Why Biomining Could Be The Future Of Space Society

As investment in space technology booms, a trusted mineral extraction technique is under the microscope

By Joseph Smith

Investment in space-based technologies is at an all-time high. An estimated $17.1 billion was invested into 328 space companies by venture capital firms in 2021. Wall Street forecasters project that the ‘space economy’ will be worth trillions within the next 20 years and investment into space infrastructure has already grown by 50% since 2020 with $14.5 billion invested just last year.

One sector that is at the forefront of this rapid growth in space-related industries is space mining. We are now entering an era of commercial resource extraction in space and countries are now competing to gain access to the vast wealth of rare minerals available across our solar system and beyond.

The United States has become the first nation to ratify a law that recognizes property rights regarding materials acquired in space. Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates are not far behind in this respect and are rapidly getting closer to implementing laws regarding space resource extraction. Many other countries, including China and Russia, have also made space mining a matter of national importance.

The potential financial benefits of mining in space are significant. The major asteroid belt in our solar system alone is so rich in mineral wealth that its value would give each person on earth $100 billion. For decades, scientists have puzzled over techniques to extract this wealth from space. However, the technology required to harvest these riches may have been under our noses the entire time in the process of biomining.

Already widely used to extract valuable minerals such as copper, gold, zinc, and cobalt on earth, biomining is a process whereby specific types of microbes leach these valuable metals directly from ores below the earth’s surface. It has been proven to be successful on an industrial scale across Chile. Biomining developments such as Lo Aguirre produced over 300,000 tonnes of copper between 1980 and 2002. Other mines in Chile have exclusively been using bioleaching to extract minerals since 1994.

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World’s fastest electric car charger in Norway

ABB and Eviny have collaborated on the first installations of ABB’s Terra 360. ABB’s Terra 360 is now available for use by the country’s growing community of EV drivers at the Oasen Shopping Centre, Bergen and in the Norwegian ski resort of Geilo.

The pilot installations, which will be followed by more widespread roll out across Norway and Sweden, serve as a further demonstration of the ability of ABB charging technology to perform in extreme weather conditions and enable sustainable transport solutions in the widest range of locations.

The charging stations can simultaneously charge up to two vehicles with dynamic power distribution. With a maximum output of 360kW, the Terra 360 is a future proof solution capable of fully charging an electric car in 15 minutes or less.

Frank Muehlon, CEO of ABB E-mobility explains: “Having recently unveiled the Terra 360 to the world, these are truly landmark launches which we are delighted to partner with Eviny on. Norway is setting the global standard when it comes to the e-mobility transition, and we are excited to hear the reaction of EV drivers in one of the most advanced nations for EV adoption.”

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Korean Startup Mars Auto is all set to launch Self-driving Trucks next year

Mars Auto has partnered with Logi Square to test the efficiency of the pilot operation by expanding it to ten semi-large trucks on the Gyeongbu Expressway section from the metropolitan area to Busan. 

By Dipayan Mitra

Korean self-driving technology developing startup Mars Auto announces that it plans to launch its self-driving trucks next year. Mars Auto has successfully tested its first self-driving truck. 

The company’s vehicle was equipped with a camera and a computer, allowing it to drive securely for 5 hours and 30 minutes on the highway from Seoul to Busan. 

Additionally, the movements of the autonomous truck did not require any human interference. Mars Auto has partnered with Logi Square to test the efficiency of the pilot operation by expanding it to ten semi-large trucks on the Gyeongbu Expressway section from the metropolitan area to Busan. 

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Forget VR headsets – Apple now has a patent for a VR car

By Hamish Hector 

Apple’s ready to take us on a wild ride

A new Apple patent hints at how the company could use VR to entertain passengers traveling in an autonomous car — while also helping reduce motion sickness to boot.

The released schematics reveal how a driverless car and a VR headset could work together to keep travelers entertained on their journeys. VR headset wearers could be dropped into a game, or they could invite friends and celebrities to be their virtual travel companions.

On the business side, the patent (first mentioned on PatentlyApple) also showed how users could attend a business meeting while on the move – on the back of a flatbed truck no less. Rather than being confined to a virtual meeting room, you’d be able to look out at passing scenery, so you’d be less likely to become disoriented and motion-sick.

