Regular Concrete is very strong and hard, and has incredible compressive strength. We embed rebar into concrete in order to give it additional tensile and bending strength, but concrete just does not bend, not like metals do. It’s also very brittle, so if concrete does bend, it almost immediately cracks and begins to shatter. Add some tiny polymer fibers to the concrete mix, however, and you get a very strong, kinda bendy concrete. I expect civil engineers all up and down the West Coast will be very interested in this.
I’m starting to wonder how many ways we can figure out to arrange carbon atoms in novel and useful configurations. I mean, come on, a simple laser and we get electrically conductive sheets of diamond that glow! Goodbye Gorilla Glass.
Magnesium, despite it’s reputation as something firefighters hate dealing with, is an industrially useful metal. It’s lighter than aluminum and a lot cheaper, but not quite strong enough to be a contender in aircraft and racecars. Alloy it with nanoscale ceramic particles, and suddenly it’s giving aluminum a run for the money. They key here seems to be the nanoscale size of the particles. Microscale doesn’t work.
Aside from welding, geting metals to form a strong bond is a trick, and getting metals to bond strongly to dissimilar metals (welding dissimilar metals rarely ends well), or other materials is also hard to do. Etch the surface of the metal (probably with a laser) to form nanoscale structures, and non-welded strong bonds are possible. Whether or not this could replace welding remains to be seen, but welding is used in a lot of constructions where it’s overkill, but it’s used because nothing else works. Likewise, metal is often attached to non-metals with fasteners (screws, bolts, etc.) because a glue bonded surface won’t do it, but punching holes through things in order to use fasteners weakens the part, so more material is needed (thus increasing costs, weight, etc.).
It’s synthetic spider silk, but still, it’s spider silk, and hello, we can produce a synthetic spider silk in sufficient quantities that we can build a car seat!
I gotta admit, this is such a simple idea I’m honestly not certain why anyone still uses traditional concrete blocks (cinder blocks). Or have similar ideas been tried in the past and found wanting (or killed by established players)?
I just really like airships, especially hybrid airships, and the Airlander recently did it’s maiden flight (even though it still has some issues). Even if airships took off again as a mode of transport, they’ll probably never replace high speed jetliners, but I could certainly seem them as a niche option like cruise liners, for people who have the time, and want the experience of the journey. Just imagine such an airship, with a windowed lounge on the dorsal surface, on a clear night…
First off, it’s from the guy who designed the McLaren F1. Second, it’s cheap. But most importantly, it comes flat packed, probably with an Allen wrench included.
I Just Want One – Seriously, that’s it.
So there is a reason cars come with piston engines and not turbines. Turbines are annoyingly loud, do not produce a lot of torque, and are very finicky about maintenance. There are ways to overcome the first two issues, but that last one has always been a bugbear. People are just really bad about personal vehicle maintenance, and turbines, while very reliable and robust, demand that you do the regular maintenance if you wish them to remain reliable and robust. Still, with tight machine tolerances, and very limited operating ranges, you can have a turbine that is much more forgiving. Attach that turbine to the generator of a hybrid vehicle and you have, by definition, a tight operating range. Better still, spinning a small generator is not a high torque operation, so no massive gearbox to turn high speed into torque. It’s not a bad idea.
Erect that Space Elevator and this gets a whole lot easier…
Wing and Tube has been the go-to design for airliners for decades, and while ideas like flying wings have been kicking around for a while, those are still a ways off. Putting two tubes side by side is something we can do, today (pretty much). The benefit is that large, twin aisle airliners are mostly empty space. The passenger deck runs pretty much through the center of the fuselage, so you get lots of standing headroom, and a whole lot of empty cargo space below the passenger deck. Usually airlines take on other cargo besides your luggage so that empty space is making some money, but while an airline can usually keep the seats full, filling the cargo hold is not as much of a sure thing. A double hull gives you more seats to fill without adding a ton of extra empty space. Plus you get other aerodynamic benefits (check out the brochure at the link).
It’s a fuel cell aircraft that isn’t a gossamer gimmick.
I’m going to be honest here, the specifics of battery tech are not my thing, but the idea intrigues me, We couldn’t do something like this with current energy densities, but if Workman is right, it’s not entirely out of reach. Plus, it sticks with the tradition of keeping the fuel in the wings.
This one is more about the hydrogels than it is transportation, but the application is ships. The short of it is, barnacles are a drag, current coatings to prevent barnacles are toxic and leach into the ocean. Hydrogel coatings could prevent barnacle attachment and be non-toxic. Just gotta see if they can withstand the rigors of sailing the ocean blue.
Another case of, how has no one ever noticed this before? OK, to be fair, this isn’t that obvious, and they were careful in their selection of materials. I wonder how long before this becomes a staple of middle school science classes?
Imagine if all the windows in a tall, glass skyscraper were transparent solar panels. Now they can be.
We all know one of the big issues with solar is night. The obvious solution is make extra power during the day and store it. One way being kicked around was using molten salts, but salts can be expensive, and extremely toxic. Enter silicon. Massively abundant, non toxic, and better heat capacity that most salts.
Or, we could turn CO2 into ethanol, then use the ethanol at night. To date, the process to capture CO2 into ethanol has been energy intensive enough to not be worth it. But recently, a team took a well known catalyst that allows for the low power formation of ethanol from CO2 and stepped it up a notch with nanoscale structures formed from the catalyst. The process still requires power, specifically a little bit of electrical current through the catalyst, but if scalable and economic, it could be a game changer.
Or we could use solar to produce hydrogen with artificial photosynthesis cells, then push the hydrogen through fuel cells at night.
Or we could skip the artificial part and just use photosynthesis directly to produce hydrogen with GMO algae.
BioTech and BioMimicry
Cleaning up an oil slick on open water usually involves soaking up a ton of water with the oil, that must then be separated from the oil, tested and cleaned, and then discharged. But if can just avoid soaking up the water… Taking a cue from a hydrophobic plant leaf, now we can do just that.
Beer waste water can be recycled to make batteries by turning into into carbon electrodes. So down a pint, you are making batteries. Also, I am not surprised in the least that this comes from the Boulder campus.
Coffee grounds can be turned into water filtration foam, and lots of other useful things beside garden compost.
Don’t we have a soil scientist lurking hereabouts? This reminds me in a way of using plants to extract heavy metals from soils, since plants often draw the metals up in through their roots.
I can wait to see fuzzy rubber surfers on the Oregon coast!
Aside from making it hard to talk to another human during the summer, it seems those wings have other uses. Not only are the nanostructures on the wing surface antibacterial, they are also antireflective in a way that might be very useful for solar cell efficiency. Still annoying loud bugs.
Electronic and Other Tech
We got desktop 3D Printers, CNC mills, laser cutters, and now water jet cutters. When can I get a desktop vapor dep so I can build IC chips at home?
Not sure how useful this is right now, but the video at the link is cool to watch.
I’m going to resist saying “DUH!”, but in all seriousness, this right here should be all we need to get every honest police officer on board with the idea in general, even if the specifics of implementation, usage, and storage still need to be hammered out.
My phone is going to get even thinner, isn’t it. Especially when I can put a layer of diamond on top of it.
I doubt I’ll ever have cause to write code for a quantum computer in my lifetime, but the technology side of this does seem to keep marching right along.