Bringing you the positive STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) news every Monday and explains why these new futuristic innovations are meaningful. The goal is to leave you feeling optimistic and say "That's Cool!"
107. Carbon Capture w/ Algae, Plants Grown in Lunar Soil, Developments for Wind Turbines
Brilliant Planet plans cheap, gigaton-scale carbon capture using algae | New Atlas (01:08)
Direct air carbon capture is currently far too costly – but this London company, Brilliant Planet, says it can do it at enormous scale for a tenth the price, using engineered algal blooms in ponds located near desert coastlinesGoals to de-acidify the ocean as well.
Direct air capture will need to be part of the decarbonizing equation, and it'll need to be massively scalable, energy efficient and much, much cheaper than today's technology.
The idea is to corral and harness the carbon-gobbling power of algae, replicating and maintaining the conditions that cause algal blooms in large, low-density outdoor ponds full of seawater.Algae is an inherently more efficient biological machine for carbon capture than trees or plants
Its entire surface area is dedicated to photosynthesis and it doesn't waste resources creating trunks, roots or branches
Another bonus is that it grows and proliferates extremely fast under the right conditions.
Account for most of the energy this system requires
A location is chosen, on flat desert land near a coast,
A team of bio-prospectors starts filtering through samples of thousands of local strains of algae, selecting the ones that best fits the location.
Thus, there are no introduced species, and the algae is already well adapted to the local climate and conditions.
They set up a series of pumps, with which to bring seawater into a series of containers and ponds.
In these right conditions they would monitor, they can grow a lot of algae. It also can deacidify the seawater.
CEO Adam Taylorm said: “For every unit of water that passes through the system we de-acidify the equivalent of 5.1 units back to pre-industrial pH levels."
Taylor says the company's already identified a "short list" of about half a million square kilometers of suitably flat coastal desert land. Potential for about two gigatons – two billion tons – of carbon capture
In other words, it could cancel out more than 5.5 percent of humanity's annual global CO2 emissions, offsetting about half the total emissions of today's road transport sector.
The company has tested its approach successfully in Oman, South Africa. Now they plan on moving to a large area, roughly 74 acres, in 2023.
Musk's Starlink Internet Is Now Available in 32 Countries | CNET (07:14)
SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service has now rolled out to 32 countries, the company said Thursday. The hardware can ship "immediately" to areas where the service is available.
Starlink is available in much of the US, Europe and New Zealand, in addition to chunks of Canada, Australia and South America. Many of the remaining countries and areas show availability coming in 2023.
After a few years of launches, the company has amassed a constellation of more than 2,000 low Earth orbit satellites to provide satellite internet around the globe.
Plants Have Been Grown in Lunar Soil For The First Time Ever | Good News Network (09:29)
Food has been grown in soil collected from the moon for the first time, paving the way for human migration across the solar system.It is a first step towards producing food and oxygen on the moon, or during space missions.
This all relates to NASA’s Artemis program which will lay the foundation for a sustained colony on the lunar surface.Using the moon to validate deep space systems and operations—before embarking on a manned voyage to Mars.
Co-author Professor Rob Ferl, talked about the future missions and growing food in the lunar soil:“For future, longer space missions, we may use the moon as a hub or launching pad. It makes sense that we would want to use the soil that’s already there to grow plants … So, what happens when you grow plants in lunar soil, something that is totally outside of a plant’s evolutionary experience? What would plants do in a lunar greenhouse? Could we have lu
106. Portal Starlink, Investment in Battery Recycling, Device Detecting Skin Cancer
Starlink's new Portability feature brings internet to vanlifers - The Verge (01:02)
Starlink’s internet-from-SpaceX service has gone mobile with a new Portability feature.It costs an additional $25 each month, on top of monthly subscriptions that already start at $110 after a one-time hit of $599 to purchase the Starlink kit.
Starlink subscribers can now take their “dishy” anywhere on their home continent that provides active internet coverage. That opens up connectivity to remote places that will likely never be covered by 5G
Starlink doesn’t support use while driving yet, but the company says it’s actively working on a solution for moving vehicles. Musk has previously tweeted about working on a power-efficient solution that can plug into a car’s 12V cigarette lighter and still maintain connectivity.
