One of my preferred methods for trying to understand where the
future might be headed is to look for those areas where technology
can address a compelling human need. To this point, this past
weekend I read with great interest this opinion piece in the Wall
Street Journal entitled “Why We Need a Market
for Human Organs.” It’s a well-reasoned piece and the sentiment
appeals to my more libertarian and free market-oriented
sensibilities. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that within the
next 10-15 years advances in tissue and organ regeneration
technology will render the need for “organ markets” obsolete.
I have written about this idea before, but I’d encourage you to read this new
government report entitled “2020: A
New Vision – A Future for Regenerative Medicine.” According to
the report the current world market for replacement organ therapies
is in excess of $350 billion. More disturbing, however, is the fact
that there are currently over 100,000 patients are on a waiting
list for an organ donation and an estimated 8,000 people on that
list will die this year while waiting for a transplant. (cont.)
Cellular phones continue to follow Moore’s law and
technologically grow in power each year. Inventive individuals
continue to fund new ways to harness this power into other
industries such as movie making, music broadcasting, and now real
According to a
Cincinnati real estate blog, cellular phones are becoming a
useful real estate tool. The smart phone and txt enabled phones can
send short codes found on real estate signs to gain basic
information on the price, square footage, and other basics. Going
forward smart phones will be able to download virtual tours and
potentially schematics on homes yet to be built.
I would look to fashion as the next major venue to pick up the
smart phone as an outlet. The ability to capture style in an image
and then have garments found or custom made could drive fashion
sales. Look to houses such as Zara and H&M to be quick adopters of this model
since their factory is already designed for fast turn around.
Leaked photos of the next generation Mac Mini suggest that Apple is committed to steadily shrinking components and appears to be on the road to something that may look a lot like this vision of the iPhone 2015 that we published last November:
Sometimes it’s hard for people to get an accurate sense of what the future holds for certain technologies. For instance, could the average person three years ago have imagined that something like the 3G iPhone could exist now?
It is for this reason I present this vision of the iPhone circa 2015.
Contact Lens Display
The most interesting feature of the iPhone 2015 is its first generation Contact Lens Display System. If there’s one thing that iPhone users believe themselves to be, and that Apple stresses all the time, it’s that people who use Apple products are independent and unique. It is for this reason that an eyeglass display was thrown out. No iPhone user would be caught dead wearing the same glasses as over ten million other iPhone users. The fact is, glasses are cumbersome. They gather dirt, get lost easily, and make sports rather difficult.
In 2007, development of a contact lens display system began at the University of Washington, Seattle. “Engineers at the University of Washington have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.” In the time between now and 2015, the cost involved in the production of a contact lens display will likely reduce in price, meaning the loss of one won’t reduce you to tears in case of loss.
The problems associated with contact lenses (protein build-up, 8-hour wear limit, annoyance of constant inserting and removal) will be lessened with oxygen-permeable lenses. O2OPTIX, a company currently specializing in such breathable lenses, already sells a lens capable of week-long wear without removal. “O2OPTIX is made with a revolutionary silicone hydrogel technology allowing up to 5 times more oxygen through the lens than the leading traditional 2-week lens, to help protect from the signs and symptoms of corneal oxygen deficiency.” It only makes sense that seven years from now a lens will be developed which can last even longer making wearable contact lenses less of a pain.
Of course there always is the option of implanting the lens permanently into the eye, but who would ever go under invasive surgery for first generation technology?
Bo Albinsson at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, has figured out a way to use DNA as a nano fiber optic cable. They accomplish this by combining DNA strands with a chromophore called YO which has a strong attraction to DNA molecules. By wedging itself into areas of DNA, a 3nm diameter fiber optic cable is born (these fibers are self-assembling).
Fiber optic cables have become more commonplace in the world and are expected to take an even bigger step into the solar energy business by improving photo voltaic cells. Optical computers could also benefit greatly from photon-specific nanowires.
At some point in the not-so-distant future, somewhere on planet Earth…
Beta Bogdanovsky’s Italian Cācio-model translator spoke with a decidedly male monotone, and had the vocabulary, albeit in 13 languages, of a 3rd grader. Her dog’s translator was nearly as well spoken. Then again, Tóse was a smart dog, an Illyrian sheepdog whose eyes expressed more care than those of most people, and he almost certainly had the capacity to communicate on levels beyond the short sentences programmed into his collar.
