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.

biobattery-tattoo

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.


Planetary Resources’ Ceres project to deliver affordable Earth intelligence

Asteroid mining company Planetary Resources has secured $21.1m in funding to deploy and operate Ceres, an advanced Earth observation business.

The project, which will feature the first commercial infrared and hyperspectral sensor platform, aims to better understand and manage humanity’s natural resources. The company’s operations will include Earth observation, as well as prospecting and mining asteroids.

Based on the company’s vision to explore and utilise asteroid resources, Ceres will use the Arkyd spacecraft to deliver affordable Earth intelligence of natural resources anywhere on the planet.

The advantage that Ceres has over typical satellite imagery – which only provides a picture – is in its ability to provide actionable data with higher spectral resolutions (i.e. beyond what the human eye can see). This is made possible by measuring thermographic properties and detecting the composition of materials on the Earth’s surface.

Images courtesy of Planetary Resources

Images courtesy of Planetary Resources

Ceres will use a midwave-infrared sensor, which is the first ever commercial capability from space to offer thermographic mapping and night-imaging. It will also feature a hyperspectral sensor, which includes 40 colour bands in the visible to near-infrared spectrum – an unprecedented feature.

The imaging technology will be integrated onto the Arkyd spacecraft and arranged as a constellation of ten satellites in low-Earth orbit. This constellation will then provide global monitoring capabilities, benefitting industries from agriculture to oil and gas.

For example, Ceres will be able to analyse the spectral signatures of crops, identify energy and mineral resources, and monitor pipelines and remote infrastructure. It can track toxic algae blooms, monitor global water quality and enable the detection of early-stage wildfires.

The company is currently testing Ceres’ sensor platform, and will demonstrate the technology in space with a scheduled launch of its Arkyd 6 spacecraft. The mission aims to validate the thermographic sensor and supporting technologies.

“As we continue toward our vision of the expansion of humanity and our economy into the Solar System, our team has been working on the critical technologies required to detect and identify the most commercially viable near-Earth asteroids and their resources,” said Chris Lewicki, Planetary Resources president and CEO.

“To characterize these resources, it required more than just a picture, and our team has developed advanced spectral sensors to serve this need. We have also created new technologies for onboard computing, low-cost space platforms, and are now applying these transformative technologies in additional markets.”

Bryan Johnson, founder of OS Fund, one of the companies funding the project, added: “With Ceres, Planetary Resources has leapfrogged traditional imagers for monitoring Earth’s natural resources, creating far-ranging opportunity.

“It’s a seismic shift for the new space economy.”

Funding for the Ceres project was led by Bryan Johnson and the OS Fund, with support from Idea Bulb Bentures, Tencent, Vast Ventures, Grishin Robotics, Conversion Capital, The Seraph Group, Space Angels Network, Larry Page and a syndication of investors from Angel.co.

Major electronics manufacturer is replacing human staff with robots

Samsung and Apple's supplier, Foxconn, is investing heavily in automated manufacturing and is planning to replace 60,000 workers with robots. The number of employees working for the company has been reduced to 50,000 from 110,000 as a result.

Source: Si News

Israeli biotech firm is on the verge of printing organs

Israeli biotech firm Accellta Ltd has successfully lab-tested a 3D bioprinter for stem cells, paving the way for the potential printing of large tissues and organs. Its adapted printer is capable of making large volumes of high resolution cells quickly.

Source: Reuters

Researchers are teaching robots how to feel pain

Researchers from Germany are developing an artificial nervous system aimed at teaching robots how to feel pain. As well as allowing robots to quickly respond to potential damage to their systems, it could also protect humans who are increasingly working alongside them.

Source: BBC

China is about to start trialing a "straddling" bus

A model for an elevated bus has been unveiled at the Beijing International High-Tech Expo. Prototypes are currently being made and five Chinese cities — Nanyang, Qinhuangdao, Shenyang, Tianjin and Zhoukou — have signed contracts with the bus's makers to participate in pilot projects.

Source: New York Times

Dubai unveils world's first 3D printed building

Dubai has opened the first 3D-printed office building in the world. The building has been built to develop design and construction technology in the country as well as showcasing a modern model for construction. The building was printed using a 20ft 3D-printer that features an automated robotic arm.

Engineers have developed a flexible and wearable biosensor device

University of California, San Diego engineers have developed a flexible wearable device that monitors both biochemical and electric signals in the human body. The Chem-Phys patch records electrocardiogram (EKG) heart signals and tracks levels of lactate, and could be used to measure athletes workouts.

Source: Science Daily

Virtual reality social network lets you take friends inside your memories

An update to vTime, the leading virtual reality app for social interactions, is enabling users to meet up and socialise inside their own photographic memories, taking family holiday photo viewing sessions to a whole new level.

The update, a VR first, enables users to upload both 360° and flat images, which can either form the virtual world they meet friends and family in, or be displayed on a virtual screen within The Archive, a specialist virtual viewing room.

The move adds to vTime’s aim to be a VR sociable network, encouraging personal interactions with small groups of people, rather than the bellowing-to-the-world approach that other social networks take.

“Being sociable isn’t just about chatting,” said vTime CEO Martin Kenwright.

“It’s also about sharing your personal memories with others. So now, we’re letting you do just that; by giving you access to The Archive, and the freedom to upload your own images to the 360 Gallery.”

The Archive, where vTime users can share flat images with friends and family. Images courtesy of vTime

The Archive, where vTime users can share flat images with friends and family. Images courtesy of vTime

The update, dubbed vTime 2.0, adds to the company’s already impressive offering, which includes a stunning range of virtual worlds where users can meet up using avatars to chat and interact.

Among those available is an Arctic scene, where users see their virtual breath freezing in front of them, a space station, where users can watch asteroids and spaceships fly past Earth, and an underwater scene, where users appear to produce bubbles when they talk.

Perhaps the most jaw dropping, however, is the cliff-face scene, where users can chat while sitting half way up a cliff, with a giddying cavernous drop below. It’s an incredible sight, as long as you don’t have a fear of heights.

At present vTime is available for Google Cardboard and Gear VR, but will soon also be available for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The company also plans to make the software available for Playstation VR at launch.

vTime has a firm policy of device agnosticism, so we anticipate the app will also be available on Google’s new VR mobile platform Daydream when it is launched later this year.

Several hundred thousand people have already downloaded vTime, with users in more than 170 countries.

As a result, the product is fast cementing itself as the answer to social interaction in VR, with expressive avatars and interesting environments going a long way to making users feel as if they really are in a room with friends who live halfway round the world.