Christmas is right around the corner, and for all of you procrastinators out there, we recently shared our handy guide to last-minute gifts that can be whipped up in the 11th hour. We also have some great suggestions for non-consumerist gifts of time and if you're crafty, don't forget to check out our DIY guide for cool make-it-yourself gift ideas like these useful texting gloves and this curiously strong solar charger upcycled from an old Altoids tin. For a fun activity to do with the whole family, check out our homemade holiday greeting card and DIY Christmas cracker tutorials, and before putting your gifts under the tree, don't miss our guide to eco-friendly gift wrap alternatives.
We saw a bevy of new gadgets and gizmos hitting the scene this week such as intelliPaper, which recently found a way to transform tiny scraps of paper into fully functional USB drives and programmable documents and CitiSense, a portable pollution monitoring system that allows you to check nearby air quality on your smartphone. In an effort to save smartphones from the landfill, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently patented a design for a smartphone airbag system and we fell head over heels for the Scrubba, a portable washing machine made of lightweight material that's so small it can fit in your pocket. We also saw our readers going wild over a real-life invisibility cloak that causes its wearer to vanish in plain sight.
In global renewable energy news, we learned that engineers in Hong Kong are working on using water mains to create electricity by attaching small turbines to them that can each pump out about 80 volts. Similarly, Japanese company Ibasei recently devised a tiny underwater turbine that can be placed along a riverbank or canal to generate energy. Canadian inventor Louis Michaud has created the Atmospheric Vortex Engine, which harnesses the energy of tornados to produce clean energy, and energy companies Dominion and FuelCell Energy Inc. announced plans to build the largest fuel cell power plant in North America. And in one of the week's most inspiring stories, we reported on 14-year-old Deepika Kurup from Nashua, N.H., who invented a solar-powered water purification system to help the developing world.
In green design news, a new architecture competition challenged designers to transform the Costa Concordia shipwreck off the coast of Italy into a new seaside park. In France, Mikou Design Studio recently completed work on one of the coolest schools we've ever seen. The new Bobigny school is a massive, spiraling structure that's topped with several green roofs. Just in time for Peter Jackson's latest film, architecture firm Archer & Buchanan built a Hobbit House in Pennsylvania fit for the ultimate Tolkien fan. And in one of the most controversial stories we came across this week, a Chinese developer is proposing to flatten 700 mountains in the Lanzhou area in order to build a new city.