Innovative design has the power to save the world. Case in point: Last year, teenage inventor Boyan Slat announced plans to create an Ocean Cleanup Array that could remove up to 7 million tons of plastic trash from the world's oceans. The plan was met with a fair bit of skepticism, but a new yearlong study confirms Slat's claims. The hefty report goes as far as to suggest that a single array could remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in a decade. Slat isn't the only youngster turning heads: A 14-year-old Indian girl recently invented a pedal-powered washing machine that doubles as an exercise bike, which she uses to wash her family's clothes. Google just announced that an 11-year-old girl won the 2014 Doodle 4 Google competition by dreaming up a fantastical water purifier that turns dirty polluted water into fresh, clean H2O. And a team of Dutch architects is building the world's first 3D-printed house using a massive printer contained within a shipping container!
It isn't just the oceans that are filled with trash; a surprising amount of manmade "space junk" is also orbiting the planet. It's estimated there are about 20,000 pieces of large debris floating in low orbit around the Earth. In other space news, NASA just unveiled a new ultra-light expandable habitat designed to expand the capacity of the International Space Station. The module is scheduled to arrive at the space station in 2015 for a two-year test period. In a separate (admittedly less fashionable) development, NASA has developed a pair of sandals known as "ForceShoes" that will help astronauts maintain bone and muscle health while in outer space. And if you've ever wondered what a real-life version of the starship Enterprise would look like, here's your chance: NASA recently unveiled concept images of a warp-capable spacecraft, and it looks like something worthy of Starfleet.
On the green architecture front, a pair of Russian physicists just launched an Indiegogo campaign to rebuild Nikola Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower. The tower will be used to transmit clean energy wirelessly. For this year's London Festival of Architecture, Chilean-German firm GUN Architects built a pavilion made of pyramidal "stalactites" that drip water to create a refreshing rainforest-like oasis in the heart of the city. The world's longest artificial reef is under construction off the coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Once completed, it will be longer than the Brooklyn Bridge and it will support an estimated 13,000 species. And in Scotland, architecture students have built a tiny, mirror-clad lookout that blends seamlessly into the surrounding landscape.
Tesla has never done anything the traditional way, and by shaking up the auto industry, the company hopes to make cars cleaner and greener. This week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that Tesla would release its patents, effectively giving away its ideas to competitors. In doing so, he hopes to spark more electric car innovation -- even if it cuts into Tesla's bottom line. Geodesic dome houses are all the rage in the design community, but what about geodesic vehicles? Designers Mauro Fragiotta and Mark Beccaloni recently teamed up to produce plans for the world's first all-electric geodesic car. In other automotive news, Ford announced that it is teaming up with the food giant Heinz to turn ketchup byproducts, like tomato skins, leaves, stems and seeds, into a composite bioplastic for use in Ford's vehicles. And the UK is embracing the future by jumping on the driverless car bandwagon: Ministers in the Department for Transport are writing up new laws to address special needs associated with these vehicles.