Charge Your Devices As You Move Your Body

A GROUP of Chinese and American scientists recently developed a fabric that can power wearable devices by harvesting energy from both sunlight and body movements. It can also be made on a standard industrial weaving machine.

The fabric is based on low-cost, lightweight polymer fibres coated with metals and semiconductors that allow the material to harvest energy. These fibres are then woven together along with wool on high throughput commercial weaving equipment to create a textile just 0.32mm thick.

In the journal Nature Energy, the researchers described how they used a layer-by-layer process similar to those employed in the semiconductor industry. Using this method, they coated polymer fibres with various materials to create cable-like solar cells that generate electricity from sunlight and also so-called triboelectric nanogenerators.

 

The nanogenerators rely on the triboelectric effect, by which certain materials become electrically charged when rubbed against another type of material. When the materials are in contact, electrons flow from one to the other, but when the materials are separated, the one receiving electrons will hold a charge.

If these two materials are then connected by a circuit, a small current will flow to equalise the charges. By continuously repeating the process, an alternating electrical current can be produced to generate power.

The material could be used to create larger energy-generating structures, like curtains or tents. The fabrication process should also allow the energy generating materials to be combined with other fibre based functional devices, like sensors.

Next, the researchers plan to focus on improving the efficiency, durability and power management of the textile while optimising the weaving and encapsulation processes to enable industrial-scale production.

Our editors are EXCITED upon hearing this as we can soon ditch away our bulky power-bank. On a last note to all inventors, do share your UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITION of your invention/ idea in one line in the comment box below.

More Tech-related posts will be up next week, stay tuned 🙂

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Lab-Grown Beef Patty – Yay or Nay?

THE very first lab-grown beef patty was unveiled three years ago and cost a whopping US$331,400. But its creator Mark Post reported that it would just ring in at US$10 a piece.

Post told Arkansas Online that the lab-grown burger would hit the market in five years. Its hefty price tag was attributed to the initial investment in lab equipment. He grew the meat in a petri dish using bovine stem cells and the animal tissue built protein and muscle fibre, similar to what it would do in a live cow.

The Dutch inventor has spent 10 years in his Netherlands lab to tweak the stem cell burger and he aims to introduce fat into the burger to enhance flavour. Traditional meat industry has come under fire in recent years for its questionable practices and footprint on the environment while meat alternative companies have been trying to develop plantbased products.

If Post successfully commercialises his stem cell burger, we can say goodbye to “meat is murder”.

As a final note, our editors are excited to have a bite on it 🙂 Don’t forget to shout out your thoughts in the comment box below.

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What’s New in ITEX 2017?

AS we draw closer to ITEX 2017, we are proud to announce that ITEX is now supported by the Malaysian Ministry of Education (MOE) and also the International Federation of Inventors Associations (IFIA)!

ITEX 2017 is gearing up to deliver a highly impactful exhibition that provides commercialisation opportunities to all the brilliant inventions showcased in the exhibition. One of the features to achieve this would be the ITEX’s 2017 Startups Showcase, which would provide the companies the exposure their brand deserves. This Showcase is ITEX’s latest section catering to companies planning to make its break in the highly saturated startup market.

Almost all businesses spend many painstaking months grooming lucrative ideas into viable business opportunities. Gaining initial recognition from investors followed by market validation is what startups essentially need to take off. Acting as an accelerator, the ITEX 2017 Startups Showcase will help facilitate business needs and move them in the right direction while providing an enabling environment for stimulating engagements to flourish. Activities such as the pitching sessions are designed to give startups valuable face time with the right investors whom are equally as keen to place their bet on the next big thing.

To top it off, with Malaysian government’s latest announcement that 2017 will be the “Startup & SME Promotion Year”, ITEX 2017 Startups Showcase will definitely be a viable and relevant platform that provides multiple opportunities for businesses to rub elbows with the right crowd!

