Author: Dattatreya Mandal

Scientists devise unique method to recover rare metals for low-cost CIGS solar cells

Midsummer's unique rare metal recovery method

In purely statistical terms, the growth rate of thin film solar cell market touched a whopping 60 percent benchmark from 2002 to 2007. Suffice it to say, such kinds of advanced CIGS solar cells do account for a crucial commercial chunk of renewable energy. But the predicament lies with their relatively high-cost of manufacturing and usage, partly due to the technology’s utilization of expensive rare earth materials like Gallium and Indium. Fortunately, scientists are looking forth to a solution that can significantly alleviate this high cost factor. Midsummer, a company dealing with cost effective production of CIGS solar cells, has collaborated with Professor Christian Ekberg and PhD-student Anna Gustafsson (from Swedish Chalmers University of Technology) to develop a special procedure that can effectively recover the leftover rare metals after a conventional manufacturing process (of solar cells).

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Ekso Suit: A 3D printed Hybrid Robotic Exoskeleton with customized structure

Ekso Suit - A 3D printed Hybrid Robotic Exoskeleton

We have had our fair share of bionic exoskeleton contrivances, but nothing (arguably) comes close to the level of conscientiousness displayed by the above pictured Hybrid Robotic Exoskeleton. Fueled by the collaborative effort of the world’s largest 3D printer company – 3D Systems, and Ekso-Bionics, the so-named 3D Ekso Suit is custom tailored to ergonomically fit its subject. The ‘subject/test pilot’ for this fascinating endeavor was Amanda Boxtel, an outdoor enthusiast who unfortunately met with a serious injury in Aspen almost 12 years ago. The freak accident left her paralyzed from waist down, thus making her biologically unable to walk. But every story has a silver lining; the hybrid Exoskeleton robotic suit auspiciously came to the rescue, just like in a science fictional work. In fact, the advanced setup not only allowed her to stand with a nigh perfect posture, but also made her gloriously walk throughout the city of Budapest.

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High school students build a ‘practical and marketable’ snow shoveling robot

Wausau High School's snow shoveling robot

School students seem to be making a serious splash in the realm of applicable technology. Yesterday, we talked about seventh grader Shubham Banerjee’s Lego-made Braille printer. And, now we have come across a team of students from Wausau High School creating their very own snow shoveling robot. Headed by the school’s Technology and engineering education teacher Theran Peterson, the project was started out on the initiative of developing a technological solution that would have its practical use in the real world. As a result, the students designed the entire contrivance from ground up. The robot is currently remotely controllable via joystick, with an assortment of ‘regular’ mechanisms, including – a transmitter and receiver, an electric motor and a plow.

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Seventh grader contrives the ‘Braigo’, a Braille printer made of Lego bricks

Braigo Braille printer made of Lego

Innovation does come in various shapes and forms. And, this time around, it is embodied as a Lego contrivance. Californian seventh grader Shubham Banerjee has created what might be the answer to those slews of high cost Braille printers. The twelve year old inventor has ingeniously devised the ‘Braigo’, a bantam Braille printer made entirely out of Lego bricks. Utilizing a $350 Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit and a few assorted hardware items from Home Depot, the end result is a nifty device that goes beyond its science fair project label.

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Korean researchers create the K-Glass, an HMD with higher energy efficiency

K-Glass HMD by Korean reseachers

With the brewing interest and brouhaha over Google Glass in the past few months, it comes as no surprise that there are comparable HMD technologies that are up in arms to compete against the internet giant. The K-Glass designed by the researchers at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) can certainly be counted among these band of competitors. However. the hands-free contrivance does stand out in few crucial aspects, especially when it comes to its energy efficiency scope. In fact, the wearable is touted to consume about 76 percent less power than ‘other devices’, with its effective power-train fueled by a 65nm augmented reality chip. In terms of solid figures, the K-Glass has the peak capacity of achieving 1.22 TOPS (tera-operations per second) at 250 MHz, which amounts to 778mW on a 1.2V power supply.

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Smoke Messaging Service for distant ‘visual communication’ over mobile phones

Smoke Messaging Service by Dennis de Bel

What happens when contemporary technology fails you due its shortcomings? The answer is of course resorting to ancient techniques used by our ancestors. Well, at least that is the idea behind German inventor (and hacker) Dennis de Bel’s Smoke Messaging Service or S.M.S. The protocol is envisioned as a service that eschews the need for regular messaging or photographs, and instead relies on the emanation of smoke from your mobile phone for ‘long distance’ visual communication. Now of course, many of you would be thinking – what purpose does it serve? Then just think about those times when you have lost your cellphone signals, and have no way to communicate in a conventionally ‘modern’ manner.

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Le Chal: The world’s first smart-shoe, to improve navigation for the visually impaired

Le Chal smartshoe_1

When it comes to devising useful accessories for the visually impaired, the Indians have surely showcased their creativity and expertise in the past few months. We are in fact already enticed by the Braille Smartphone and the Netra. And now we have come across the Le Chal – the world’s very first ‘smart-shoe’. The brainchild of two tech aficionados, Krispian Lawrence and Anirudh Sharma, the so-called intelligent footwear is designed as a haptic navigation device that takes the advantages of smartphones The user can regulate this smart-shoe via a voice recognition software that translates the commands into comprehensible electronic signals. Consequently, the activated smartphone app utilizes GPS to track the user’s location in real-time and feeds the data to the built-in actuator. So, when the user needs to make a turn, the shoe vibrates to direct him/her towards the destination.

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TERMES project: An army of autonomous robots for achieving complex tasks

TERMES project

Termites inspiring robot designs? Well, that is exactly what Harvard scientists are looking forward to in their TERMES project, a bold endeavor for developing a fully self-organized legion of robots. Beyond the poetic quotient, these diminutive robots will be contrived in such a manner so that their collective group can function in an autonomous manner. In simpler terms, the robotic army can take up complex tasks, like building a three-dimensional object, without requiring the constant yoke of leadership or inputs (from humans). This entire TERMES endeavor (co-headed by Radhika Nagpal, Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University), is partly influenced by what is known as ‘stigmergy’ – a more intrinsic level of communication found in termites that allows them to observe and replicate the actions of their peers.

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CuteCircuit fashion accessories change their visual patterns via iPhone app

CuteCircuit fashion accessories

Yesterday, we talked about how the realm of electronics is making its presence felt across the fashion world, with Nokia’s interactive Smart Skirt making its debut in the London Fashion Week. And following this instinct, we go across the Atlantic to take a look at the electronic ‘inspired’ designs to be showcased at the New York Fashion Week. Fortunately, we have stumbled across the CuteCircuit, a series of fashion accessories with dynamic color and image changing patterns. These alterations in aesthetics are remarkably controlled by a dedicated iPhone app. So in essence, the visual scale of the wearables is regulated by a remote application with internet and social media connectivity.

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Sandisk’s ‘world’s fastest’ Extreme Pro SD card is tailored to 4K videos

Sandisk Extreme Pro SD card

Earlier we had talked about Panasonic’s venture into the nascent realm of  4K video cameras. And, now Sandisk has come up with a complementary technology for high speed transfer of ‘large sized’ Ultra HD videos. Christened in a grandiloquent manner as the Sandisk Extreme Pro SDHC/SDXC UHS-II Card, the three times faster memory card will have the ability to transfer 250MB/s of data in what is touted as the burst mode. Additionally, it will also boast of the lightning capacity to read 280MB/s of data in its optimized mode.

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