Inhabitat’s Week in Green: shape-shifting tires, modular smartphone and the burgeoning cockroach industry
Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week’s most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us — it’s the Week in Green.
Elon Musk made headlines around the world this summer when he lifted the curtain on the “hyperloop” — a concept for an ultra-fast train that could transport passengers at speeds of 600 MPH. Now a team of engineers has announced plans to build a working hyperloop prototype by next year. Musk isn’t behind the plan, but his company Tesla made a couple of major announcements this week. First, Tesla bought nearly 2 billion Panasonic lithium-ion battery cells. Then, the electric carmaker completed a network of electric vehicle charging stations stretching all the way from San Diego to Vancouver. While hyperloop talk is speeding up, bikes are continuing to grow in popularity — more bikes were sold than cars in 23 European countries last year, proving that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to go green. On the other hand, reinventing the wheel is exactly what design student Ackeem Ngwenya did when he created a shape-shifting tire that can adapt to different vehicle types and road conditions. In other global transportation news, Turkey unveiled the world’s first intercontinental underwater rail tunnel, linking the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. And at the 6th Annual US-China Transportation Forum, Chinese officials announced that they are expanding their nationwide network of highways, railways and airports, while the US federal government struggles to maintain the country’s crumbling infrastructure.
Renewable energy continues to move forward as well — offshore wind power generation is on track for a seventh consecutive year of record growth, as wind capacity is increasing at a rate of nearly 40 percent a year. Land-based wind developers continue to make advances, too. In Ethiopia, workers recently completed work on Africa’s largest wind farm, which will help to reduce the occurrence of blackouts in the continent’s second most populous country. Wind isn’t the only source of clean, renewable energy: The world’s first 1-megawatt wave energy power plant just opened off the coast of Australia. In another exciting development, a research team from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center developed a new technique for converting almost any type of wood into biochar super capacitors that match the performance of active carbon super capacitors at a fraction of the production cost. Panasonic also announced plans to produce a new solar LED lantern that will provide light to those living without electricity.
Duct tape is a good temporary solution for plenty of fixes, but the silver stuff has finally met its match. FiberFix is a new super tape that is as durable as steel and about 100 times stronger than duct tape. A bizarre medical craze is sweeping China: cockroaches. Some people believe that roaches can cure everything from blood clots to heart disease, and people are popping pills filled with crushed roaches, leading to the emergence of a burgeoning cockroach-raising industry. Think that’s weird? Try this one on for size: British underwear maker Shreddies has produced a new line of flatulence-neutralizing underpants that let you “fart with confidence.” In other news, Inhabitots took a look at the REK Bookcase, a kids’ bookshelf that can expand to meet the needs of your child’s growing library. Motorola’s new modular smartphone could help prevent people from having to buy a new phone every year. And LG has developed a new curved smartphone that comes with a self-healing, protective coating.