On the other hand, a showcase of hundreds of ingenious creations by young minds will also be presented through the staging of the World Young Inventors Exhibition (WYIE) in 2017. WYIE will be a co-located exhibition at ITEX 2017, which will be an overarching event for ITEX’s three annual flagship shows for budding inventors: the Asian Young Inventors Exhibition (AYIE), the Malaysian Young Inventors Exhibition (MYIE) and the Young Inventors Exhibition. These exhibitions will take on a new look fueled by better and bigger awe-inspiring ideas. The setting for WYIE will be meticulously planned to stimulate conduciveness in areas of thought flow, ideas exchange and to challenge the creativity and innovativeness among young minds.

8 Hands are Better Than 2?

HARVARD University researchers have invented a small and squishy “octobot”. It is the first robot made completely from soft parts and doesn’t need batteries or wires of any kind, and runs on a liquid fuel.

The octopus-like robot is made of silicone rubber, and measures about 6.5cm long. The researchers say soft robots can adapt more easily to some environments than rigid machines, and this research could lead to autonomous robots that can sense their surroundings and interact with people.

Conventional robots are typically made from rigid parts, which makes them vulnerable to harm from bumps, scrapes, twists and falls. These hard parts can also hinder them from being able to squirm past obstacles.

The octobot has eight arms that are pneumatically driven by steady streams of oxygen gas. This gas is given off by liquid hydrogen peroxide fuel after it chemically reacts with platinum catalysts.

The robot is controlled using tiny 3D-printed networks of plumbing. Whereas conventional microelectronic circuits shuffle electrons around wires, scientists in recent years have begun developing microfluidic circuitry that can shuffle fluids around pipes. These devices can theoretically perform any operation a regular electronic microchip can, previous research suggested.

 

The octobot’s microfluidic controller is filled with the liquid hydrogen peroxide fuel. As the fuel gives off oxygen, pressure from the gas builds up in the controller and eventually causes some valves to open and others to close, inflating chambers in half the robot’s arms and forcing them to move. Pressurised gas then builds up once more, triggering valve openings and closures that make the other robot’s arms move.

So far, the octobot can only wave its arms. The scientists are now working on developing completely soft machines that are more complex and can propel themselves.

We had “Paul The Octopus” and now we have “Harvard The Octobot”. Can’t wait to see if it will be ready by 2018 FIFA World Cup 🙂 *kidding*

We want to hear from you, share your thoughts in the comment box below.

 

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Seaweed That Tastes Like Bacon

IMAGINE eating Dulse, a type of seaweed that tastes like bacon when fried, minus the cholesterol and fats.

It seems too good to be true but researchers have quickly patented the seaweed that normally grows in the wild along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines. The seaweed is actually a new strain of red marine algae called dulse and looks like red lettuce that is packed with all the good minerals. When fried, dulse tastes like bacon which is good news for vegans, vegetarians and health conscious people.

Aquaculture researcher Chris Langdon and colleagues at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center have patented the new strain. Langdon has studied dulse, trying to figure out a way to make the nutritious algae grow quickly enough to become commercially viable feed for abalone, a type of edible sea snail. In 2004, he obtained a patent for a particularly fast-growing strain that can double its weight in just 10 days. However, a year and a half ago, Chuck Toombs, a business professor at Oregon State University suggested that Langdon might want to stop trying to grow dulse for abalone and start growing it for humans.

The succulent red marine algae is fast-growing and super nutritious plant that has about 16% protein by dry weight. It is also rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. “Dulse is a super-food with twice the nutritional value of kale.” said Toombs.

Seaweeds and sea vegetables are known for taking up vitamins from the water so minerals such as iodine, potassium and calcium are part of the goodness of eating dulse.

Several Portland chefs, as well as the Food Innovation Center in Portland, are experimenting with the new ingredient including adding it to peanut brittle and trail mix, and even candied dulse chips added to ice cream. It is interesting to note that dulse has, for centuries been harvested in the wild and used in northern European cuisine.

