Portable renewable energy has real benefits beyond fighting climate change. Case in point: A new type of solar-powered mobile technology is being used in India to help prevent prenatal deaths. The device can deliver health information about patients in remote areas to doctors, alerting them to possible pregnancy complications. In other green energy news, NASA scientists have created a new type of solar array that unfolds like an origami flower. A human mission to Mars is still a few years off, but that isn't stopping designers from dreaming up housing options for the red planet. Noah Hornberger recently won NASA and MakerBot's Mars Base Challenge with a series of 3D-printed honeycomb homes that could be used on Mars. And for the ultimate luxury kitchen accessory, Dutch designer Robert Kolenik created an amazing aquarium/table that would be a guaranteed discussion piece at any dinner party.
Tesla is about to shake up the electric vehicle landscape again as it prepares to release a pair of new models, but it's actually one of the automaker's older cars that hit the news this week. The company announced that it would provide a battery upgrade to Tesla Roadster owners, giving the electric car a 400-mile driving range. In other automotive news, Renovo unveiled a sexy, all-electric supercar with the body of a Shelby CSX 9000, and a team of researchers at MIT has come up with plan to turn old car batteries into durable solar panels. The team sees it as an opportunity to keep e-waste out of landfills while storing clean energy. There isn't as much newsprint in circulation as there once was, but a team of scientists from Tulane University has found a way to run a car on old newspapers. The process uses a bacterial strain called TU-103 that turns newspapers into butanol, which in turn can be used to power a car. And a brilliant team of engineering students created the world's first unstealable bike!
It would be a gross understatement to say that Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban is at the top of his game. The Japanese designer recently completed the new Aspen Art Museum, and he quickly followed that up by unveiling a solar-powered community center for children in Fukushima. The Lego Group, which produces one of the most identifiable children's toys around the world, was started in Denmark. So it makes sense that Danish starchitect Bjarke Ingels was hired to design a large Lego complex known as the Lego house at the Lego Group's birthplace in the Danish city of Billund. Not surprisingly, the structure will be built out of stacked rectangular volumes that resemble giant Lego bricks. Lego has also inspired several building technologies over the years, the latest of which is Kite Bricks, a set of large interlocking bricks that allow for faster, cheaper and more precise construction than conventional building methods.
Washing clothes is among the most water-intensive processes in the home, but it might not be for long. Researchers in Hong Kong have developed a self-cleaning textile that can clean itself when exposed to sunlight for 24 hours straight. In other green design and tech news, Japanese designer Ryosuke Fukusada has designed a lightbulb made from wood. The LED bulb is wrapped in a thin layer of pine, which makes it look like a solid piece of wood when it's turned off. When it's switched on, it emits a warm glow. Lighting designer Hilden and Diaz has created a new lamp that is inspired by drawings made by German biologist and naturalist Ernst Haeckel. The lamp, which looks like a bundle of twisted roots and sticks, projects forest shadows when it's lit. And on the mobile front, someone has actually created a device that tracks sexual performance. The SexFit is basically a Fitbit for your man parts; it measures calories burned, thrusts per minute and has vibration modes to, you know, enhance performance.