3D Printing Brings You Pure Honey on Tap, Straight from the Bee
Sep29

3D Printing Brings You Pure Honey on Tap, Straight from the Bee

Honey adds flavor to our foods and, more importantly, keeps our global ecology strong. As bees move from plant to plant collecting nectar for honey production, they do the important work of cross-pollination, which keeps 90% of the world’s plants and 30% of its crops alive. However, when you go to the grocery store and pull off the cheapest bottle of honey you can find, you probably aren’t taking advantage of all that honey has to offer. Oftentimes, this honey has been heated and pasteurized and therefore does not have the enzymes and compounds that make local, raw honey so nutritious. In fact, the latter can help treat dandruff, provide energy, and even build immunity to some seasonal allergies. Risks of Traditional Honey-Harvesting Methods Unfortunately, harvesting honey from a beehive isn’t the easiest job in the world. The average honeybee hive contains 20,000–30,000 bees that, even after being sedated, will usually do anything they can to protect their honey. Beekeeping suits help, sure, but there’s always the possibility that the bees will find an opening (or just skip that step and sting the keeper through his or her suit). A bigger issue with traditional methods of honey harvesting is that the process inevitably kills bees and is hugely disruptive to the colony. To get to the honey, keepers usually have to leaf-blow bees off of the combs, cut the combs off the bee box, and spin honey off the combs with an extractor. At the end of this messy process, even the most careful keepers inevitably kill more bees than necessary. An Innovative 3D-Printed Beehive Stuart and Cedar Anderson, a father-and-son team in Australia, have been working for more than a decade on methods to harvest local honey more easily and economically. They wanted to develop a way to increase production, decrease colony disruption, and mass-produce pure honey for a wider audience. Enter Flow. Using a 3D printer, the Andersons create frames using plastic that is both BPA-free (BPA is a chemical often used in making plastics. It can have a negative effect on brain function, especially in children and pregnant women). Flow’s plastic is also made of food-grade material, meaning it is free of toxins and not at risk for acquiring toxins. The New Honeybee Hive Design Flow is modeled after traditional bee boxes but with a few brilliant alterations. It has thousands of almost-complete honeycomb cells, which the bees seal with wax and then fill with honey. Much like a regular hive, the end result is a series of columns of honey-filled pockets. However, the columns in Flow are connected to a handle on the outside of the...

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Smart Floating Farms: 20,000 Leagues of Fish, Food, and Solar Energy
Sep17

Smart Floating Farms: 20,000 Leagues of Fish, Food, and Solar Energy

  As the human population swells and we continue to look for places to live, work, and shop, agricultural land is becoming harder and harder to find. A Barcelona-based company believes it has developed a solution to the world’s shrinking supply of farmland. Forward Thinking Architecture has developed what they call “Smart Floating Farms,” which are three-level agricultural barges that provide additional farmland . . . on the water. Environmental Advantages of Floating Farms Although the company is still planning out the logistics of their floating farms, the proposed design addresses many issues facing today’s farmers. First of all, the farms would preserve arable land. In 2012, only 10.8% of the planet qualified as “arable,” but there are over 372,000 miles of coastline that would be perfect for floating farms. These floating platforms would allow for more universal access to organic food, and, by being mostly self-sufficient and easily sustainable, would be good for the environment, too. The farms would also be modular, making it possible for several of them to be grouped together to provide a centralized food bank for densely populated areas of the world. Smart Floating Farm Design The default size for the farms is 656’ x 1,150’. The middle level of each unit would be farmable, creating about 750,000 square feet of farmland (that’s over 13 football fields!). The bottom level of each farm would be utilized for fish farms and the top level would contain solar panels and skylights to deliver natural light to the plants below. The facilities could include water access points, storage centers, wave barriers, and desalination plants. With automated hydroponics and microclimate control, floating farms would offer consistent, regulated environments for the plants (similar to freight farms). To increase energy production, floating farms could incorporate wind turbines and wave-energy conversion units. Economic Benefits of Aquaculture and Hydroponic Farming Because the plants would be grown hydroponically (without soil), there would be no need for natural precipitation, pesticides, or soil itself. The gardens are stackable, too, so they could be placed on top of one another to save space. The designers believe floating farms could someday operate with very little human assistance, but early floating farms are already providing jobs and sustenance for thousands of people around the world. Using the “Internet of Things,” sensors could be placed throughout the farms to keep each facility running efficiently. The farms would also provide data on the types of foods local people are seeking. The company says that one farm could yield over eight tons of vegetables and almost two tons of fish each year. With that rate of production, the cost of building...

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HyperSciences Wants to Capture Geothermal Energy — At Gunpoint
Aug06

