Five weird but wonderful innovations from 2022
From living skin for robots to gummy bears made from wind turbine plastic, here are five of this year’s most bizarre but brilliant innovations
Inspiration often comes from the strangest of places, and this is certainly true for some of the more left-field innovations we have spotted at Springwise this year. But is this weirdness really a surprise? After all, lateral thinking is crucial for coming up with a truly innovative solution to a problem – whether that is putting a well-known material to an unexpected new use or recycling end-of-life products into something wholly different.
Millions of years of natural selection have generated enormous, often bizarre, diversity in the natural world. It is therefore little wonder that most of the stranger innovations we have seen harness the surprising abilities of living things to solve the problems facing the world today. Discover five of the best examples of odd innovation below.
SCIENTISTS PUT LIVING SKIN ON A ROBOT ‘FINGER’
Scientists at the University of Tokyo have created a robot finger covered in living skin. The finger has living cells and can even heal itself – a development that may bring us one step closer to more human-like robots. The robotic finger also represents an advance over previous attempts to lay living skin over three-dimensional, dynamic objects. Eventually, the team hopes to develop robots that are sensitive enough to automate manufacturing industries that now require highly skilled human workers. The technology could also open up possibilities in cosmetics and pharmaceutical testing, as well as regenerative medicine, eliminating the need for animal testing. Read more
TREATING WOUNDS WITH FROG SKIN AND MAGGOTS
Chronic wounds are a major medical issue affecting 1 in 20 patients in Singapore. One of the leading causes for chronic wounds is diabetes, a disease that affects 1 in 10 patients in the cIty-state. With an ageing population set to exacerbate the problem, innovators are thinking laterally to find novel solutions. One company is turning to frogs and maggots for a natural approach to wound healing. Read more
WIND TURBINE BIOPLASTIC CAN BE RECYCLED INTO GUMMY BEARS
While wind power currently represents 6 per cent of global electricity production, one major obstacle to overcome is the disposal of decommissioned turbines. Most turbine blades are made of fiberglass, which is difficult to recycle. As a result, tens of thousands of discarded blades find their way into landfills every year. Now, Michigan State University may have found a solution to this problem. Researchers there have developed a new turbine blade material that can be easily recycled into a range of useful products – even gummy bears. Read more
REMOVING MICROPLASTICS FROM WATER WITH OKRA
If you have ever eaten a gumbo, you may be aware that one of the main ingredients – okra – is an excellent thickener. A research team has recently discovered that the same extracts that make cooked okra gloopy can be used to remove microplastics from wastewater. The researchers tested polysaccharide extracts from several foods, including fenugreek, cactus, aloe vera, okra, tamarind, and psyllium. They found that polysaccharides from okra combined with those from fenugreek worked best at attracting microplastics into large clumps that then sank to the bottom of the water, where they could be collected. Read more
BACTERIA USED TO CLEAN ANCIENT ART
Most people don’t think of bacteria when they consider cleaning supplies. But for the Italian National Agency for New Technologies (ENEA), a library of microorganisms is an essential tool for art restoration work. Most recently, a team of scientists and restorers used three types of bacteria to clean Michelangelo’s work in the Florentine Medici Chapels. In two nights, the bacteria cleaned centuries of dirt without leaving any damage or residue on the marble. Read more
Curated by: Matthew Hempstead
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23rd December 2022