Breakthroughs And Innovations In Science by Julia Bobak

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Too Lazy To Make Your Own Pancakes? There’s A Robot For That

Many tasks that fall under the banner of ‘common sense’ for a human can require hours of explicit programming for a robot. For this reason, engineers are hard at work developing robots that can be taught through experience and observation. Their first order of business? A robot that can make pancakes and pizza. Sounds like these researchers have got their priorities in order.

Artificial Chameleon Skin Promises New Developments In Wearable Tech

As scientists get better and better at making lightweight and flexible electronics, artificial “e-skin” is becoming increasingly viable. E-skins find application in a variety of industries including wearable tech, health monitoring, prosthetics, and smart robots by mimicking some of the key properties of the natural organ. Now scientists have developed an artificial skin that actually surpasses natural human skin by incorporating the color changing capabilities of a chameleon.

Smog-Sucking Vacuum Eases Pollution, Creates Jewellery

A new public structure just opened in the forward-thinking European city of Rotterdam is being described as a vacuum cleaner for the air. The remarkable air purifier is 23 feet tall and can clean 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour while utilizing just 1,400 Watts of electricity – about the same as a water boiler. The installation is just the first step in its designer’s proposed worldwide Smog Free Movement and has already attracted over $90,000 in crowdfunded investment thanks to an innovative product: smog jewellery.

Art-Inspired Solar Cells Track The Sun

Unsurprisingly, solar panels that can track the sun as it arcs across the sky show much higher efficiencies than those fixed at a given angle; on the order of 40%. However, for standard home installations, the energy expended to rotate the heavy panels counteracts the potential gains. Scientists this week report that cells based on the Japanese art of kirigami are able to circumvent this problem. Read on to find out how an old art-form is being used for thoroughly modern technology.

Rise Of The Machines: Robot Evolution Arrives

Scientists unveil a ‘mother’ robot that is able to autonomously build and evaluate its own offspring. Using the results Scientists in the UK unveil a ‘mother’ robot that is able to autonomously build and evaluate its own children. Using the results of that evaluation, it can then design and produce further generations each with increasingly advanced performance. Survival of the fittest has come to the machines, for better or worse.

A New Wireless Communication Device: The Human Body

Already many of us have multiple electronic devices on our person and this will only increase in the coming years as the internet-of-things comes to fruition. Cell phones, smart watches, computerized eyewear, and health monitors will all need to communicate with one another to realize their full potential. Currently, Bluetooth is the standard means by which this is achieved, but it is highly energy-inefficient. Now scientists have demonstrated a new way for these devices to share information – by sending magnetic signals through the human body itself.

Quantum Dots Will Turn Your Windows Into A Power Supply

Imagine installing an air conditioner that won’t send your summertime power bills skyrocketing. That’s the promise of new quantum dot infused windows. These tiny specks of semiconductor will enable windows to capture solar energy and generate clean power while remaining perfectly transparent. Scientists call them a “game-changer” in the future of sustainable cities.

Would You Pay $300 For A Smart Shirt?

Long-promised wearable technologies are finally beginning to hit the retail market as Ralph Lauren releases a new “smart shirt” this month. Designed to monitor your performance during exercise, the garment will retail for $300 and require an iPhone or iPad to run the associated app. Which begs the question, is it worth it?

Oil-Contaminated Soil Finds New Fertility

Oil spills are unfortunately a fact of life in our industrialized world. Until we find a renewable resource that can fulfill our energy demands, the transportation of oil and other petroleum products is a requisite and no method is entirely foolproof. Scientists at Rice University have addressed this problem by developing a new technique that not only rids contaminated soil of oil, but restores its fertility. Salad anyone?

Black Phosphorus: The New And Improved Graphene

The fatal flaw inherent in graphene electronics has already been heavily discussed – graphene-based transistors lack an OFF state making them ineffective switches despite a myriad of other properties that seem so full of potential. Now scientists report a new two dimensional material that avoids this pitfall while maintaining many of graphene’s remarkable abilities. Black phosphorous is the next big thing in the 2D revolution.