1. Can you imagine doodling for diagnostics?
Well, one day in the foreseeable future it may be possible to use special sensor-laden inks to help monitor your body chemistry. What a boon for diabetics – just doodle on your glucose strip and hook it up to your Bluetooth device. No more painful pinpricks. Another example? Soldiers testing for explosives or nerve agents – just draw the sensor on the surface you are hoping to test. Worried about pollution? Draw a sensor right on the leaf of a tree.
While the ingredients of the inks themselves are very specific, the pens are just normal off the shelf ballpoint pens filled with different enzymes. For example, glucose oxidase responds to blood glucose. Tyrosinase is the enzyme that responds to phenol-based pollutants. The rest of the ingredients: electrodes in the form of graphite, clotting agents to make the ink “stick” to the surface, stabilizing agents, and binding agents.
Talk about your ultimate wearable technology.
2. And speaking of wearable technology, how about implantable antibiotics?
Researchers have created a new electronic implant that can be “installed” in your body during surgery. Doctors can then wirelessly trigger the fight bacterial infection as needed, when it’s work is done, the little implant dissolves. The secret ingredient? Silk. Instead of silicon or other plastic substrates, silk dissolves naturally and harmlessly, both in landfills and in the human body.
Yes, you read that right, landfills. As if disappearing medical implants aren’t enough Fiorenzo Omenetto and his research group at Tufts University is hoping that eventually consumer electronics can be made of biodegradable silk.
Silk: the ultimate smart material.
3. Could a giant tangle of rods that crumbles under pressure be the next Rover?
NASA says…maybe! Adrian Agogino and (we swear we are not making this up) Vytas SunSpiral is working on a robot that looks nothing like a traditional rigid robot. Instead, the robot called a Super Ball Bot is actually called a tensegrity structure and has no rigid connections. It could bounce down on a planet, and then deform itself so that it rolls to scientifically interesting places. Bounce you say? Why yes, because stick robot can take a 75% licking and keep on ticking. Clearly, planetary exploration is not the only benefit to developing this bizarre robot, but the difficulty now is in controlling the unwieldy structure.
4. Laser weapons may remind some of us of the failed Star Wars program of the early 80s, but Lockheed Martin made the dream a reality.
Well, except replace dream with terrifying, high powered weapon. A new laser system can stop a small truck in it’s track from over a mile away. And by stop, we mean explode. Except not really? This story got a little fuzzy around the edges. It appears that the truck was running, but kind of more like on a treadmill than, you know, driving normally. So, we’re not going to explode things à la the Star Wars TIE fighters, but we seem to be getting closer to that…goal?
5. Feel like creating your own touch screen?
With a regular inkjet printer? Well, soon that too may be within our grasp. Just ask this research team from Saarland University. You’d still need special ink, but the idea of printing off a flexible, touch screen (TFEL) in your own home – pretty incredible. The very concept of on-demand printing of reasonably priced, high-resolution, flexible, touch screens could revolutionize any number of products. And the team is now working on applying this technique to 3D printing, taking the concept even further.
Featured Image Credit: University of California, San Diego