Light Friday: Recharge Your Phone While You Walk
Credit: Txchnologist.
Credit: Txchnologist.

Plus:
NASA Grant Will Develop 3D Printed Food
Humans Could Someday Regrow Limbs
Computer Games Can Make You Younger


Four students at Rice University in Houston, Texas, have engineered a device that harnesses the energy you use to walk for generating electricity. The prototype fits on the on the heel of your shoe and can be used to recharge your cell phone or other portable electronics.

Dubbed PediPower, the device was conceived as part of the student’s capstone project for their Bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. The group teamed with the Motion Analysis Laboratory at Shriners Hospital for Children in Houston, according to an article on the university’s website.

“We went to the lab and saw the force distribution across the bottom of your foot, to see where the most force is felt,” said David Morilla, one of the students that worked on the project. “We found it would be at the heel and at the balls of your toes, as you push off. We went with the heel because, unless you’re sprinting, you’re letting gravity do the work.”

In its current form, PediPower generates just under 400 milliwatts in walking tests. The energy flows through a wire to a belt-mounted battery pack. Cameron, a Houston-based international manufacturer of flow equipment, is working with the university and the Texas Heart Institute to apply the technology in the development of artificial heart pumps.

Check out the video below from Rice University for more information about how their project works:

NASA Grant Will Develop 3D Printed Food

Systems and Materials Research Corp. (SMRC) has received a $125,000  grant from NASA to develop a 3D printer that can print food for long space voyages. SMRC is investigating how it can use powders and oils to create meals in a method similar to fused deposition modeling.

While the project calls for space applications, Engineering.com reports that SMRC sees more grounded applications for the technology here on Earth. Arjun Contractor, senior mechanical engineer at SMRC, said, “I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12 billion people sufficiently… So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.”

The video below from TNO Research shows how this concept would work.

Humans Could Someday Regrow Limbs

Move over, salamanders! Researchers in Australia may have unlocked the secret to fully regenerating missing limbs and organs.

Axolotls — commonly known as salamanders — are the only known vertebrates that can regrow nearly any part of the body. The new components are fully functional and scar free. The secret, as scientists have discovered, hinges on the presence of a type of immune system cell called macrophages. These cells serve a dual role in that they both regulate and eliminate foreign invaders and also help in the repair process.

When researchers removed macrophages from salamanders in a lab, the subject lost their ability to regenerate severed parts. After the cells were reintroduced, this ability returned.

Unfortunately, macrophages are not part of the human immune system. But scientists speculate that if they can reverse engineer the chemical properties of these cells, this knowledge could be incorporated into treatments for humans.

Computer Games Can Make You Younger

The Wall Street Journal reports that a new study finds certain kinds of video games are better for boosting or maintaining cognitive functions than crossword puzzles.

The study examined 681 older adults, who were divided into two groups — those between 50 and 64 and those aged 65 years or older. Participants either played a visual matching game or a crossword puzzle. Some played the games in a lab while other played at home.

The computer game, called Double Decision, required players to observe a vehicle and a road sign. The screen then changes and new images move around the screen. Players must identify the original images from the start of the round amid an increasing number of distractions, and with a decreasing amount of time to process information.

Executive function tests were administered at the start of the study and again at different stages. These tests show that participants that played crossword puzzles exhibited typical declines in cognitive functions for their respective age groups over the course of a year. But those that played Double Decision had a clear improvement, equivalent to a decrease in age of two and seven years.

Have a great weekend, folks.

 

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