Starlink reportedly draws between 60-70W, an improvement on the 80-100W draw from just a year ago.
Starlink is offering Portability on a “best effort basis,” the company says, with users at their registered service addresses receiving priority for network resources.
Rocket Lab launched and recovered a rocket mid-air in a world first | Interesting Engineering (05:31)
Rocket Lab, a private aerospace firm, launched a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from Launch Complex 1A on Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, at roughly 6:48 PM EDTPayload of 34 picosatellites and cubesats into orbit
Less than 30 minutes after launch, the rocket's first stage was actually caught mid-air by a flying helicopter.They captured the rocket's drogue chute line.
A few seconds after recovering the rocket, the helicopter pilot opted to release the rocket — which plummeted into the deep blue ocean, where it was picked up by a ship
From a tweet from Reuters' Joey Roulette: “Rocket Lab's Murielle Baker says the helicopter pilots [decided] to drop the rocket booster in the ocean after noticing "different load characteristics" than what they experienced during previous testing”
Murielle Baker is Rocket Labs' Senior Communications Adviser
This is real, it's happening. A flying helicopter successfully caught a first-stage booster rocket, in mid-air.
This may not have been a full recovery and reuse of the rocket, but Rocket Lab has just taken us a major step closer to comparatively cheap ways of recycling used booster engines.
Lithium-ion recycler Li-Cycle lands $200 million to power future EVs | TechCrunch (09:54)
Metals and fossil fuels behemoth Glencore is pumping $200 million into battery recycler Li-Cycle as part of a larger, symbiotic supply deal inked by the two firms.
The Swiss materials giant, Glencore, will ship burnt-out batteries and scraps to Li-Cycle, which will recover the high-demand metals so they can be reused in electric vehicle batteries and other applications.
Li-Cycle’s Process:Shred spent batteries and use a water-based system, known as hydrometallurgical processing, to begin to break down the batteries.
Hydrometallurgy involve the use of aqueous solutions for the recovery of metals from ores, concentrates, and recycled or residual materials
In Li-Cycle’s own hubs, they separate black mass into a variety of materials, including those that can be used to make new lithium-ion batteries.
In this partnership, Glencore will be providing Li-Cycle with black mass for processing as well as manufacturing scrap. Securing a supply of scrap could be advantageous for the startup since it is easier to recycle than whole batteries.
Why is Glencore doing this?Glencore has been advancing efforts to boost recycling of the batteries that power electric vehicles, including its plans to build a U.K. plant as part of a deal to help Britishvolt Ltd. develop Britain’s first large-scale EV battery plant.
Electric automakers, mining companies and chemical suppliers are racing to control more supplies of materials that are key to transitioning the world to cleaner energy sources.Car manufacturers and industry analysts
105. Suitcase Sized Desalination, Electronic Skin, Reducing Tumors with Sound
From seawater to drinking water, with the push of a button | TechXPlore (01:04)
MIT researchers have developed a portable desalination unit, weighing less than 10 kilograms, that can remove particles and salts to generate drinking water.Suitcase-sized device
Requires less power to operate than a cell phone charger
Can be powered by a small, portable solar panel, which can be purchased online for around $50.
Generates drinking water that exceeds World Health Organization quality standards.
Runs with the push of one button.
Unlike other portable desalination units that require water to pass through filters, this device utilizes electrical power to remove particles from drinking water. Eliminating the need for replacement filters
Relies on a technique called ion concentration polarization (ICP)
Rather than filtering water, the ICP process applies an electrical field to membranes placed above and below a channel of water. The membranes repel positively or negatively charged particles—including salt molecules, bacteria, and viruses—as they flow past.
The process removes both dissolved and suspended solids, allowing clean water to pass through the channel.
Once the salinity level and the number of particles decrease to specific thresholds, the device notifies the user that the water is drinkable.
This filterless process enables the unit to be deployed in remote and severely resource-limited areas, such as communities on small islands or aboard seafaring cargo ships.Their prototype generates drinking water at a rate of 0.3 liters per hour, and requires only 20 watts of power per liter.
Researchers develop a paper-thin loudspeaker | MIT News (06:21)
MIT engineers have developed a paper-thin loudspeaker that can turn any surface into an active audio source.Produces sound with minimal distortion while using a fraction of the energy required by a traditional loudspeaker.
