We heard yesterday from analysts who are wringing their hands over a coming mineral supply problem. A family of metals called rare earth elements and several others are critical for the machines that power the fledgling green economy. From the neodymium needed for the magnets in wind turbines and electric motors to the lithium at the heart of rechargeable batteries, geopolitical factors and a lack of recycling could combine to mean supplies don’t meet demand in the years to come.
But some scientists, engineers and others say they have a solution that’s out of this world. Their idea? Mine the moon.
Bernard Foing, who led Europe’s first mission to the moon and is now head of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group, says the idea is tantalizing because the moon’s composition is very similar to Earth’s. Because some places always receive sunlight, he says, a program could land a purely solar-powered mission there. “One day, we are going to have a fleet of satellites in orbit around the moon and also rovers on the surface that can mine it,” he says.
This week on Txchnologist, we watched art meet science and were reminded that human engineers still have much to learn from evolution.
With the passing this week of Maya Angelou, we were reminded of the power of poetry. How does Still I Rise, a poem knitted together with such simple, unassuming words, cause our spirits to soar? Poetry can also salve the troubled soul, make us laugh or call us to action. But the world is now home to the first poem that makes us think of the air while taking action itself—by being printed on a huge banner coated with a catalyst that scrubs airborne pollutants. We wonder what Ms. Angelou would say to that.
Nature has arrived at some impressive ways to impart strength and resilience to the smallest animals. First we saw how spider fangs have evolved into highly adapted needles that exhibit surprising structural stiffness and damage resistance. We also got up close and personal with ant necks. These soft-tissue joints are amazingly capable of supporting 5,000 times the insect’s weight.
Now we’re bringing you the news we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.
This week on Txchnologist, we learned about advances in transparent electronics that could one day lead to implantable devices that give us real-time status updates on our health.
We also examined the development of algae biofuels after researchers announced they could create crude oil from the plants in under an hour, and saw what happens when you unleash YouTube’s Slow Mo guys at GE laboratories.
Now, we’re bringing you the top science, tech and innovation news we’ve been following this week.