 

In Europe, they add the powder to smoothies or add flakes onto food. It’s an ancient snack in Ireland, where people living along the island’s northern shores have traditionally gathered it. Health food stores around the world sell it, too.

“I think the public is ready to have something that tastes good and is good for you. There hasn’t been a lot of interest in using it in a fresh form.” said Langdon.

Researchers say their dulse, when fried, smells and tastes like bacon. This is a big relief for bacon lovers who indulge in this treat but cannot eat bacon due to healthy reasons, as bacon is known to have excess sodium and can elevate blood pressure and raise risk of heart disease.

Langdon, recently said in an interview with CNN that he anticipates dulse becoming a more common bacon replacement for people who are concerned about their cholesterol levels or who do not eat meat due to other dietary or religious reasons.

Dulse’s quick growth time is an advantage that the seaweed has over other food sources, especially livestock, which is expensive and time-consuming to rear.

It can be cultivated where there is a modest amount of seawater and some sunshine. “The advantage of farming sea vegetables, like dulse is that it does not depend on freshwater supplies and ecologically benefits the marine environment by removing nutrients and dissolved carbon.” added Langdon.

He and his colleagues grow dulse in cultured tanks of seawater producing about 30 pounds of seaweed each week. Growing the dulse in cultured tanks allows them to fine-tune the nutrient content of the water and grow dulse year round, but it also constraints their ability to scale their dulse operation to a commercially-viable size.

Although there’s been no research done as yet into how well the crop could be commercialised, marketers are now working on a plan for a line of specialty foods, with the vegan and vegetarian markets to mind.

Know Your Rights Before Being Taken For Granted

MOST SMEs are started by persons who were once employees in an organisation where they had acquired the necessary technical skills and knowledge to manufacture the product their employer was manufacturing. These same individuals had the entrepreneurial spirit burning deep inside them, and so, armed with the skill/knowledge and a little capital (usually from personal savings, a little help from family members or friends), they venture out on their own to start a business, usually in competition with their previous employer.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, unless they are in breach of their employment contract or misuse their employer’s trade secrets or confidential information. The entrepreneur is now on his/her own to conquer the business world.

Initially, the entrepreneur or company started by the employee turned-entrepreneur will compete in the market on price and perhaps superior service to attract new clients. However, one cannot use price advantage for long if one intends to remain in business or for the business to grow bigger. The entrepreneur of the new SME has to secure other competitive advantages to remain in business and for the SME to grow and expand into new territories. This is where Government sanctioned “monopolies” come to assistance. Yes, we are referring to Trademarks, Patents, Industrial Designs and Copyright (collectively referred to as Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).

Anyone who obtains a registered trademark or a grant of patent or certificate of industrial design has a virtual monopoly over the usage of the right for a limited period of time. The proprietor of these IPRs has the exclusive right to stop others from using an identical or substantially similar trademark or from using their patent-protected technology. With this exclusive right to the IPRs, the proprietor can charge a premium price to their product or service to recover their investment – R&D costs, branding costs, etc.

 

Many entrepreneurs and SMEs perceive the costs of obtaining IPRs as expensive and IPRs themselves as difficult to enforce. Plus there are other misconceptions about IPRs too, and it would probably take an entire article in itself to address these. The fact is, the cost of obtaining IPRs – at least in Malaysia – is not high and is affordable by most SMEs. It is more costly to the business if IPRs are not secured.

Imagine spending thousands of ringgit and years to build up a brand name and yet neglecting to spend a thousand or two more to protect the brand as a registered trademark, the registration of which enables the SME to sue any infringer. Let us cite an actual case that happened in Malaysia: A restaurant business was set up in a prominent part of Kuala Lumpur. Business boomed. The partners never bothered to register the name of the restaurant as a trademark. Unknown to them, some ex-employees registered the business name as a trademark, and it did not end there. After obtaining the registration, they sued the restaurant for infringement of “their trademark”.

