Biobattery-embedded tattoos to use sweat to power your tech

Scientists have developed a temporary tattoo with a built-in, sweat-powered biobattery that could one day be used to charge your phone while you are out for a run.

The biobattery works using lactate, a key chemical found in sweat that can be used to monitor exercise performance.

This means that the more the wearer sweats, the more energy is going to be produced, creating the interesting scenario where less physically fit people are able to produce more power.

The technology is one of the first examples of skin-based power sources, and could pave the way for a host of technologies powered by devices attached to the skin.


The biobattery works by using an enzyme to extract the electrons in the sweat’s lactate and move them to the battery. At present, the amount of energy produced is very small, but the researchers are confident that they will be able to develop this to enable small electronic devices to be charged.

“The current produced is not that high, but we are working on enhancing it so that eventually we could power some small electronic devices,” said Dr Wenzhao Jia, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California San Diego.

“Right now, we can get a maximum of 70 microWatts per cm², but our electrodes are only 2 by 3 millimeters in size and generate about 4 microWatts — a bit small to generate enough power to run a watch, for example, which requires at least 10 microWatts.

“So besides working to get higher power, we also need to leverage electronics to store the generated current and make it sufficient for these requirements.”

The device has also been developed as a lactate monitor, which will be a valuable tool for both doctors and athletes. Previously lactate has been monitored using a series of blood tests, so this monitor is likely to prove simpler and less invasive.

The biobattery’s reliance on sweat means that the amount of power produced can vary significantly depending on the person wearing it.

The researchers tested the initial biobattery on 15 exercise bike-riding volunteers, and found that not only did those who were least fit produce the most energy, but the most regularly active participants produced the least energy.

This could affect the potential success of the technology, as such variation in performance could make it difficult to market.

However, this is one of the first examples of skin-based batteries, and the technology is likely to be developed much further.

“These represent the first examples of epidermal electrochemical biosensing and biofuel cells that could potentially be used for a wide range of future applications,” said Dr Joseph Wang, professor of nanoengineering at University of California San Diego.

From here we could see the development of an array of wearable technologies and gadgets siphoning power through our skin, perhaps even one day powering whole computers, medical augmentations and more.

Inline image courtesy of Dr Joseph Wang.

First look: The cross-platform VR social network that swaps walls for virtual worlds

The first images and footage of vTime, the “mobile social VR network” from digital studio Starship have been released, giving us the first glimpses of what could become the social network for the virtual world.

Instead of chatting and sharing content in a simple framed space like a regular social network, vTime provides some fairly cool virtual environments for people to meet up in.

In these first preview images, we see avatars chilling out on luxury yachts in what looks like a virtual version of Vietnam’s Halong Bay; relaxing by a campfire by the mouth of a cave system; sitting in the midst of a forest stream and kicking back in a regal mansion.


Described by Starship as offering “friends and family a compelling new way to spend quality time together in virtual reality,” the social network lets users chat in these virtual environments, by hosting virtual meet-ups for friends to join in with.

There is also the opportunity to share content such as images, videos and music, as with a conventional social network such as Facebook. However, unlike Facebook , this sharing will happen in a manner quite similar to the real world.

The newly-released images even give us a sense of how this will work, showing a framed gallery of pictures that users are sitting round and discussing.


vTime will also allow users to customise their avatars, in theory allowing people to accurately recreate themselves in the virtual world.

It will also come with all the usual trappings of a social network, including friends lists and an interests and topics-based search.


Starship, which is headed by Evolution Studios founder Martin Kenwright , envisions the spaces being used for people to have face-to-face-like meetups, allowing families and friends to get together for a chat even if they are scattered across the globe.

It could prove an appealing option for people wanting to feel like they are in the room with far-away loved ones, although how well it replicates the real thing remains to be seen.


As a result, there’s been a strong emphasis on ease-of use, as well as cross-platform compatibility. vTime can not only be used of Oculus, Samsung Gear, Google Cardboard and other headsets, but is also useable by those without headsets using at app dubbed vTime Mono.

This will allow people to join in with the network through a smartphone, PC or tablet computer, although without the immersion that VR provides.

In addition, it will work not only over WiFi, but through 3G and 4G mobile networks.


“vTime brings social VR to virtually everyone, from virtually anywhere on virtually any device,” said Starship CEO Martin Kenwright.

“We’ve taken complex technology and made it simple, beautiful and accessible. Just download the vTime app, put on your headset, and you’re vTiming.”