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How patient-on-a-chip tech could be the future of drug discovery

By Ben Hargreaves

Testing drug compounds on a chip designed to mimic human organs sounds closer to science fiction than reality, yet the technology already exists and is already being put to use. Ben Hargreaves discovers how the technology could provide more accurate safety predictions and even discover new treatments.

The limits of animal models in drug discovery are well known. If you are reading this then you are likely not a mouse, and as a result, will react to drug compounds differently. In testing new treatments, what is promising in animal models may not transfer particularly well to humans, which helps to explain why there is a 90% failure rate during clinical development. The low rate of success is one of the contributors to the high cost and the slow R&D process that takes promising compounds through early testing and into the clinic. Moreover, there is the question of the ethics of using animals, numbering in the millions each year, in clinical trials, which sees most euthanized at the end of the process.

The challenge that the pharma industry faces is the lack of better alternatives to animal models. There are existing alternatives, with one being human cell culture systems, which provide an environment that is closer to that which will eventually receive treatment but do not contain the complexity of a complete organism. An organoid system approach takes self-organising clusters of cells that grow in three dimensions, closely resembling real tissue and organs. Despite the potential, there are limiting factors such as the need to provide optimal culturing conditions for different types of organoid, with each potentially containing a range of cells types. An alternative to these systems is one that is growing in popularity and commercial application, a technology referred to as ‘organ-on-a-chip’.

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Meet Robosweeper: the autonomous EV truck that cleans and sanitises roads

BY MAXENE LONDON

Robosweeper, WeRide’s second purpose-built self-driving vehicle / WeRide YouTube

The Robosweeper is a new, fully electric and driverless truck that cleans and sanitises public roads, creating a solution for keeping highly populated city streets clean. 

Designed in collaboration with WeRide and Yutong Group, the Robosweeper cleans the roads by sweeping, sprinkling, and spraying disinfectant from its rear and sides. 

Following the pandemic, this sort of function is highly sought after, particularly in densely populated cities like China, which recently implemented one of the world’s most restrictive policies with the goal of having zero covid-19 cases. 

The vehicle looks like a futuristic concept bus, but it’s actually production-ready. It has heavily tinted windows which hide the lack of a driver in the cabin, and sensors that stick out of the body of the vehicle and allow for Level 4 autonomy. 

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This California Greenhouse is Run by Robots

(Photo: Iron Ox)A farm technology startup is using robots and artificial intelligence to tackle sustainability concerns in agriculture.  

By Adrianna Nine

Northern California-based Iron Ox was born from the realization that conventional American agriculture negatively impacts the environment in a multitude of ways. The type of farming most of us are familiar with uses as much as 70 percent of the world’s fresh water supply and produces up to 1.19 gigatons of greenhouse gasses every year. There’s also the issue of wasted produce, with up to 40 percent of fruits and veggies ending up in a landfill before ever reaching a consumer. While companies like Imperfect Foods, Uglies, and Misfits Market aim to offset this by proudly selling produce your typical grocery store won’t, these businesses don’t address the root of the problem: how the produce is grown.   

Iron Ox uses two house-designed, AI-supported robots to perform most repetitive farming tasks and ensure resources are used efficiently. The first of these, called Grover, makes up the brawn of Iron Ox’s robotic crew. Able to lift more than 1,000 pounds, Grover helps move plant “modules” (i.e. planter boxes) around the greenhouse. Grover also helps water and harvest crops in tandem with Phil, the company’s brainier robot farmer. Phil monitors and delivers each module’s water, nutrient mix, and pH levels to maximize crop yield and quality while making sure resources aren’t overused. 

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A hair-raising invention! Scientists are developing a robot with electronic HAIRS that mimic the natural touch of human skin

By SHIVALI BEST

  • The system uses an anisotropic magnetoresistance (AMR) sensor system
  • This system can precisely determine changes in magnetic fields
  • Hairs on the surface are linked to the sensors, which can detect touch
  • The e-skin could be used to make more realistic humanoid robots 

The idea of a robot with hairy arms may sound like a concept from the latest science fiction blockbuster.

But the bizarre invention could soon become a reality, as scientists have taken a major step forward in the development of electronic skin with integrated artificial hairs.

Hairs allow for ‘natural touch’ and let us detect different sensations such as rough and smooth, as well as the direction the touch is coming from.

