Shoveling snow is an inconvenience and pain at the very least and can be a serious health risk. Snow removal can be a major expense for cities and towns depending on just how bad a winter may be. Even before we can get to the big task of clearing snow and ice, the hazard of it can strike quickly and the results can be deadly.
For as long as we’ve had to deal with the effects of winter weather, we’ve been trying to come up with better and better solutions for getting rid of it or preparing for and coping with it. The technology for doing so hasn’t really changed all that much.
This latest innovation however, may be a real game-changer. What if parts of our infrastructure actually counteracted snow, ice, and other wintery conditions on contact?
Image Source: Wikimedia
Melting Snow And Ice On Contact
That’s the idea behind de-icing concrete, a technology that scientists have been working on for decades. It could help save lives, property, and a lot of back pain, but the challenge is finding a realistic way to make it happen and build it into our infrastructure.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln civil engineering professor, Chris Tuan and his research team have now developed a substance that makes the idea a reality.
Their approach uses steel shavings and carbon to carry an electrical charge. When the components are incorporated into concrete, the minor voltage creates enough warmth to prevent significant accumulation of snow and ice but is still safe to the touch.
Through that low-voltage electric charge, snow and ice melt away as it hits the pavement.
Image Source: UPI
Tested For The Tarmac
The FAA is now testing the material to determine if it can be scaled up for use on U.S. airport tarmacs. If it sounds like an expensive technology to incorporate, the conductive concrete would be less expensive to operate than it would be to counter snow and ice with salt and other chemical methods.
The approach could also mitigate the resulting damage that occurs when roads are iced and salted throughout a winter season.
Would you be eager to have this technology incorporated into your driveway or neighborhood roads?
Tell us what you think about this development in the comments.
New mRNA Technology to Remake Vaccine Research and Production
Messenger RNA, or mRNA, is the central technology behind the rapid creation of the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines. Known as cell-based vaccine technology, mRNA mimics the way cells generate proteins that activate immune responses. The process provides advantages over old vaccine production methods that relied on culturing viruses within eggs. Cell-based technology allows for increased vaccine efficacy and makes it possible for manufacturing facilities to produce multiple vaccine products at the same time.
Marriage of Biology and Computation Power
The scientific discipline of bioinformatics sequences DNA, which produces RNA messengers to carry out its functions. Modern advances in computational power speed this process and help researchers learn how to manipulate the immune response. As a result, scientists increasingly have the means of controlling dangerous viruses, like coronavirus and Ebola. In terms of vaccine production, the new method increases vaccine yields, purity, and potency.
The breakthroughs resulting from bioinformatics and mRNA will require a new generation of production equipment, including bioreactors and fermenters. Demand for such vaccines will be high around the world due to the devastation and economic disruption caused by outbreaks and pandemics.
Vast Potential Beyond Coronavirus
The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has focused the global research and pharmaceutical industries on vaccine development and production. Science could bring many viruses under control, such as Zika, Epstein-Barr, or Lassa. The massive global efforts that delivered a coronavirus vaccine in under a year will also be called upon as new viruses emerge. Variations of influenza could threaten human populations at any time.
Higher Demand for Refrigeration Equipment
At this point, mRNA vaccines must be stored and transported at extremely low temperatures. The Pfizer vaccine must be kept at -70 Celsius, and the Moderna vaccine needs a temperature of -20 Celsius. Pfizer already maintains massive freezer farms for holding vaccines.
As the global population continues to cope with coronavirus and future threats, refrigeration manufacturers could experience greater demand for their products. Let us know if your industry expects additional business due to the ballooning growth of vaccine production.
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GM Announces Plans To Launch Self-Driving Taxis As Early As 2019
General Motors (GM) has announced ambitious plans for a 2019 commercial launch of autonomous taxis, which the company aims to release in multiple cities. Described as a direct challenge to other autonomous vehicle tech ventures, including Alphabet Inc’s Waymo and Uber Technologies, the move represents a large step forward for prevalence of self-driving vehicles in everyday life.
Image Source: Wikimedia
Autonomous Taxis In A Matter Of Months
With the success of the electric Chevrolet Bolt, its acquisition of Cruise Automation last year, and its $500 million investment in ride-sharing company Lyft also in 2016, GM’s move into the autonomous ride-hauling service race isn’t much of a surprise, but their claim that they can make this roll-out a reality in such a short time has turned a lot of heads. “If we continue on our current rate of change we will be ready to deploy this technology, in a large scale, in the most complex environments, in 2019,” GM President Dan Ammann said.
A Goal For Safe, Low-Cost Transportation
Ammann also stated that safety would be the deciding factor on when driverless taxis ultimately hit city streets. GM did not name specific locations for their launch but for “dense urban environments”. They have also stressed the economic benefits for riders. GM’s CFO Chuck Stevens has said that with the launch of their autonomous taxis, “We have a path to take 40 percent of the cost out of ride services,” taking charges to less than $1 per mile by 2025 compared to roughly $2.50 per mile today according to a Reuters’ report.
Image Source: The Detroit News
Who Will Win The Self-Driving Race?
While GM has the right umbrella of capabilities to make this type of autonomous launch a reality in less than two years, Uber, Waymo, and other companies are closing in on the race to get autonomous taxis deployed in major cities and adjacent suburbs. Whatever company will be most successful with their brand is not yet clear, but one thing appears sure: public access to autonomous vehicles is just around the corner.
What are your thoughts on GM’s plans? Comment and tell us what you think of this story.
Artificial Muscles May Create A Softer, Stronger Robot
Most robots are comprised of metal and hard plastic, which ensures their stability but it’s not always the most ideal structure for more dynamic strength and safe interaction with humans. A new type of robot “muscle” could serve to remedy those limitations while expanding capabilities.
Image Source: Wired
Origami-Inspired With Enhanced Strength
Researchers at the Wyss Institute of Harvard and MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) recently announced the creation of artificial muscles that can be incorporated into a range of robotic skeletons and enable them to greatly extend their lifting capabilities. The structure of the muscle system has been inspired by the complex geometric folds of origami creations. The muscle is able to lift 1000 times its own weight and is meant to be filled with a layer of air or water, which enables it to function based on controlled variations in pressure.
Image Source: Wired
Flexible And Inexpensive
The vacuum maintained within the layers of the muscle system helps balance strength with a softer touch. The system is fairly versatile and can be closely fitted to a robot’s skeletal frame, as it requires only air and water to function under the control of the vacuum. This also contributes to their lower cost—researchers state that a muscle can be created in roughly ten minutes with fabric or plastic-based materials that cost less than a dollar.
Will this system help give future robots a more deft touch with greatly enhanced strength? Comment and tell us your thoughts on this development.