One of the first things Eric Mattessich discovered in engineering school was that the typical internal combustion engine blows about 70 percent of the energy it creates straight out of the tailpipe in the form of heat. So, he wondered, could he adapt the kind of heat-recapturing mechanisms used to make powerplants more efficient to work on hybrid cars? “The technology has been around since the 1900s,” he points out. “It’s just that no one has put it into such a small package before.”
Pogo-Bot:Technology from iHop could go into toys and search-and-rescue robots. U.C. San Diego/Jacobs School of Engineering
What started as an academic problem in a robotics class—how to build a robot that can hop like a pogo stick, roll on wheels, and walk up stairs—has grown into a concept that could one day help with search-and-rescue missions.
In 2003, a program funded by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) known as MONTAGE asked universities to find ways to squeeze unprecedented levels of magnification and resolution from small, super-thin lenses—technology that could be used in future imaging devices for finding, tracking, and identifying military targets. With some advice from his adviser Joseph Ford, UCSD graduate student Eric Tremblay decided to use an old idea—“folding” light, or reflecting it over and over—to solve the problem.
When MIT professor Hal Abelson heard that Google was about to release the software-development kit for its free, open-source Android mobile-phone operating system, he immediately decided to teach a class that would design programs for it. “Android is about to change people’s experience of what they can do with computers,” he says, because the computers in our cellphones will soon be the ones we use the most. These seven applications, developed by students in Abelson’s class, show what Android-equipped phones will be able to do.
On May 4, 2007, a two-mile-wide F5 tornado destroyed 95 percent of Greensburg, Kansas, leaving two thirds of the town’s 1,500 inhabitants homeless. Many thought the town was finished. But in fact, the townspeople decided to rebuild using the greenest, most forward-thinking materials and construction methods possible.
When Lawrence Tech's Element One team won top honors in the first-ever Formula Zero design competition—a contest created by two Dutch auto designers to get young engineers interested in hydrogen cars—they received two prizes: a fuel cell, and a deadline. The award meant they had the green light to build their design and race against other student teams in the Formula Zero hydrogen-powered go-kart race, which starts this month in the Netherlands. And just like that, they were off, scrambling to get their kart ready in time.
Jake Loniak is a college junior; he's also the inventor of one of the most innovative concept vehicles we've seen in ages. Inside: the electric exoskeleton motorcycle and an exclusive video of the beast in action
The transportation program at the Art Center College of Design has produced legendary car designers, including BMW chief of design Chris Bangle and Henrik Fisker, the creator of the Fisker Karma electric supercar. But this year, after professor Bumsuk Lim’s inaugural motorcycle-design class, the buzz is all about bikes, especially Jake Loniak’s exoskeleton motorcycle concept Deus Ex Machina.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.