Weighing about as much as a dime and can generate high-quality sound no matter what surface the film is bonded to.
The new loudspeaker simplifies the speaker design by using a thin film of a shaped piezoelectric material that moves when voltage is applied over it, which moves the air above it and generates sound.
Most thin-film loudspeakers are designed to be freestanding because the film must bend freely to produce sound. If the thin speaker needs to be bound to a surface that would impede the sound generation process.
To overcome this problem , their design relies on tiny domes on a thin layer of piezoelectric material which each vibrate individually.
The researchers pioneered a deceptively simple fabrication technique, which requires only three basic steps and can be scaled up to produce ultrathin loudspeakers.
Lead author Jinchi Han talks on the process:“This is a very simple, straightforward process. It would allow us to produce these loudspeakers in a high-throughput fashion if we integrate it with a roll-to-roll process in the future. That means it could be fabricated in large amounts, like wallpaper to cover walls, cars, or aircraft interiors”
They tested their thin-film loudspeaker by mounting it to a wall 30 centimeters from a microphone to measure the sound pressure level, recorded in decibels. When 25 volts of electricity were passed through the device at 1 kilohertz, the speaker produced high-quality sound at conversational levels of 66 decibels.
At 10 kilohertz, the sound pressure level increased to 86 decibels, about the same volume level as city traffic.
Another cool feature of this thin speaker is it can be used effectively for ultrasound applications, like imaging.Because the tiny domes are vibrating, rather than the entire film, the loudspeaker has a high enough resonance frequency for ultrasound imaging
Could use it to detect where a human is standing in a room, just like bats do using echolocation, and then shape the sound waves to follow the person as they move.
This device has many possible
104. Navy’s Space Power Beaming Project, Ultra-light Liquid Hydrogen Tanks, Reprogrammed Skin Cells
US Navy wirelessly beamed 1.6kW of power using microwaves | Interesting Engineering (01:22)
New miniature heart could help speed heart disease cures | MedicalXPress (10:08)
Ultra-light liquid hydrogen tanks promise to make jet fuel obsolete | New Atlas (16:20)
Old skins cells reprogrammed to regain youthful function | Science Daily (23:15)
Tesla is testing in-car Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity with several major internet providers | Electrek (27:01)
103. Reverse Hearing Loss, Hypersonic Space Cannon, No Moving Parts Heat Engine
Reversing hearing loss with regenerative therapy | MIT News (01:28)
Engineered bacteria could help protect “good” gut microbes from antibiotics | Big Think (07:01)
Wireless camera tool could make intubation safer and easier | Futurity (12:40)
A massive ”space cannon” can shoot payloads into space at hypersonic speeds | Interesting Engineering (16:31)
A new heat engine with no moving parts is as efficient as a steam turbine | MIT News (22:54)
102. Solar Panels Generate Power at Night, Rocket Catching Helicopter, Robotic AI Beekeeper Startup
Stanford engineers invent a solar panel that generates electricity at night | Interesting Engineer (01:08)
Rocket Lab prepares its chopper to catch a returning booster in midair | New Atlas (07:28)
Looking Through Mojo Vision's Newest AR Contact Lens | IEEE Spectrum (12:17)
Simple delivery method enhances a promising cancer treatment | MedicalXPress (20:11)
Israeli bee tech startup Beewise pulls in $80m investment for robotic beehives | Times of Israel (27:19)
This podcast is such a gift-I recently discovered it and listen to it as I get ready in the mornings, and it really affects my mood and outlook for the better. Learning about all the ways that the world is innovating, and therefore getting better, makes me a better human in all domains of my life. Thanks, Adam, for putting this out there and shining a light on all the things that are going right. :)
Tapping into my Inner STEM
Listening to Adam really helps me re-awaken my inner STEM by keeping me updated with the latest and greatest.
I am in awe of the interesting developments in STEM and how it impacts our world. I appreciate that Adam digests the articles bu also includes them in the show notes if I’m interested in going deeper. I am finding on several episodes my initial reaction to the content was fear, however with Adam sharing how the developments relate to current state, pros and cons really helped me appreciate the new developments. (For example VR surgery). I also appreciate the research and sourcing he does to frame each episode.