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Week in Tech: Creating Biofuel With an Elevator for Kelp | Architect Magazine

Plus, Thornton Tomasetti and TestFit team up, Studio Roosegaarde’s coronavirus-killing ‘sun,’ and more design-tech news from the week.

Courtesy USC Photo/David Ginsburg
Courtesy USC Photo/David Ginsburg


Researchers from the University of Southern California and the La Cañada Flintridge, Calif.–based company Marine BioEnergy are looking to the ocean for a new biofuel source: seaweed. The team is deploying an innovative “kelp elevator,” in which it raises and lowers plots of Macrocystis pyrifera (giant kelp) to different depths to maximize its rate of growth. The new aquaculture technique has produced four times the amount of seaweed as compared to naturally grown seaweed. Researchers envision the plant becoming an environmentally friendly, low-carbon source of biofuel. The environmental impact of growing corn and soybean, the current primary sources of biofuel, can include water pollution.

The researchers raise and lower the kelp elevator, made of fiberglass tubes and stainless steel cables, using an automated winch. “The good news is the farm system can be assembled from off-the-shelf products without new technology,” said Brian Wilcox, co-founder and chief engineer of Marine BioEnergy. “Once implemented, depth-cycling farms could lead to a new way to produce affordable, carbon-neutral fuel year-round.” [USC]

Inspired by mosquitoes, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and the City University of Hong Kong have created a fleet of tiny drones with “unprecedented dexterity and resilience,” according to an MIT press release. Powered by a soft actuator made of thin rubber cylinders and coated in carbon nanotubes, the little drone has wings that can flap up to 500 times a second, giving an insect-like ability to recover from collision. Potential applications for the durable flying robots include crop pollination and navigating complex and crowded environments. [MIT]

Read on >>>> Source: Week in Tech: Creating Biofuel With an Elevator for Kelp | Architect Magazine

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