TWIE 103: Drinking Water From a Wind Turbine

This Week in Engineering - Wind turbine harvests water; bionic ear; European mission to Jupiter’s moons; data network of laser pointers; dissolvable bandages; and windshield laser display.

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Wind turbine harvests water
French company Eole Water has developed the WMS1000, a turbine that collects moisture from the same wind that powers its generator. The electricity powers a cooling compressor, allowing moisture to collect on a condenser, all without an external power source. The company claims it can collect up to 1200 liters of water every day, depending on weather conditions. Nice! But, this water tastes kinda rusty. Oh, my turbine is next to a coal-fired power plant. And an airport. And the tanning mom¦s house. Blech.

Bionic ear
Engineers from the University of Utah and Case Western Reserve University have developed a new hearing implant contained entirely behind the eardrum. While current cochlear implants include an external microphone and signal processor to stimulate the cochlea, the new device uses an accelerometer where the eardrum attaches to the malleus, and sends a signal to the cochlea via electrodes. The device has been tested in cadavers, but tests on living patients are still years away. Great, but let¦s also equip them with lasers, so they can defend against the slugs from Wrath of Khan. Yes. That¦s better.

European Mission to Jupiter¦s moons
The European Space Agency has awarded funding for the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, aka JUICE, a probe which will study the moons of Europa, Callisto and Ganymede. All three moons are believed to contain liquid water underneath surface ice, and the probe should help us study conditions that may support organic life. The European Space Agency plans to launch the probe in 2022, with an arrival in 2030. Come on, America, you¦re gonna let Europe beat you to Europa? They¦re gonna contaminate it with the metric system and rainbow currency. The life forms are gonna think we¦re soccer fans.

Data network of laser pointers
Engineers from National Taipei University of Technology in Taiwan have developed an inexpensive wireless data communications link using conventional laser pointers. Costing only about six hundred dollars, the system is faster than USB 2.0 and can be deployed in places where wifi radio signals are prohibited, like hospitals and laboratories. Personally, I¦d rather use laser pointers for their intended purpose -- making it look like a swat team is about to take me out.

Dissolvable bandages
Researchers at Penn State have developed a method of spinning fibers of starch into a bandage that can be dissolved instead of pulled off. The starch is first dissolved in a fluid that leaves the polymers intact, and then an electrospinning device spins it into long fibers, which can be woven into sheets and used as bandages. The fully biodegradable fabric can be dissolved in water, or absorbed by the body, avoiding the pain of pulling them off. A pain I know well, mind you, for when I go jogging, I put band-aids on my hairy man nipples to keep from chafing. Pulling it off hurts so bad, I sometimes think Pinhead from Hellraiser is doing it.

Windshield laser display
Redmond, Washington-based Microvision is building a head-up display for cars, similar to those deployed in fighter jets. Instead of using LED displays, it uses three different colored lasers of varying intensity. A mirror aims the beams, so that a single pixel is being illuminated at any time, but the refresh rate is faster than the human eye can detect. I want this, if it controls my car¦s weapons targeting system. (Vince, you¦ve switched off your targeting computer. What¦s wrong?÷ (I¦m alright, just don¦t wanna kill anyone. For now.÷