We’re always talking about how the world would be a better place if someone made things better, smarter. Here are several people who are doing just that. At the annual European Inventor Awards, shortlisted by the European Patent Office (EPO), the organisation honours notable inventions by various individuals each year. Some are good, some are silly and others are little more than figments of imaginations that may or may not succeed. We’ve found three that are super-duper cool.
Transistors that are made of PAPER
Yes that’s right. Elvira Fortunato and Rodrigo Martins, Portuguese scientists based in the University of Lisbon have found an alternative to silicon chips. Using cellulose to create the functioning operation of the transistor by coating it with inorganic oxides, you could use a thin sheet to create inexpensive computing products. For a magazine such as ours, imagine if you only had to buy a magazine once, and it would refresh itself each month with new content. Or a paper-thin iPad someday.
The technology not only relieves the need for rare earth minerals – meaning less mining and damage to the Earth – but is also far more carbon efficient to produce than silicon. The future of the world does rely on paper, it seems.
Biomechatronic leg joints
At the age of 17, MIT professor Hugh Herr lost both his legs in a climbing accident. He’s spent his entire life researching bionics – combining biology with technology – to create smart prosthesis. From joints that allow amputees to walk with a natural gait thanks to damping techniques, microprocessors and more, including a battery-powered foot, Herr has changed the lives of amputees forever.
He aims to create prosthetics that fit the body perfectly, and react as it’s part of your body, rather than a foreign object. Herr began researching his own prosthetics after he lost his feet due to frostbite in the mountains, but also explains that his climbing feet differ from his regular walking feet. In fact, his designs are so impressive, they allow amputees to function with perfect regularity. Bravo, Sir.
For years, we’ve debated about renewable energy resources and how, essential as they are to the future and survival of the human race and the Earth, they simply do not produce enough energy for the world, nor are they equally accessible to everyone. Miroslav Sedlácek is a civil engineer of the Czech Technical University in Prague who’s come up with a method for raising power from flowing water, be it an undercurrent in the sea or a gentle eddy in a brook.
The technique used is rather simple, like how the bathtub, as it drains of water, generates a vortex effect that can drive a turbine more effectively than a trickling flow. This sort of vortex effect exists in many natural flows of water, which Miroslav uses to drive his turbine. The beauty of this small-format solution is that it’s compact, doesn’t affect the environment and most important, produces enough energy to power a house. It also doesn’t stop when the sun sets. So if you live in the rural outdoors and near a flow of water, this is your solution. Hopefully everyone’s, one day soon.
See more of the other inventors from this year’s European Inventor Awards here. Who knows, your idea may not be as strange as it looks, or as impossible.