the landscape of countries like Uganda and India, the fresh milk supply often breaks at its earliest stages, leaving a void that can deprive children and adults of valuable nutrition, energy and food security. 

The problem is refrigeration—not for consumers but for the farmers who milk their cows in the morning and evening. Morning milk can be punctually dispatched to a chiller, which slows bacterial growth in the fluid by dropping its temperature. But without proper cooling, the evening’s milk turns bad by the time it could be transported to a bulk collector and then on to a processor. Along with the waste, poor farmers miss out on valuable lost income. 

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