HyperSciences Wants to Capture Geothermal Energy — At Gunpoint

For many scientists, green energy is the wave of the future. A wealth of power, in the form of geothermal energy, is locked several thousand feet inside the earth. Unleashing the potential of geothermal energy by converting it into renewable steam power has been prohibitively expensive, as traditional drilling is currently the only way to reach it. Estimates on costs to reach this renewable energy source, that could have the potential to replace fossil fuels, range from $5 million to $20 million depending on how far the drilling would go. This may all change soon, thanks to the Washington-based drilling technology company HyperSciences offering a more efficient and less expensive idea that involves repeatedly firing projectiles into the earth’s crust. HyperSciences CEO Mark Russell claims the method, which would involve constructing a massive gun called a ram accelerator, would be ten times faster than traditional drilling. The company received a patent for this projectile-based system that, theoretically, would have the capability of accelerating projectiles to speeds higher than 18,000 mph. Shell Oil Company’s GameChanger program recently funded further research on the project with a $1 million grant. The ram accelerator serves as the chamber and barrel of this huge gun. A projectile with an abrasive core is loaded into the chamber and gases are pumped into the accelerator. The gases are ignited, pressurizing the chamber as the bullet passes through. This in turn sends the projectile into the ground at nearly 4,500 mph, obliterating sedimentary rock and anything else in its path, while the resulting debris is sucked back out of the hole. Russell, who is an aerospace engineer, has indicated that plastic explosives could be included in the tip to significantly increase the drilling power of the apparatus. Embedded sensors for gauging temperature and exact depth of the geothermal resources are other design options being considered. The US Department of Energy has suggested that geothermal power could provide up to 100 GW of energy in the US alone, however accessing these resources has proven challenging. To reach these reserves, the ram accelerator would fire repeatedly until reaching the desired depth. Multiple accelerators could fire simultaneously or in conjunction with traditional drills. The technique will reportedly save money on equipment wear and breakage along with cutting down the amount of time needed to get to the energy source. There are still questions regarding what the environmental impact would be. Multiple concussive blasts could have a negative effect on the subterranean environment, groundwater and geology. The technology is still in testing phases, but, as HyperSciences prepares to test and demonstrate this innovative technique, the buzz among potential investors suggests a...

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Engineers Design a Carbon Dioxide Cleanse for Earth
Jul30

Engineers Design a Carbon Dioxide Cleanse for Earth

By now, it’s an observable fact: the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere poses a serious threat to the environment. For the last decade, scientists have been working feverishly to develop cleaner sources of energy to help reduce the amount of CO₂ being added to the atmosphere—but it isn’t enough. Contemporary research and technology have fostered the idea of capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air as a way to achieve a cleaner environment. The development and, more importantly, implementation of clean energy sources will take time. Unfortunately, it may take more time than we, as a species, can afford. Companies, such as Carbon Engineering, are seeking more aggressive methods of removing CO₂ from the atmosphere to stall global warming. Direct air capture appears to be the only feasible way of removing the emissions of portable carbon dioxide sources like cars, trains and planes which account for 60% of the CO₂ in the air. Trees and plants perform a similar function to air capture: they take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. However, in order to plant enough trees to reverse the build-up of CO₂, the amount of forested land would have to increase by a factor of 1,000. This would require repurposing viable agricultural acreage. Direct air capture can extract far more carbon dioxide than a one-acre tract of botanical land and can be installed in areas that have no agricultural potential, such as deserts. A prototype air capturing device has already been put to work at the University of Calgary. Air currents enter one end of the machine and pass over tightly corrugated PVC sheets which are saturated in a carbon dioxide absorbing solution. The packing material is shaped in a way that disturbs the air and ensures maximum surface exposure with the liquid. Once the air passes all the way through the prototype scrubber, more than 80% of the carbon dioxide has been removed and converted into carbonate salt. The prototype in Calgary currently collects more than 100 kilos of carbon dioxide every day. The prototype technology could be scaled up to 20,000 times the current size without making any major adjustments. At such a scale, the air capturing fans would be able to remove emissions from 300,000 cars per year. Air capturing has the added benefit of a usable by-product. The carbonate salts collected can be combined with hydrogen to produce hydrocarbons, such as gas and jet fuel. In essence, a scaled up air capturing system would have an overall ecological function that resembled the lifecycle of H₂O. Just as water evaporates, rises to the upper atmosphere, condenses and comes back down as rain;...

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NASA’s Jet Laboratory Helps Determine Extent of California Drought
Jul10

NASA’s Jet Laboratory Helps Determine Extent of California Drought

While the four year long California drought is making headlines worldwide, United States government researchers are trailblazing new ways to measure the scope and scale of the drought. Members of the NASA jet laboratory, the prestigious Jet Propulsion Lab, are using advanced technology to figure out exactly how, where, and why the drought is occurring and experts hope to use this information to predict the duration and severity of the drought Since the Sierra Nevada Mountains are the largest source of freshwater for the state of California, the snowpack levels in the mountains are of particular importance when it comes to monitoring how much fresh water the state can expect to receive each season. Winter levels of snow can help to predict how much water will melt and flow to the low-lands during the hotter seasons. The NASA jet laboratory is using an airplane known as the Airborne Snow Observatory to do flyovers of the snowpack to check levels. The plane is a turboprop Beechcraft King Airplane which has been specially outfitted with numerous devices that help scientists to measure the snowpack levels. The amount of snowpack contributes up to 70% of the total precipitation in California. The aircraft flies almost daily in areas in and around California and the American West. It uses a technology called Lidar—which is laser radar—to determine how deep the snow is at any particular level. The laser is able to scan the land 800,000 times per second. The rate to which the signal bounces back to the plane  is used to determine the depth of the existing snowpack. The depth of the snowpack is then used to figure out how much freshwater there will be. In addition, NASA also measures how much sunlight is being reflected by the snow using an imaging spectrometer. This is a control measure and helps to create more accurate data. Between the two data, NASA can tell water managers how much freshwater will be available and when it will be available. This can help to determine policy changes or cutbacks that may need to be made due to worsening drought conditions or whether commercial and residential areas can loosen those rules. For the first time in history, NASA is able to tell officials how much water will be necessary to end a drought in the US. Launched in 2002, the data collected by its Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites showed that two of California’s main river basins were depleted by 4 trillion gallons of water each year from 2011–2014. Together, the data shows that California will need to replenish roughly 11 trillion gallons of water to recover from...

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