TTI/Vanguard Notes & News: Auld Lang Syne - December 18, 2020

There were not many dry eyes on the TTI/V team when the first covid-19 vaccine was administered to a nurse in New York on Monday. Godspeed to the much awaited vaccines as they make their much-needed way across the world.

Also bringing us happiness is the TTI/V 2021 schedule:

Of all the ravages of COVID-19, hampering the sustainable growth of the world’s 122 developing nations ranks right up there, as William Haseltine (San Diego, Feb 2015; San Jose, Feb 2012; Phoenix, Dec, 2008) opines. These nations need support from wealthy nations to avoid reverting to unsustainable economic development, such as ill-conceived logging or mining operations.

Alternative proteins requiring significant technological advances, decreased price points, and notable shifts in consumers’ preferences — all while maintaining positive health and environmental benefits—are vital to any climate change plan. So the XPrize has launched the Feed the Next Billion competition to produce palatable faux fish filet or chicken breast. (Nynke van den Akker, Vienna, Jul 2013; Sean McDonald, San Francisco, Dec 2015)

Remember when Tian Li (Washington, D.C., Sep 2018) discussed removing wood’s lignin to render the building product transparent and strong? Well, Dutch academic researchers, in conjunction with AkzoNobel, have found a use for that lignin: They’ve developed coatings—think auto paint and the protective layer on your smartphone screen—from plant-based lignocellulose instead of fossil fuel-derived acrylates, thereby providing a basis for greening the coatings industry. (Paul Anastas, St. Louis, Sep 2008; George Berghorn, Berkeley, Mar 2019)

More recently, we heard about analyzing wastewater to monitor the spread of disease or addiction (Rolf Halden, virtual conference, Dec 2020; Dominic Suciu, Seattle, Mar 2020), but the actual processing of wastewater requires significant energy. Researchers at Washington State University are tapping into the natural wealth of microbial diversity (Peter Girguis, Salt Lake City, Dec 2009) by using electron-producing microbes as miniature wastewater treatment workhorses to lower the energy cost. As project lead Abdelrhman Mohamed puts it, “We use the electrodes and then the electron acceptor to promote microbial growth, [and] we gain a little bit of electricity for the pump and to aerate. With this approach, it is more powerful and we can treat the wastewater faster.”

The elusive silicon-based LED has been achieved by MIT researchers. The device, fabricated by GlobalFoundries—we’ll be touring their Dresden lab as part of the Germany startup forum, hosted by TTI/V member T-Systems Multimedia Solutions)—can transmit through 5 meters of optical fiber at frequencies up to 250 MHz. This achievement in silicon optics should lead to diminished reliance on electronic communication.

In conjunction with TTI/V member NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, researchers at the Exploration Wireless Communications test-bed in Vancouver are testing interoperability standards to make out-of-this world LTE/4G and Wi-Fi networking a reality - after people imprint their footprints on the Moon and Mars. (Scott Burleigh, Philadelphia, Apr 2006)

No pain, no gain? The U.S. Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) and academic collaborators in North Carolina are incorporating muscle tissue into the four-legged biohybrid robotics platform LLAMA (Army’s legged locomotion and movement adaptation) to improve adaptation when moving over unstable terrain. (Marc Raibert, Brooklyn, Jul 2016; Toribio Fernández Otero, Madrid, Jul 2003)

For a little holiday fun and cheer, Google’s David Li is putting into the world Blob Opera, an experimental machine learning tool trained on the voices of four opera singers that generates opera-like sounds that harmonize according to the input of users, who are invited to alter pitch and vowel sounds to their liking. (Philip Sheppard, Paris, Jul 2011; Tod Machover, Barcelona, Jul 2007)

That’s it from us until early January. We wish you and your loved ones a healthy, joyful, and peaceful holiday season.

“We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”—Robert Burns