When design student Markus Kayser wanted to test his sun-powered, sand-fed 3-D printer, he knew the gray skies outside his London apartment wouldn’t do. So he shipped the 200-plus-pound contraption to Cairo, Egypt, flew there himself, and haggled with officials for two days to get it out of customs. A few small “tips” and 11 hours of driving later, he finally made it to the Sahara.
The forbidding sands of the Sahara might seem an unusual place for farming. But if you’re farming silicon to make solar panels, the conditions in the Sahara are more or less optimal. At least, that’s the thinking behind the Sahara Solar Breeder Project. The plan, a joint project proposed by Japanese and Algerian universities, would use the desert’s immense supplies of sunlight and sand to “breed” solar power plants and solar panel factories.
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.