MM: Super Clean Hydrogen Production; Edible Robots

In this Manufacturing Minute episode, a super clean way to produce hydrogen and edible robots.

Clean Hydrogen Production

Hydrogen is seen as a clean fuel source since it only produces water vapor as a byproduct when used in vehicles. But producing the hydrogen is often a process that relies on natural gas or other polluting chemicals. To make hydrogen a widely-used fuel source, we have to find a simple and clean way to make it. Now researchers at the University of Cambridge has added another green possibility for creating the gas. 

The team started with lignocellulose, the support structure found in plants for their method. Lignocellulose is nature’s equivalent to armored concrete and give plants mechanical stability. And up to this point, the process to covert the biomass to hydrogen has relied on high heat, which means a lot of energy is needed. 

The Cambridge method simply used light along with a collection of nanoparticles. The particles are very small semiconductors called cadmium sulfide quantum dots. They are suspended in alkaline water then the biomass is added. The solution is beamed with light that mimics sunlight and the dots do their stuff to use the light to fuel a process in cover the biomass into hydrogen. The gas then rises out of the solution where it is collected. The study successfully used paper, leaves and pieces of wood for the process.

SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Do you think this method be used for large scale hydrogen production? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below. 

Edible Robots

Who cares about the why? Swiss researchers decided to first answer the question of if it can be done and, voila, edible robots.

Earlier this week, researchers in Switzerland announced the development of an edible pneumatic actuator. The team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology claim the development could pave the way for future of robotics able to crawl around in the body and possibly deliver medications where they are needed. This is similar to a study by MIT last year which made a robot out of dried pig intestines.

The director of EPFL’s Laboratory of Intelligent Systems says the work came from a challenge to create something new, not necessarily to address any specific functionality. 

The Swiss robots feature gelatin-based actuators that allow for simple movements but can also be broken down by the human body. Tests demonstrate how two edible actuators could be used to form a gripper capable of grasping objects such as an apple.

Obviously, this research is at the very early stages, but the Swiss team says the technology could be used in a variety of ways. In addition to healthcare applications, useful examples include an edible search and rescue robot that could be sued to find a trapped person and relay the survivor’s location to rescuers before becoming a tasty, life-sustaining, snack.

SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK? 

In what ways to you see edible technology being used? Do you think it has applications in the manufacturing world? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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