It's been a big week for energy-efficient breakthroughs in the scientific community. Scientists at MIT developed a new type of textured nano surface that could reduce the thickness of silicon used in solar panels by more than 90 percent, bringing down the cost of photovoltaic technology. Meanwhile, in the land down under, researchers at the Australian National University are working on a pee-powered plasma thruster that could make deep space missions more feasible. Also this week, a team of engineers from MIT developed a new glucose fuel cell that runs on the same sugar that powers the human body and could be used for brain implants.
But when it comes to technology of any kind, mother nature is still the boss. Want proof? Researchers from the University of Western Australia have found that plants can actually communicate with one another by clicking their roots! And here's another prime example: this technicolor, bug-eyed mantis shrimp has a fist-like appendage that smites prey faster than a 22-caliber bullet with blows that equal 110 pounds. Naturally, researchers are trying to figure out the little guy's secret to replicate it in designs for biomimetic body armor and vehicle frames. Copying nature's best designs is actually quite common among clothing makers, and this week we also rounded up the top 10 examples of biomimicry in the fashion industry.
We spotlighted a bunch of new and innovative uses for LED lights this week as well. In Yeosu, South Korea a dramatic LED light installation that looks like an overgrown field of rice lit up the GS Caltex pavilion at Expo 2012. Continuing the theme, Bruce Munro recently installed a gorgeous field of LEDs that look like dandelion seed heads in Pennsylvania's Longwood Gardens. We also checked out the Holonic Streetlamp, an off-grid LED streetlight that's powered by the sun and wind, and we produced a new video that challenges top lighting designers to swap out incandescent light bulbs with warm, energy-efficient LEDs. Designers were impressed and pleasantly surprised about how nice LED bulbs can look, and you will be too. Looking forward, Singapore's incredible solar Supertrees are set to officially open at the Gardens by the Bay on June 29th.
We're big fans of public transit, but without something to occupy your mind, commuting by train or bus can be a real drag. So we came up with a list of our top 10 mobile apps that will help make the commute fly by. And while games and apps are fun, here's a device that could actually be quite useful: CellScope, a mobile health startup in San Francisco, has developed a smartphone device that enables parents to diagnose ear infections at home, which could save a lot of unnecessary trips to the doctor's office.
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