“Iz vee NEH tuh,” she said in Bulgarian to a rotund bearded man blocking access to the window seat next to him. A roundish silver and gold box hung from a beaded chain around her neck, and a small bas-relief profile of the Roman god Mercury spoke the Greek, “Syghnomi.”
The man’s posture shifted to make way even before he looked up, and when he did lift his head he was eye to eye with Tóse. Expressionlessly he made a symbolic attempt to scoot his plastic bags out of the aisle, and Beta sided into the seat, setting her gear on the floor between her feet. Tóse sat on his haunches in front of them both. Beta wondered why it was that people could not seem to rein it in in crowded public places and on trains.
As the ARMA Speed Tram pulled away from the passenger bay, the lights in the tramcar faded slightly as they always did between stations, and Beta closed her eyes and relaxed her neck, as she always did when she was commuting. Bitoli was five stops from the sea, as the tram tunneled through the Korab and Pindus Mountains, and then there were six more on the other side of the water before reaching Monopoli. This trip would be an opportunity to shut her eyes for approximately 2 hours, which was a very good thing, because Beta’s eyes were very tired.
Coming soon to your living room: a wild safari in the scorching
African savanna starring you, armed with nothing but your camera.
Afrika is the next step in a generation of video games
that seek to become more than just entertainment and can actually
make you smarter.
the latest game by Rhino Studios, is set to be released in Japan on
the PS3 in late August. You play it from
the perspective of a nature photographer and naturalist armed with
a Nikon stalking realistic wildlife in painstakingly recreated
savannas. The photos you snap are saved like a lexicon, or
Africa-pedia, where you can read up all about the real facts of the
animal. The PS3’s multi-cored cell
is being utilized to is fullest potential to recreate the complex
AI and behavior of the animals in
mirror world fashion, and it’s is just one of many in the
increasing trend of video games that are as educational as they are
made to be entertaining.
Because the game is not about rifles or grenades, it is perfect
for younger children who can learn about Africa’s wildlife in a
fully immersive 3D world rather than a bread-and-butter textbook.
And what a field trip it is without all the expenses and dangers of
But using video games to teach isn’t a new idea. An all-girls
high school in Japan have already been using Nintendo DS’s to
teach English. The verdict? The students feel right at home with
the new devices. Katie Salen, a game designer and director of the
graduate Design and Technology program at
Parsons School of Design, is leading the way in using video
games as a foundation for education for an accelerating world. Her
goal is to open a school based on gaming literacy.
60 Minutes recently aired a program on the future of coal power featuring Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers (an advocate of longer term 'Cathedral Thinking' carbon reduction) and leading climate scientist James Hansen (an advocate of a moratorium on building coal plants).
The CBS report was solidly mainstream in framing coal as central to the conversation on energy, environment and global economic development- but it failed to move the conversation beyond ideas that have existed for several decades.
Time for Big Ideas, not Big Battles Coal is the world's fastest growing source of energy due largely to growth outside the United States. And despite all the rapid growth rates expected with wind and solar, coal is likely to gain global market share in the years ahead.
So this is not just a conversation about US policy and US-based utilities! And there is no way to just 'wish' coal away. We must develop low cost carbon solutions that can be applied around the world within existing power plants. And everyone agrees - these low cost solutions do not exist today!
CBS Producers missed an opportunity to introduce more advanced non-geoengineering strategies to carbon neutralization and left viewers stuck at ringside watching the same old 'pro' vs 'anti' battle.
Carbon's Molecular Dance between Oxygen and Hydrogen Carbon is a 'sticky' molecule that interchangeably binds with oxygen and hydrogen based on its journey through biochemical pathways or via human induced energy conversion (e.g. power plants and combustion engine).
Human beings have a choice to approach carbon solutions through geo-engineering (shoving it underground), or as bio-engineers who can bind carbon with hydrogen for use as a hydrocarbon fuel (for transportation or onsite electricity generation) or a bio-feestock for industrial applications. CBS viewers would have been better off understanding the long-term view of carbon rather than watch a debate without a viable solution. (Continue Reading Below).
Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies has a spiffy new remote control car that runs on hydrogen. It uses solar power to convert water into hydrogen which the user then empties into the car. Platinum plates then compress the hydrogen to get the needed electricity from it. While the car can only run for about four minutes, it’s a step toward making our toys and gadgets that much more energy efficient.
Horizon itself is a very interesting company. They started out with the intention of being specialists in everything hydrogen and pretty much did just that. they offer a wide variety of products from small hydrogen fuel cells to portable ones for camping trips. The one that caught my attention was their development of a hydro-bike (video below) with puts a small fuel cell on a bicycle in order to power it. I want.
