Solar-powered moisture harvester collects and cleans water from air

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Access to clean water remains one of the biggest challenges facing humankind. A breakthrough by engineers at The University of Texas at Austin may offer a new solution through solar-powered technology that absorbs moisture from the air and returns it as clean, usable water.

The breakthrough, described in a recent issue of the journal Advanced Materials, could be used in disaster situations, water crises or poverty-stricken areas and developing countries. The technology relies on hydrogels, gel-polymer hybrid materials designed to be “super sponges” that can retain large amounts of water.

A research team led by Guihua Yu in UT Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering combined hydrogels that are both highly water absorbent and can release water upon heating. This unique combination has been successfully proved to work in humid and dry weather conditions and is crucial to enabling the production of clean, safe drinking water from the air.

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ICON unveils a new large scale 3D printer to build affordable homes

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Mayor Steve Adler with ICON Cofounder Evan Loomis at ICON’s headquarters for an event to unveil its newest large-scale 3D printer, Vulcan II which can be used to create affordable homes

Austin-based ICON on Monday unveiled its new “Vulcan II” 3D printer that can print up to a 2,000 square foot house quickly at half the cost.

“It’s four times as big, it’s twice as fast, and it’s going to start shipping to customers next month,” said Jason Ballard, CEO and Co-founder of ICON. “This is not science fiction, it’s science fact. The world you all have been waiting for is about to arrive.”

ICON has also created proprietary concrete/mortar material which it calls “Lavacrete” that has passed every structural test and is safe for people and resilient to the varieties of conditions it may encounter, according to the company.

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Scientists have discovered a shape that blocks all sound–even your co-workers

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Offices and tiny apartments could be transformed by the work of Boston University researchers, who recently unveiled an “acoustic metamaterial” that blocks all sound.

 A team of Boston University researchers recently stuck a loudspeaker into one end of a PVC pipe. They cranked it up loud. What did they hear? Nothing.

How was this possible? Did they block the other end of the pipe with noise canceling foams or a chunk of concrete? No, nothing of the sort. The pipe was actually left open save for a small, 3D-printed ring placed around the rim. That ring cut 94% of the sound blasting from the speaker, enough to make it inaudible to the human ear.

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This futuristic Airbus smart seat prototype may make the future of economy flying a bit less miserable

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Move Airbus seat concept

  • The Move seat concept was created by London-based design firm Layer for Airbus.
  • The seats are made from lightweight polyester wood smart textile wrapped around an aluminum frame.
  • Electrical currents running through the smart textile allow passengers to control the firmness and the temperature of the seat.
  • Move seats can be adjusted using an app.
  • According to Layer, the seats are meant to help create an innovative passenger experience for economy class travelers.

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Undersea basecamp for ocean explorers

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New submersible “tent” lets divers nap, eat, and decompress beneath the waves

SINCE THE DAWN of the modern SCUBA age ushered in by Jacques Cousteau in the early 1940s, ocean explorers have been seeking new ways to stay under the sea for longer stretches. Restricted by tank size and human physiology under pressure, SCUBA divers must periodically come up for air, sometimes within just minutes of hitting bottom.

Enter the Ocean Space Habitat, conceived of as sort of underwater “basecamp.”

Designed and recently patented by National Geographic explorer Michael Lombardi and Winslow Burleson, an associate professor at New York University, the inflatable Ocean Space Habitat is a portable life-support system for divers who want to go deeper and stay longer than conventional SCUBA allows.

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The 10 most intriguing inventions of 2018

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From programmable pills to power-generating boots, here are some of the most unusual technological innovations we covered this year.

We are all about emerging technologies here at Tech Review—including those that might never make it past the “emerging” stage. Here are some of the more recondite inventions we have covered this year, many of them plumbed from the arXiv, the pre-publication academic paper database.

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A Chinese company said it created a photo with such a high resolution that you can zoom from thousands of meters away to see people’s facial expressions

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You might call this the pinnacle of high-resolution images.

  • The image, the brainchild of a company called Jingkun Technology, or BigPixel, was taken from atop the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai, China.
  • The company said the photo’s resolution is a mind-blowing 195 gigapixels.
  • The resolution of digital cameras and smartphones is often measured in megapixels, or 1 million pixels — so a 12-megapixel camera, for example, can produce images with 12 million total pixels. But in this case we’re talking about gigapixels, or 1 billion pixels.

Click the link below to try the zoom feature yourself.

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Meet the desk-sized turbine that can power a small town

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A desk-sized turbine can power 10,000 homes using carbon dioxide.

10,000 Homes

Engineers from GE Global Research unveiled a turbine that could provide power for 10,000 homes. But what’s truly remarkable about this turbine is its potential to solve the world’s energy challenges.

Typically, turbines weigh tons and use steam to run—this one is no bigger than the size of your desk, weighs around 68 kg (150 pounds), and runs on carbon dioxide. “This compact machine will allow us to do amazing things,” said Doug Hofer, lead engineer on the project, in Albany, New York. He continues, “the world is seeking cleaner and more efficient ways to generate power. The concepts we are exploring with this machine are helping us address both.”

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Dangle no more: Window-washing drone for towers could replace human cleaners

I’m Drones are edging evermore into the workplace, transforming the way jobs are done and enabling companies to save time, improve safety, and cut costs all at the same time.

Take this enormous window-washing drone. Built by Latvia-based Aerones, the machine aims to replace those human-operated cradles you’ve seen dangling on the side of huge towers.

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World’s first full-body medical scanner generates astonishing 3D images

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The new EXPLORER full-body scanner promises faster and more detailed medical imaging(Credit: UC Davis)

After over a decade of development, the world’s first full-body medical scanner has produced its first images. The groundbreaking imaging device is almost 40 times faster than current PET scans and can capture a 3D picture of the entire human body in one instant scan.

Called EXPLORER, the full-body scanner combines positron emission tomography (PET) and X-ray computed tomography (CT). Following years of research, a prototype, primate-sized scanner was revealed in 2016. After expansive testing, the first human-sized device was fabricated in early 2018.

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