The Greatest Inventions of the Last Year

  • The greatest thing since sliced bread?

    The wheel, penicillin, the Internet — can you beat that? There are inventions that we can’t imagine a world without. Who knows what the next game-changer will be, but new discoveries are made every day. Here are a few recent ones that might just shake things up. Photo credit: farleyj
    The 6,000-Hour Green Battery
  • The 6,000-Hour Green Battery

    A new battery developed in Israel by Yair Ein-Eli lasts thousands of hours and its non-polluting, abundant silicon energy source reverts back to sand when its power is depleted. The battery is small and could soon replace those used in hearing aids. And the prospect of developing the silicon power source for everything from laptops to electric cars to space stations is not so far-fetched. Photo Credit: awnisALAN
    Spray-on Liquid Glass
  • Spray-on Liquid Glass

    Invented in Turkey and now owned by a German company called Nanopool, “SiO2 ultra-thin layering" is a transparent, non-toxic, environmentally harmless substance that protects almost any surface against damage from hazards such as water, UV radiation, dirt, heat and bacterial infections. The coating is essentially pure silicon dioxide, and it goes on in a layer 15 to 30 atoms thick (thinner than a human hair). It is flexible and breathable, which makes it suitable for a wide variety of uses. It is already being tried by food processing companies in Germany. Photo Credit: Nesster
    Controller-free gaming
  • Controller-free gaming

    Say goodbye to joy sticks, buttons and controllers of any sort. A gaming prototype designed by Microsoft is being called Project Natal and promises to interfaces directly with the player. The system is designed for use with the Xbox 360 and measures real-time movement from 48 points on the player’s body and combines that with data from voice input. The hardware includes a camera, infrared emitter, a sensor that measure depth, a microphone that can figure out where you are in space, and a microprocessor to sort all this information out. Essentially, a player’s movements and voice will control the game and supposedly deliver smooth game control. Microsoft plans on unveiling compatible games for Natal this month, along with a brand-new name for the device. Photo Credit: David Hilowitz
    Bionic Eye
  • Bionic Eye

    Giving sight to the blind? MIT’s Retinal Implant Research Group has been developing an implant that will restore vision to patients who have lost their site due to retinitis pigmentosa or age-related macular degeneration, two of the leading causes of blindness. A microchip would be implanted into a patient’s eye and special eyeglasses with tiny cameras would transmit images directly to the chip and, in turn, the prosthesis would stimulate retinal nerves that send visual information to the brain. The chip doesn’t restore normal vision but it could help blind people recognize faces and navigate spaces without additional assistance. The technology is here but still undergoing more testing. Photo Credit: lizjones112
    Membrane-Thin Soundproofing
  • Membrane-Thin Soundproofing

    Noisy neighbors? No problem. Scientists at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in Kowloon have come up with noise-canceling panels. The panels are made up of a grid of latex rubber membranes with weighted resonating plastic buttons in the middle stretched over rigid 3 millimeter-thick plastic. They are inexpensive and relatively unobtrusive. By layering several membranes, the soundproofing is able to block a wide range of sound frequencies – better than thick walls. Not only could this mute the drummer who lives above you and the dog barking outside, but it could make living near an airport a lot more tolerable as well. Photo Credit: paulhami
    Anti-Fog Anti-Frost Technology
  • Anti-Fog Anti-Frost Technology

    After Valerie Palfy found herself rolling down her window to see out her fogged car windows, she decided she needed to come up with a way to prevent fog from obstructing her view.  Ten years later, she became the co-inventor of Zoggles. They are goggles with a sensor that measures temperature and humidity levels to calculate if fog is about to form, activating a warming system in advance of fogging. The technology has already been used on a Mount Everest ascent.  The inventors are hoping to sell their invention for use with ski goggles, motorcycle helmets, windshields, scuba masks and other face shields. Photo Credit: Phineas H
    The Self-Watering Flower Pot
  • The Self-Watering Flower Pot

    In a world where water is becoming as valuable as oil, keeping crops hydrated without irrigation could be revolutionary. The Groasis Waterboxx, invented by Pieter Hoffas is a plant incubator that works on the same principles that nature uses, but more efficiently. Made of biodegradeable material, it is designed to collect condensed water and keep a plant hydrated and protected. Hoffas’ Waterboxxes have had success in such extreme climates as Morocco’s Sahara desert and are soon going to be tested in the arid regions of Pakistan and Equador. Photo Credit: Nadia308
    The Self-Tuning Guitar
  • The Self-Tuning Guitar

    Is tuning up costing you valuable practice time? The EverTune, invented by Cosmos Lyles and Paul Dowd, will get you jamming without delay. It’s a guitar bridge that uses a lever and spring system to keep the strings in tune. The inventors are talking to guitar makers to get instruments embedded with the system and they are working on tackling other stringed instruments like pianos. While some music purists have doubts about EverTune, it has apparently gained some cred with some bona-fide rock stars. Photo Credit: Jsome1
    Self-Heating Shower
  • Self-Heating Shower

    Imagine harnessing the friction of the running water in your shower to heat it?  An inspired design team made up of students from Mexico, Finland, Brazil and Germany did. They have created a self-heating shower using piezoelectric nanotechnology. The Piezo Shower is as futuristic-looking as its concept.  Its sculptural appeal comes from the ‘vein-like’ grid of pathways that are connected to the shower’s tubing. The friction-generated electricity also powers the waterproof touch-screen that allows the user to regulate temperature and pressure as well as monitor water consumption. Photo credit: stevendepolo
    Bullet-Proof T-shirt
  • Bullet-Proof T-shirt

    Boron, the third hardest material on earth, has been integrated with carbon and cotton to make a lightweight T-shirt that can withstand significant firepower. Scientists from the University of South Carolina collaborating with others from China and Switzerland have dipped regular white T-shirts into a boron solution, heated it and made a shirt that is a bit stiffer than usual, but flexible enough for superhero effects. When combined with nanotechnology to create ultra-tough boron-carbide fibers, there will be applications for body armor and more lightweight, fuel-efficient cars and aircrafts. Photo Credit: Erika Hall
    Female Liquid condom
  • Female Liquid condom

    It may sound a little messy, but the applications are radical. The condom will not only function as a contraceptive, it will also protect against diseases like HIV, herpes and the human papilloma virus (HPV). The new "molecular condom" gel changes from liquid to a semisolid when it comes into contact with more alkaline fluids and forms a protective mesh of "crosslinked" molecules.  Scientists at The University of Utah in Salt Lake City say their goal was to protect women in countries where HIV is an epidemic and cultural and economic challenges put more women at greater risk of infection. Clinical trials of the gel are expected to take another five years. Photo Credit: milena mihaylova
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