Environment

2013 Create the Future Design: Consumer Products Category Winner

Plant Air Purifier

James Schaeffer, Bill Wolverton, Wayne Schaeffer, and Bernarr Schaeffer U.S. Health Equipment Co., Kingston, NY

The Plant Air Purifier is a new air-cleaning appliance that utilizes the recently discovered air-cleaning capacity of rootassociated microbes living synergistically with common houseplants to trap and consume toxins in the air. The research behind this was done by Bill Wolverton while working in NASA’s space program. He found that low levels of chemicals such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde can be removed from indoor environments by plant leaves alone, while higher concentrations of numerous toxic chemicals can be removed by filtering indoor air though the plant roots surrounded by activated carbon. The activated carbon absorbs large quantities of the toxic chemicals and retains them until the plant roots and associated microorganisms degrade and assimilate these chemicals.

Posted in: Articles, Environmental Monitoring, Biological sciences, Human factors, Medical equipment and supplies, Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC), Product development, Chemicals
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2013 Create the Future Design Contest

The 2013 Create the Future Design Contest — sponsored by COMSOL, SAE International, and Tech Briefs Media Group (publishers of NASA Tech Briefs) — recognized innovation in product design in eight categories: Aerospace & Defense (new this year), Consumer Products, Electronics, Machinery & Equipment, Medical, Safety & Security, Sustainable Technologies, and Transportation & Automotive. On the following pages, you’ll meet the Grand Prize Winner, as well as the winners and Honorable Mentions in all eight categories. Congratulations to this year’s winners, and thanks to the more than 900 entrants from across the globe who submitted their design ideas. To view the entries online, visit www.createthefuturecontest.com

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Defense, Electronics, Green Design & Manufacturing, Medical, Automation, Transportation, Design processes
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Water Treatment Technologies Inspire Healthy Beverages

Purification techniques for astronaut drinking water find use in probiotic drinks.

At NASA’s Johnson Space Center in the mid-1990s, Mike Johnson assisted the scientists who were developing technology to convert urine into drinking water. The research conducted by the Advanced Water Recovery Systems Development team has proven vital to space exploration. Thanks in part to their work, astronauts in low Earth orbit make the most of their resources, and those who will take part in future missions — like a trip to an asteroid or Mars — can count on having drinkable water for the journey.

Posted in: Articles, Green Design & Manufacturing, Water reclamation, Water treatment, Technical review
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Sustainable Technologies Category Winner (Winner of an HP Workstation)

Aquaback Water Purification System

Bill Zebuhr, Scott Newquist, David Dussault, E. Andrew Condon, Steven Sahagian, Nicholas Wong, Michael Easton, William Burie, Charles Blanchard, and Nicole Sandoval, Aquaback Technologies, Tewksbury, MA

A highly efficient, low-cost, lowmaintenance, compact, modular vapor compression distiller is designed to be the water processing module in a wide variety of water processing systems to clean incoming water or reclaim waste water. The systems will enable recycling of most water for any use, including potable water, at a lower overall cost than any other technology or combinations of technologies, addressing water supply and disposal problems worldwide. Distillation provides the highest-purity water in a single operation, but until now, distillers have been too expensive to make or operate to be practical. Aquaback has optimized every aspect of distillation using the known vapor compression method to recycle over 99% of the heat of vaporization using a mass-manufactured, self-cleaning design.

Posted in: Articles, Green Design & Manufacturing, Water reclamation, Water treatment, Energy conservation, Compressors
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Promoting Virtual Power Plants for Efficient Renewable Energy Production

Researchers from the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton have devised a novel method for forming virtual power plants (VPPs) to provide renewable energy production in the UK. Small and distributed energy resources (DERs), such as wind farms and solar panels, have been appearing in greater numbers in the electricity supply network (Grid).

Posted in: News, News, Renewable Energy, Solar Power, Wind Power, Smart Grid, Mathematical/Scientific Software, Software
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Detecting Contaminants in Water

Many organic contaminants in the air and in drinking water need to be detected at very low-level concentrations. Research published by the laboratory of Prashant V. Kamat, the John A. Zahm Professor of Science at the University of Notre Dame, could be beneficial in detecting those contaminants.

Posted in: News, News, Environmental Monitoring, Metals, Semiconductors & ICs, Detectors, Sensors
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Bacteria Provide Cleanup of Oil Spills and Wastewater

NASA partnership leads to innovation on the microbial scale.

Given the size of our planet and its wealth of resources, it is easy to forget that those resources are finite. As Earth’s human population continues to grow, the questions of how to effectively limit and recycle waste, avoid environmental contamination, and make the most of water and fuel reserves become all the more pressing.

Posted in: Articles, Green Design & Manufacturing, Water pollution, Water treatment, Bacteria, Waste materials
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New Materials May Cut Energy Costs for Carbon Capture

A study of over four million absorbent minerals has determined that industrial minerals called zeolites could help electricity producers slash as much as 30 percent of the parasitic energy costs associated with removing carbon dioxide from power plant emissions. The research was done by scientists at Rice University, UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Electric Power Research Institute.

Posted in: News, News, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Greenhouse Gases, Remediation Technologies, Materials
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Technology Awarded for Improving Submarine Air Quality

Creators of a nanotech-based system that captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere within a submarine while providing a more environmentally friendly removal process have won the Federal Laboratory Consortium Interagency Partnership Award for 2012. The technology — Self Assembled Monolayers on Mesoporous Supports, or SAMMS — is destined for incorporation into future submarines.

Posted in: News, News, Greenhouse Gases, Remediation Technologies, Materials, Nanotechnology
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Copper-Gold Nanoparticles Efficiently Convert Carbon Dioxide

Copper is one of the few metals that can turn carbon dioxide into hydrocarbon fuels with relatively little energy, but it is temperamental and easily oxidized. MIT researchers have engineered nanoparticles of copper mixed with gold - which is resistant to corrosion and oxidation - making the copper much more stable. They coated electrodes with the hybrid nanoparticles and found that much less energy was needed for conversion.

Posted in: News, News, Energy Efficiency, Greenhouse Gases, Remediation Technologies, Materials, Metals, Nanotechnology
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