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Ben Coxworth

Scientists are working on a biofuel-producing strain of sugarcane  (Photo: Shutterstock)

Sugarcane grows like crazy, so if it could be used as a source of biofuel, well ... not only might it produce higher yields than other crops, but it could conceivably do so using less land. With that in mind, scientists from the University of Illinois are creating a strain of the plant that produces more oil, gets more energy from the sun, and can be grown in colder climates.  Read More

The PPlanter in use, by a person and a bamboo plant

If you live in a big city, then there are doubtless alleyways or alcoves you know of that always smell like pee. While it might help to install public urinals in these places, doing so involves a lot of work and expense. Porta Potties are one alternative, although Oakland, California-based Hyphae Design Laboratory has developed a more eco-friendly solution known as the PPlanter. It's a self-contained modular system, that uses bamboo to process the pee.  Read More

The optical device uses a laser to determine how quickly a person's blood will clot  (Imag...

Not everyone's blood clots at the same rate. While that might seem like simply an interesting bit of trivia, it's anything but trivial to doctors performing operations or emergency procedures, who need to know what might be required in the way of transfusions or anticoagulant drugs. Now, an optical device can provide them with that information within minutes.  Read More

The business end of the probe, built around a single disc-like chip

Imagine if you were trying to clear rubble out of a tunnel, but you could only see that tunnel from the side, instead of looking straight into it. Well, that's currently what it's like for doctors who are trying to see inside patients' blocked coronary blood vessels using ultrasound. Soon, however, a tiny catheter-based probe may give them a 3D real-time forward view from inside those vessels – or from inside the heart itself – not unlike that seen by the microscopic submarine crew in the movie Fantastic Voyage.  Read More

The artificial muscles can lift 100 times as much weight as human muscles of the same size...

Artificial muscles could find use in a wide range of applications, including prosthetic limbs, robotics, exoskeletons, or pretty much any situation in which hydraulics or electric motors just aren't a practical means of moving objects. Scientists have been working on such muscles for a number of years, using materials like vanadium dioxide, graphene, carbon nanotubes and dielectric elastomers. Now, however, some of those same scientists have discovered that very powerful artificial muscles can be made from much more down-to-earth materials – regular polymer fishing line, and metal-coated nylon sewing thread.  Read More

Someday, simply having your phone in the car while driving could recharge it

While it's already possible to wirelessly recharge smartphones in cars, those cars need to be equipped with a special charging pad that the phone has to be placed on. Thanks to a newly-developed "nanogenerator," however, it might eventually be possible to place the phone anywhere in any car, letting the vehicle's vibrations provide the power.  Read More

The Lechal haptic shoe, in fiery red

Three years ago, we heard about a prototype shoe that could be used to guide the wearer via haptic feedback. Designed by Anirudh Sharma, who was then a researcher at Hewlett-Packard Labs in Bangalore, India, the Lechal shoe was intended for use mainly by the blind. This week, however, Sharma and business partner Krispian Lawrence announced that the production version of the Lechal will soon be available for preorder, and it's aimed at helping all people navigate the city streets.  Read More

A microscope image of the gecko foot-inspired tape with some of the larger dirt-simulating...

Geckos' feet are right up there with adhesive tape, when it comes to being able to stick to things. Unlike tape, however, those feet retain their adhesive qualities even after many, many uses. Now, thanks to research being conducted at Carnegie Mellon University and Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, we may one day be using self-cleaning reusable gecko-inspired tape.  Read More

Volvo's 'roam delivery' system sends couriers to cars, not houses

It's kind of ironic that couriers usually attempt home deliveries during the day, while most people are away at work. Not only does this mean that those people don't get their packages as soon as they could, but it also means the couriers have to go to the time and trouble of making a second attempt on another day. Volvo wants to change that, by letting drivers use their parked cars as mobile delivery points.  Read More

The Socam UltiMate, jerry-rigged to the underside of a DJI Phantom quadcopter

Things got a little tighter in the already-crowded actioncam market this week, as Conrad Electronic announced its Socam UltiMate Action Camera. Among its features are a rotating lens, a streamlined form factor, and an included splash-proof case. I was provided with a pre-release review unit, which I've been trying out over the past couple of weeks. Read on, to find out how I liked it.  Read More

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