Although there has been much discussion about developing a hydrogen fuel cell for vehicles, a crazy company called MyFC has decided what’s good for the car is great for the cellphone. They went ahead and developed a flexible hydrogen fuel cell only 3mm thick which can fit snugly under your battery cover (pictured above). This means you could potentially power your devices with good clean energy (and who knows how long the charge could last, maybe days).
When can you expect to see this?
Although CrunchGear reports that the fuel cell is “amazingly close to production,” actual support and implementation of such a device could be years away. Here’s why:
Coal is the world's fastest growing source of energy, and at the center of the debate over advancing our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions even as we attempt to meet the demands of a global doubling of energy consumption in the decades ahead.
'Clean' vs 'Cleaner' While one side of the debate spectrum ridicules the concept of 'Clean Coal', the other side is pushing forward down the road to 'Cleaner' ways to convert coal energy into electricity that goes far beyond today's 'coal fire' combustion power plants.
Via a process known as 'gasification' we can remove much of the carbon from coal to create a cleaner hydrogen-rich synthetic gas (syngas). Industrial scale fuel cells can then convert this syngas chemical energy into electricity. The challenge is scaling up fuel cells to meet the challenge!
The milestone marks a key step towards non-combustion based conversion using 'low-cost Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) technology for coal-based power plants and other power generation applications' using carbon heavy feedstocks such as syngas, natural gas and biofuels.
Integrated gasification fuel cell plants are expected 'to achieve an overall operating efficiency of greater than 50 percent—15 percentage points higher than today’s average U.S.-based coal-fired power plant—while separating at least 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions for capture and environmentally secure storage.'
The US Department of Energy hoopes to have a a 250-kilowatt to 1-megawatt fuel cell module demonstration by 2012; a 5-megawatt proof-of-concept fuel cell system to demonstrate system integration, heat recovery turbines, and power electronics by 2015; and then a full-scale demonstration of a 250- to 500-megawatt integrated gasification fuel cell power plant by 2020.
Fuel cells are important as 21st century 'power plants' that produce electricity on demand without a grid connection. Fuel cells can be designed as small as a AA battery (for portable gadgets), a breadbox (for electric vehicles), a small refrigerator (for home power) or the size of a small room (for utility power generation).
Commercialization of fuel cells depends on our ability to lower the costs of core membranes (MEAs) that convert chemical energy into electricity.
So what is the way forward? Nanostructured design of key membrane components.
Nanoscale Revolution: Rethinking Surface Area & Shape Team leader Professor Younan Xia explains the importance of the breakthrough: "There are two ways to make a more effective catalyst," Xia says. "One is to control the size, making it smaller, which gives the catalyst a higher specific surface area on a mass basis. Another is to change the arrangement of atoms on the surface. We did both. You can have a square or hexagonal arrangement for the surface atoms. We chose the hexagonal lattice because people have found that it's twice as good as the square one for the oxygen reduction reaction (which determines the electrical current generated)."
To reduce costs and improve performance the team experimented with new core and branching structures. The catalyst has a core made of palladium which branching arms (‘dendrites’) of platinum that are seven nano-meters long.
According to Xia's team release: ‘At room temperature operation the team’s catalyst was two-and-a-half times more effective per platinum mass for this process than the state of the art commercial platinum catalyst and five times more active than the other popular commercial catalyst. At 60 degrees C (the typical operation temperature of a fuel cell), the performance almost meets the targets set by the U.S. Department of Energy.’
The next step for the team?
Integrating gold as a third metal catalyst to deal with the problem of carbon molecules that reduces performance by binding and blocking valuable surface area.
MTI MicroFuel Cells, a division of MTI, has a prototype portable fuel cell battery which it hopes to release by the end of 2009. "This compact and light weight fuel cell charger comes with a removable cartridge that can be swapped for a new one when depleted. Each additional cartridge gives consumers another 25 Watt-hours of power." 25 Watt-hours of power translates to 10 cellphone charges or 100 hours of video on a portable video player like the iPhone.
The device itself runs on 100% methanol fuel which isn't surprising since you can buy methanol for .47 cents a gallon. The Mobion chip used in the device has a new design architecture that "embodies a reduction in the size, complexity, and cost of fuel cell construction." With fuel cells currently available at astronomical prices, it will be interesting to see how much they've cut the cost off their product.