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Three years ago, Dustin Fedako attended the US Composting Council’s annual conference. As founder of Compost Pedallers, a bike-powered compost recycling program in Austin, Texas, Fedako didn’t know what to expect from the conference, which is geared toward the industrial composting model. He just wanted to “sponge up as much as he could.” He learned a lot and he also spent a lot of time explaining what community composting is.

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A wearable device promises to help steady hand tremors by using an old technology—gyroscopes.

 

When he was a 24-year-old medical student living in London, Faii Ong was assigned to care for a 103-year-old patient who suffered from Parkinson’s, the progressive neurological condition that affects a person’s ease of movement. After watching her struggle to eat a bowl of soup, Ong asked another nurse what more could be done to help the woman. “There’s nothing,” he was grimly told.

Ong, now 26, didn’t accept the answer. He began to search for a solution that might offset the tremulous symptoms of Parkinson’s, a disease that affects one in 500 people, not through drugs but physics. After evaluating the use of elastic bands, weights, springs, hydraulics, and even soft robotics, Ong settled on a simpler solution, one that he recognized from childhood toys. “Mechanical gyroscopes are like spinning tops: they always try to stay upright by conserving angular momentum,” he explains. “My idea was to use gyroscopes to instantaneously and proportionally resist a person’s hand movement, thereby dampening any tremors in the wearer’s hand.”

Together with a number of other students from Imperial College London, Ong worked in the university’s prototyping laboratory to run numerous tests. An early prototype of a device, called GyroGlove, proved his instinct correct. Patients report that wearing the GyroGlove, which Ong believes to be the first wearable treatment solution for hand tremors, is like plunging your hand into thick syrup, where movement is free but simultaneously slowed. In benchtop tests, the team found the glove reduces tremors by up to 90 percent.

GyroGlove’s design is simple. It uses a miniature, dynamically adjustable gyroscope, which sits on the back of the hand, within a plastic casing attached to the glove’s material. When the device is switched on, the battery-powered gyroscope whirs to life. Its orientation is adjusted by a precession hinge and turntable, both controlled by a small circuit board, thereby pushing back against the wearer’s movements as the gyroscope tries to right itself.

While the initial prototypes of the device still require refinements to size and noise, Alison McGregor, professor of musculoskeletal biodynamics at Imperial College, who has been a mentor to the team, says the device “holds great promise and could have a significant impact on users’ quality of life.” Helen Matthews of the Cure Parkinson’s Trust agrees: “GyroGlove will make everyday tasks such as using a computer, writing, cooking, and driving possible for sufferers,” she says.

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There is a lot of plastic in the world’s oceans.

It coagulates into great floating “garbage patches” that cover large swaths of the Pacific. It washes up on urban beaches and remote islands, tossed about in the waves and transported across incredible distances before arriving, unwanted, back on land. It has wound up in the stomachs of more than half the world’s sea turtles and nearly all of its marine birds, studies say. And if it was bagged up and arranged across all of the world’s shorelines, we could build a veritable plastic barricade between ourselves and the sea.

But that quantity pales in comparison with the amount that the World Economic Forum expects will be floating into the oceans by the middle of the century.

If we keep producing (and failing to properly dispose of) plastics at predicted rates, plastics in the ocean will outweigh fish pound for pound in 2050, the nonprofit foundation said in a report Tuesday.

 

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A common criticism of a total transition to wind, water and solar power is that the US electrical grid can’t affordably store enough standby electricity to keep the system stable. Now a researcher proposes an underground solution to that problem.

A new study shows that wind, water and solar generators can theoretically result in a reliable, affordable national grid when the generators are combined with inexpensive storage.

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Learn how breakthroughs in clean technology can take us to new heights with the explorers who are set to break the record for the world’s longest solo flight using only solar energy. André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard took off from Abu Dhabi in March and aim to complete the circumnavigation of the Earth by returning to the UAE. Watch them speak live at the World Economic Forum in Davos at 12.45pm.

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A new paradigm for the development of photo-bioelectrochemical cells has been reported in the journal Nature Energy by researchers from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in Israel, and the University of Bochum, in Germany.

The design of photo-bioelectrochemical cells based on native photosynthetic reaction is attracting substantial recent interest as a means for the conversion of solar light energy into electrical power.

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there is a clearly visible trend of public companies (82%) to publish sustainability reports in order to disclose information and be transparent about their sustainability performance. What is also interesting is that there is a growing trend for Small-Medium Enterprises to publish sustainability reports in order to increase their transparency, attract customers and grow their business.

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Since 2011, French photographer Laurent Kronental has been working on an ongoing series documenting life on the edge of Paris in the “grands ensembles.” These monumental housing projects were built between the 1950s and the 1980s on the outskirts of major French cities as answers to a dearth of housing and an influx of foreign migrants. Aging monolithic concrete structures with an almost alien presence in the French landscape, they are a far cry from the Haussmannian apartment blocks that dominate central Paris and the world’s collective imagination about how the French live.

 

Kronental said in an artist’s statement that he is “fascinated by these projects’ ambitious and dated modernistic features” that “are today often stigmatized by the media and marginalized by public opinion.” He hopes that his images provide “sharp contrast with these cliché views” and celebrate the often overlooked “urban veterans who have aged there.”

 

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For the first time, researchers have developed a microchip that is powered by the same energy-rich molecules that fuel living cells, researchers say. Thisadvance could one day lead to devices that are implanted within cells and harvest biological energy to operate.

The molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP) stores chemical energy and is used inside cells to ferry energy from where it is generated to where it is consumed. The new microchip relies on enzymes known as sodium-potassium ATPases. These molecules break down ATP to release energy the enzymes use to pump sodium and potassium ions across membranes, generating an electrical potential during the process.

“Ion pumps are electronics-like components in living systems,” says study senior author Ken Shepard, an electrical engineer at Columbia University in New York. Shepard and his colleagues detailed their findings in the 7 December edition of the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers embedded sodium-potassium ATPases taken from pig brains in artificial fatty membranes. There were more than 2 million of these molecules active per square millimeter of the membranes, about 5 percent of the density naturally occurring in mammalian nerve fibers.

In the presence of ATP, these ion pumps generated 78 millivolts. A “biocell” of two membranes provides enough of a voltage to operate a CMOS integrated circuit. The ion pumps have a chemical-to-electrical energy conversion efficiency of of 14.9 percent.

“These ion pumps generated an electrical field that we harnessed to power a solid-state system,” Shepard says.

Since ATP is only really found within cells and not in the bloodstream, Shepard cautions that this new system is not a way to power conventional implantable medical devices such as pacemakers.

“However, such a system might power an implant small enough to sit inside a cell,” Shepard says. “Solid-state materials are already used in nanoparticles for various therapeutic and imaging purposes in the body, but those are all just passive materials. Our idea is to make something that would have the ability to compute and act, to make decisions and then actuate in some way.”

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