We've seen remote-operated submarine robots deployed to shut down the Deepwater Horizon wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill--with mixed results. Now researchers at MIT are proposing surface robots that autonomously collect and process oil. Could they help in the next oil disaster?
The prototype Seaswarm robots move on the water as a fleet. They have large conveyor belts covered with reusable nanowire mesh that absorbs oil. Designed to be 16 feet long by 7 feet wide, the robots are small enough to clean estuaries and shallow waters, but can also tackle large slicks.
As the belt rolls into the body of each robot, the mesh is heated, separating the oil, which is then burned off. As it rolls out of the head, the mesh is ready to absorb more oil. Powered by solar panels, the robots can run on only 100 watts, and could operate for weeks on the water without any need for maintenance.
The researchers, including MIT Senseable City Lab Director Carlo Ratti, estimate that a fleet of 5,000 Seaswarm robots working for one month can clean up surface oil the size of the Gulf spill.
At the heart of the prototype is a nanomaterial fabric developed by MIT's Francesco Stellacci and collaborators that can absorb up to 20 times its weight in oil. It looks and feels like paper, and acts like a paper towel.
Described in a 2008 Nature Nanotechnology report, the fabric consists of minute wires made of potassium manganese oxide. It only absorbs hydrophobic liquids like oil, and repels water. Apparently, it can be immersed in water for months and will be dry when removed. … Read more
Who knew -- Apple still makes computers, and today launched a bunch of new ones, plus a ginormous desktop trackpad to go with them. Also: The robot that will make you breakfast. Eventually. Guest: Darren Kitchen of Hak5.org!Subscribe: iTunes (MP3) | iTunes (320x180) | iTunes (640x360) | RSS (MP3) | RSS (320x180) | RSS (640x360)… Read more
Can you come up with the ideal solution for cleaning up the BP oil spill? If so, millions of dollars in prize money could be yours.
The X Prize Foundation on Tuesday said that its new Oil Cleanup X Challenge will dare people to devise the most innovative ways to clean up oil spills, dangling a prize purse of millions of dollars as an incentive. The challenge is designed to inspire entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists around the world to create quick, creative, and efficient ways of capturing crude oil from the surface of the ocean, according to the foundation.
Full … Read more
With a little help from Al Unser, Jr., electric car-maker Zap this week will move onto the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize finals. Unser will pilot Zap's spiffy three-wheeled sports car, Alias, thanks in part to the latest generation of Firestone Firehawk tires.
The X Prize is a global competition that started with 142 competitors. Zap was one of the first group of teams that entered, signing on back in June 2007.
A series of scored performance and evaluation events began on April 26, 2010. Currently, 13 teams with 15 clean, production-capable vehicles remain in the competition. The vehicles … Read more
Electric vehicle pioneer ZAP and Zhejiang Jonway Automobile delivered the first electric taxi produced through their China venture, ZAP Jonway, to Korean distribution partner Samyang Optics. Several new ZAP electric vehicles will be on display at the automotive engineering technology expo EV KOREA July 14 to July 16 at the Coex exhibition center in Seoul. Samyang Optics and ZAP Jonway are the official sponsors of the event.
The ZAP Taxi is an electric SUV based on the Jonway A380 with an electric drive train designed and integrated by ZAP. Also on display is the Alias, a futuristic-looking electric car designed … Read more
If Ford's MyFord Touch and the Chevy Volt's digital instrument cluster are any indicator, future vehicle instrumentation may be much more complex than the handful of analog gauges to which we're all accustomed.
Judging from the ideas of high school students tasked with designing conceptual dashboards that encourage green practices, teenagers may have a hand in shaping that future dash.
Their suggestions include an in-dash avatar that coaches drivers toward efficiency, a smart navigation system that tells you when it's better to skip the car and take public transportion, and a Web-connected dash that rewards the … Read more
At a gala charity event Saturday night featuring "Avatar" director James Cameron, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and a who's who of tech industry luminaries, the X Prize Foundation laid out its vision for the next five years.
Already in 2004, the foundation has paid out $10 million in prize money for the winner of the Ansari X Prize, which in 2004 went to the first non-governmental team to launch a vehicle into space twice in two weeks. The prize winners were Burt Rutan and the Paul Allen-backed team that built SpaceShipOne.
The foundation offers … Read more
If you're anything like me, you'd really, really like to have an iPad--but you don't have an extra $500 lying around. (Or $600. Or $700. You get the idea.) Resorting to crime is not an option, so that leaves just one other possibility: contests.
With a little investigative legwork, I found four contests offering an iPad as the grand prize. Some require a little hoop-jumping on your part, like creating a video for YouTube, whereas others are as simple as completing a short entry form. Here are your best bets for winning an iPad:Be a GrooveMaker on YouTube Contest&… Read more
Netflix, the Web's top movie-renting service, announced Friday that it has canceled plans to hold a second contest that awards a prize to whoever could come up with the most accurate system of predicting user film choices based on their viewing histories.
In 2006, Netflix launched the Netflix Contest and offered $1 million to anyone who could improve its recommendation engine. In September, the company finally awarded the prize to a team that included three AT&T researchers. To compete, competitors studied millions of demographic data, including age, sex, ZIP code, and previously rented movies.
The Federal Trade … Read more