Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel did it to survive on the Pacific Ocean. Robert Redford used the trick in All Is Lost.
When you’re trapped on a boat, you can easily make fresh water, right? Simply let the sun heat up and evaporate salt water. Then trap the steam, condense it on a plastic surface and collect the fresh water. The liquid even gets sterilized in the process.
So why can’t people around the world who lack clean drinking water do something similar?
Turns out, desalinating or sterilizing water with solar energy is way harder than Hollywood makes it look. The process is super inefficient and way too slow to be practical.
"The average yield is only about 1 cup per day," says the U.S. Air Force survival guide, even when you’ve got eight hours of sun and plenty of water.
But engineer Hadi Ghasemi, at the University of Houston, is trying to change that. He and a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a cheap material that desalinates water efficiently and fast using solar energy. And the secret to the new technology was sitting right on their desks: the graphite in pencils.
A simple solar still — and even more expensive versions with mirrors and lenses — heats up the entire water surface before it starts to evaporate, Ghasemi says. That takes time and wastes energy.
Photo: Solar sponge: The top layer of graphite soaks up the sun’s energy in tiny holes. When drops of liquid fill the holes, the water quickly evaporates. (The beaker looks hot, but the water below the sponge is cool as a cucumber.) (Courtesy of George Ni/MIT)
SKILLZ Street (SS) is an all-girls soccer-based programme developed by Grassroot Soccer (GRS) that combines HIV educational activities, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) knowledge, and soccer. SS also partners with the Thuthuzela Care Center (TCC) for medical and social services.
The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering recently launched the “NIBIB Bionic Man,” an interactive Web tool that allows students and the public to learn about cutting-edge research in biotechnology.
The bionic man features 14 technologies currently being developed by NIBIB-supported researchers. Examples include a powered prosthetic leg that helps users achieve a more natural gait, a wireless brain-computer interface that lets people with paralyzed legs and arms control computer devices or robotic limbs using only their thoughts, and a micro-patch that delivers vaccines painlessly and doesn’t need refrigeration.
When it comes to protecting themselves from HIV, women need more options.
About 84 percent of all women diagnosed with HIV contract the virus through heterosexual sex. And right now, the female condom is the only contraception available that stops HIV — and is controlled by the woman. These devices can be hard to find and tough to use.
Now engineers at the University of Washington in Seattle have come up with an experimental technologythat may one day make HIV protection for women as easy as using a tampon.
For years, scientists have been developing gels or creams that contain anti-HIV drugs known as microbicides. But these topical ointments can be problematic. They’re messy to apply. They can leak. And the medication absorbs slowly, so women have to use the gels or creams at least 20 minutes before sex.
A new delivery method could solve all these problems, say bioengineers Cameron Ball and Kim Woodrow. The secret? An electrically spun fabric.
Photo: Better than Egyptian cotton: This electrically spun fabric contains anti-HIV drugs and dissolves rapidly when it gets wet. (Courtesy of University of Washington)
What Is FluTracking?
FluTracking is an online health surveillance system to detect epidemics of influenza. We are looking for people who live in Australia and have easy access to email on a weekly basis. It doesn’t matter if you are vaccinated or unvaccinated.
It takes only 10 - 15 seconds each week. We ask if you have had fever or cough in the last week. This will help us find ways to detect both seasonal influenza and hopefully pandemic influenza and other diseases so we can better protect the community from epidemics.
Someday Soon You May Swallow A Computer With Your Pill
What if you could swallow a computer the size of a poppy seed, and it could report back exactly if and when you took a medicine while recording how your body responded to the drug?
It sounds crazy, but the tiny computers exist. It sounds dangerous, but they were approved by the Food and Drug Administration. And the company that makes them, Proteus, has tens of millions of dollars and relationships with some of the biggest drug companies in the world, including Novartis.
David O’Reilly, the chief product officer at Proteus, says he believes that someday soon every single pill a doctor prescribes will come with an electronic component embedded right in it that tracks the pill’s absorption in your body.
How Does It Work?
Working together with a small flexible patch you wear, like a Band-Aid, and a smartphone, Proteus wants to ring in a new era of what it calls “digital medicine” in which your body’s vital signs and the medications entering your bloodstream can be tracked by computers. Software will search your body’s data for patterns in real time and report that information to your doctors.
Let me step back for a minute to explain how it all works. The big challenges to making a computer you can ingest are size, safety, power and communication.
It must be tiny, as you’re limited both by the size of the throat and the need to keep the amount of foreign material going into one’s stomach to a minimum. The Proteus computer isn’t much bigger than a grain of sand, and it attaches right to the pill.
It also can’t be made of anything weird or harmful. So, Proteus’ ingestible sensor is made only out of metals that people normally eat as part of their daily diets: silicon, copper, magnesium.
(From Shots—Health News from NPR)
Next generation condoms at UOW
University of Wollongong
A team of researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW) has received Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funding to help develop a Next Generation Condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use.
(From U. of Wollongong, Australia)