In 2007, David Edwards, a biomedical engineer at Harvard University, gave his students a project: Develop a way to inhale food, rather than chewing and swallowing it. “They took a whiff of everything from pepper to carrots and coughed a lot,” Edwards says. Last fall, he introduced Le Whif, a lipstick-size inhaler that drops a delicious, one-calorie chocolate taste on your tongue.
Now he is adapting the tech to make an inhalable tuberculosis vaccine that doesn’t need refrigeration. As with chocolate, he creates the particles by spraying a watery mix of the drug BCG into a hot drum, which evaporates all the moisture, leaving behind powder—except with BCG, he makes the particles small enough that they can enter the lungs. Edwards’s nonprofit organization MEND (Medicine in Need) moved the TB inhaler into clinical trials in 2008 and hopes to make the airborne inoculation available within the next four years.
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.