While Starship has focused on the potentials for social activities, the screenshots it has released also suggest there could be some serious business applications.

In one image, a group of people sit aboard a virtual private jet, reviewing holographic charts and projected financial graphs.

While the company has not made any official comments about this as yet, it seems that it will also be presenting vTime as a tool for business meetings, allowing people from around the globe to meet up and work on a project.


Images courtesy of Starship

vTime will be released in November as an open Alpha to Android users.

NASA outlines the three steps to becoming a multi-planet species

The race to Mars is on. NASA wants to put humans on the Red Planet by the 2030s – after landing us on asteroids in the 2020s – while Elon Musk’s SpaceX wants to get a human on our closest planetary neighbour first, by 2026.

In its ongoing mission, involving a suitable amount of bureaucracy and planning, NASA’s revealed the three stages it will need to go through to achieve the giant step of a boot on Mars’ surface.

The 35-page plan published by the space agency provides an outline of the colossal challenges that mankind must overcome if we are to be a two planet species: Earth-reliant exploration, a proving ground and finally Earth independence.

At present, we’re still in the Earth-reliant stage and we have been for all of our manned space exploration to date. NASA says the stage is currently “focused on research aboard the International Space Station”.

“On the space station, we are testing technologies and advancing human health and performance research that will enable deep-space, long-duration missions,” the roadmap to Mars says.

The stage is one that has been accelerated thanks to emerging technologies. In the last 18 months the first 3D printer has been sent to space, which will eventually allow us to build structures on other planets, and the first food has been grown in space. The stage also involves improving communications systems, working out how our bodies react to prolonged spaceflight and more.


It’s likely that the first and second stages of NASA’s plan will heavily overlap, although the third stage, which will provide the most risk to human life, will be carefully considered.

The proving ground – the second step to Mars – involves NASA learning to “conduct complex operations in a deep space environment” but still allows the crews to return to Earth in a few days. This will mostly be in cislunar space – the region between Earth and the Moon – the agency says.

Missions that prove the capabilities will include the asteroid redirect mission, in 2020, that will collect a boulder from an asteroid and return it to astronauts to investigate. The second stage will also see the first “deep-space habitation facility for long-duration systems testing,” the report says. There will also be an increase in autonomous missions and docking technologies, and a focus on resupplying “consumables, packaging, and materials” used in space.

Image and featured image courtesy of NASA

Images courtesy of NASA

The completion of these two stages will mean that sufficient technology has been developed to allow astronauts to get to Mars but also to be able to survive there, using the resources they took and those they create. This accomplishment will mean humans have reached the third stage: Earth independence.

“Earth Independent activities build on what we learn on ISS and in cislunar space to enable human missions to the Mars vicinity, including the Martian moons, and eventually the Martian surface,” NASA’s report says.

This stage will allow a “transition in humanity’s expansion,” the authors write. Humans will be able to live and work within commuting distance of Mars, as well as on its surface. This will include harvesting Mars’ resources to create the essential elements we need to survive: water, fuel and oxygen.

“This strategy charts a course toward horizon goals, while delivering near-term benefits, and defining a resilient architecture that can accommodate budgetary changes, political priorities, new scientific discoveries, technological breakthroughs, and evolving partnerships,” said NASA’s William Gerstenmaier.

The full publication, NASA’s Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration, can be found here.

Hawking: We should be scared of capitalism

Stephen Hawking has said that capitalism should be our biggest fear, not robots. In a Reddit AMA the scientist said wealth distribution could cause massive issues when robots take our jobs.

Source: Huffington Post

World to be powered by 26% renewables in 2020

In just five years, a quarter of the world's energy needs will be met using renewable sources. At the moment we're 22% renewable powered, to get to above a quarter we need another 700 gigawatts.

Source: Inhabitat

The biggest radio telescope in the world

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Source: Tech Insider

Panasonic creates the most efficient solar panel

Panasonic has set the record for the most efficient solar panel, beating Elon Musk's record days after it was set. The new panel from the company has a 22.5% efficiency, beating the SolarCity record of 22.04%.

Source: PV Tech

Cover Spain in solar panels to power the Earth

To power the entire world with solar energy we would need to cover a land mass that's the size of Spain. In reality it isn't much of our global land area, but would require huge infrastructure improvements.

AI machine is as clever as a young child

An artificial intelligence machine has scored the same on an IQ test as a 5-7 year-old child. The AI program, used by an international research team, was originally developed as an open-source project by MIT.

Source: Phys Org