Researchers from Chemnitz University of Technology say the ‘e-skin’ could have a range of uses in the future, including skin replacement for humans and artificial skin for humanoid robots.

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Ulstein reveals thorium-powered ship concept to support ecocruising

The nuclear-powered Thor concept

By David Szondy

Norway-based marine group Ulstein has introduced Thor, its concept design for a 149-m (489-ft) replenishment, research and rescue (3R) ship powered by a thorium Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) that can be used to recharge battery-driven cruise ships at sea.

As environmental consciousness grows, ecotourism has become a booming business, but with the desire to visit exotic environments comes the need to protect these often under-threat locations. This is particularly urgent for cruise ships going into the polar regions, which are notoriously fragile.

Polar cruises not only have to deal with the intrinsic needs to protect the Arctic and Antarctic coastal regions, but also meet increasingly stringent government regulations and pressure from environmental groups. On top of this, icy seas make refueling ships away from port difficult, expensive, and potentially damaging to the surrounding area.

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Space bricks made using astronaut urine could lead to Martian colony

Humans are working towards establishing a colony on Mars

Human settlements on Mars are one step closer after scientists created ‘space bricks’.

These could be created on the Red Planet by mixing astronauts’ urine with the dusty Martian soil.

The bricks are made by mixing dust with urea, the main compound in urine, and bacteria as well guar gum and nickel chloride.

The slurry can be poured into moulds of any shape and over a few days the bacteria convert the urea into calcium carbonate crystals.

These crystals, as well as biopolymers which are secreted by the bacteria, act as cement that holds the soil particles together.

The new bricks, which were developed by researchers from the Indian Institute of Science, are less porous than others which researchers have tried to use to make Martian bricks.

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App could soon provide at-home test for brain diseases via ‘eye selfies’

A smartphone user can image the eye using the RGB selfie camera and the front-facing near-infrared camera included for facial recognition. Measurements from this imaging could be used to assess the user’s cognitive condition.

By John Anderer
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — You may soon be able to screen yourself for neurological diseases like dementia and ADHD using nothing but a smartphone. All you’d have to do is take a selfie — of your eyes. Researchers at the University of California-San Diego are developing a new app that uses eye recordings to assess cognitive health.

The app uses both a near-infrared camera (built into most new smartphones available today) and a “regular selfie camera” to track pupil size dilations. Those pupil measurements can then help to assess a person’s cognitive condition, study authors explain.

“While there is still a lot of work to be done, I am excited about the potential for using this technology to bring neurological screening out of clinical lab settings and into homes,” says first study author Colin Barry, an electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. student at UC San Diego, in a university release. “We hope that this opens the door to novel explorations of using smartphones to detect and monitor potential health problems earlier on.”

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Stanford’s Futuristic Gravity Telescope Could Image Exoplanets – 1,000x More Powerful Than Current Technology

An example of a reconstruction of Earth, using the ring of light around the Sun, projected by the solar gravitational lens. The algorithm that enables this reconstruction can be applied to exoplanets for superior imaging. Credit: Alexander Madurowicz

By EMILY MOSKAL

A futuristic “gravity telescope” technique conceptualized by Stanford astrophysicists could enable astronomical imaging significantly more advanced than any present today.

In the time since the first exoplanet was discovered in 1992, astronomers have discovered more than 5,000 planets orbiting other stars. However, when astronomers detect a new exoplanet, we learn relatively little about it: we know that it exists and a few features about it, but the rest is a mystery.

To sidestep the physical constraints of telescopes, Stanford University astrophysicists have been developing a new conceptual imaging technique that would be 1,000 times more precise than the strongest imaging technology currently in use. By taking advantage of gravity’s warping effect on space-time, called gravitational lensing, scientists could potentially manipulate this phenomenon to create imaging far more advanced than any currently available.

In a paper published today (May 2, 2022) in The Astrophysical Journal, the researchers describe a way to manipulate solar gravitational lensing to view planets outside our solar system. By positioning a telescope, the sun, and exoplanet in a line with the sun in the middle, scientists could use the gravitational field of the sun to magnify light from the exoplanet as it passes by. As opposed to a magnifying glass which has a curved surface that bends light, a gravitational lens has a curved space-time that enables imaging far away objects.

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