10 Mind-Blowing Technologies that Most People Don’t Know Exist in Real Life
6 Transparent Solar Panels
These solar panels allow visible light to pass through and use ultraviolet and infrared light to generate power instead.
Transparent luminescent solar concentrators (TLSC) or transparent solar panels were created at Michigan State University and are made of organic salts that absorb specific non-visible wavelengths.
Usually, solar cells work by absorbing the light which creates a shadow as they cannot let the light pass through. But, TLSC gets around this problem by taking the ultraviolet and infrared light and “luminescing” them as another wavelength of infrared light. This new infrared light is guided to and collected at the edges where thin strips of conventional photovoltaic solar cells are present. The current prototype has an efficiency of around 1%, but scientists believe the efficiency of 10% and above should be possible soon. (source)
Researchers at MIT have created a new imaging system that can acquire visual data at a rate of one trillion exposures per second, fast enough to capture light traveling the length of a one-liter bottle.
A research team at the MIT Media Lab led by Ramesh Raskar in collaboration with Graphics and Imaging Lab at the Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain has developed a technique for recording the propagation of very short pulses of light. This technique known as femto-photography uses a streak camera synchronized to a pulsed laser which is modified to capture 2D images instead of just recording a single scan line.
According to Raskar and his team, they were able to capture exposures so short that light only travels 0.6 millimeters (which takes it 2 picoseconds or 2 x 10-12 seconds to travel) during that period. Another interesting achievement of the femto-photography is being able to reconstruct unknown objects around corners, that is objects that are outside the line of sight of the light source or camera. (source)
8 5D Glass Discs
Researchers from the UK have created glass discs that can record data in five dimensions and keep it safe for up to 13.8 billion years. The discs can store 360 terabytes of data and can even withstand temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Centigrade.
In 2013, scientists at the University of Southampton, UK succeeded in demonstrating a method they refer to as “five-dimensional data storage.” On a normal CD, the data is stored by creating bumps that are then read by a laser, a bump being read as one and the lack of a bump read as zero. This makes a CD two dimensional.
On the other hand, a 5D disc stores information within its interior through tiny physical structures called “nanogratings.” Just like the bumps on a CD, these nanogratings are read using light. The five dimensions, in this case, are the three-dimensional location of the grating (that is the x-, y-, and z-axes), the strength of the light the nanograting refracts, and its orientation. These extra dimensions help the disc store data much more densely compared to a CD. Currently, a Blu-ray Disc can hold up to 128 gigabytes of data, while a 5D disc of the same size can store almost 3,000 times more, that is 360 terabytes of data. (source)
9 Synthetic “Leaf” that Produces Oxygen
The synthetic, biological leaf made by suspending chloroplasts in a silk protein matrix absorbs water and carbon dioxide to produce oxygen just like a plant and could enable long-distance space travel.
With the prospect of interplanetary travel becoming a reality, NASA has been researching ways to produce oxygen for long-distance journeys and to make living in space much easier. Julian Melchiorri, a graduate of the Royal College of Art’s Innovation Design Engineering course, in collaboration with Tufts University silk lab, has created one such device which he named “Melchiorri’s Silk Leaf.” He believes that the fibers of silk have “an amazing property of stabilizing molecules.” So, he extracted chloroplasts from plant cells and placed them inside a matrix of that silk protein. Just like normal leaves, it requires light and some water to produce oxygen. He believes it could enable long-distance space travel by producing enough oxygen to breathe. (source)
A synthetic, porous, ultralight material made from a gel from which the liquid component is replaced with gas. Extremely strong and thermally insulating, an aerogel block heated up to 2,200 degrees Centigrade can be held with the bare hands without burning the skin.
Also known as “frozen smoke,” “solid air,” or “solid cloud,” aerogel is a solid with an extremely low density and thermal conductivity. It can be made from a variety of chemical compounds. In the beginning, it was made using silica gels. Now, however, there are aerogels based on carbon, alumina, chromia, and tin dioxide. The liquid component of the gel is extracted through supercritical drying. This process allows it to dry slowly enough for the solid matrix to stay intact instead of collapsing from capillary action.
Almost 99.8% of the material is air, and it has a porous solid network with air pockets that take up a majority of its volume. The material feels fragile to the touch and is almost weightless because of the air pockets. However, it is so strong that a 2.5-kilogram brick can be supported by a piece of 2 grams of aerogel. It is also a viable candidate for providing thermal insulation for spaceships. (source)
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