The restaurant had to face a long trial in the High Court. Not only did the partners suffer loss of sleep, they (along with the restaurant) were also made to look bad in the media (thus affecting their reputation) and incur thousands of ringgit in legal costs. However, they did finally manage to “get back” their trademark. Their ignorance in not recognising the market power of their trademark nearly cost them the loss of their business. So SMEs, no matter what business they are involved in, should always seek their IP consultants’ advice on obtaining IP rights for the competitive advantages they enjoy.

In the current business world and rapid globalisation of trade, IPRs have come to play a crucial role in the very survival of SMEs. Unless entrepreneurs and SMEs fully appreciate the strategic role IPRs play in the existence or survival of their business, they may be wiped out from business by their competitors who have learnt to use IPRs as a business weapon to destroy or maim rival businesses.

Contributed by P. Kandiah (Founder and Director of KASS International)

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New Meaning to ‘Eyephone’

WASHINGTON University’s assistant professor Shyam Gollakota and his grad students have created a contact lens that can connect to a smartphone over Wi-Fi. The technology is said to be able to bring Internet connectivity into any object, even disposable ones.

He invented a way for devices without batteries to communicate and power themselves by recycling signals from Wi-Fi devices or radio and TV stations. The researchers built their Wi-Fi contact lens to demonstrate the potential for their technology, known as backscatter, to improve medical devices, whether cheap sensors or more complex implants.

They also built a flexible skin patch that can sense temperature and respiration, a design that could be used to monitor hospital patients. Another prototype takes the form of a concert poster that broadcasts a snippet of the band’s music over FM radio. Recent tests have shown that backscatter devices recycling the signals from a Wi-Fi router can make connections over a range of up to 1km.

Backscatter technology makes it significantly cheaper to add connectivity to a device or object. Not only does it remove the cost of a battery, but the circuitry needed to communicate in this way is simpler and cheaper than conventional radio hardware.

Lastly, if you are one of the innovative leaders with great inventions, showcase them at ITEX 2017! Contact us at info@itex.com.my for more information.

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Spider Silk is Tougher Than Steel?

THE superior properties of natural spider silks are well known, and now efforts to use them to produce body armour are underway. The production of spider silk in commercial quantities holds the potential of a life-saving ballistic resistant material, which is lighter, thinner, more flexible, and tougher than steel.

So much so the US Army’s Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment Office has been funding research into the application of spider silk. The basic challenge lies in that spider are cannibalistic in nature and cannot be raised in concentrated colonies to produce silk in commercial quantities.

The global market demand for technical fibres is growing rapidly and these materials have become essential products for both industrial and consumer applications. By 2012, the annual global market for technical fibres had already reached approximately US$133 billion.

While scientists have been able to replicate the proteins that are the building blocks of spider silk, two technological barriers have stymied production. These barriers are the inability to form these proteins into a spider silk fibre with the desired mechanical characteristics, and to do this cost effectively.

To solve these problems, Kraig Biocraft Laboratories invented a new technology and acquired the exclusive right to use the patented genetic sequences for numerous fundamental spider silk proteins.

Kraig considers itself a world leader in genetically engineered spider silk technologies by applying proprietary genetic engineering spider silk technology to an organism which is already one of the most efficient commercial producers of silk: the domesticated silkworm.

Its spider silk technology builds upon the unique advantages of the domesticated silkworm for this application. The silkworm is ideally suited to produce genetically engineered spider silk because it is already an efficient commercial and industrial producer of silk.

Some 40% of the caterpillars’ weight is devoted to the silk glands. The silk glands produce large volumes of protein, called fibroin, which are then spun into a composite protein thread or silk.

 

Kraig is focused on the creation, production and marketing of high performance and technical fibres such as spider silk. Because spider silks are stronger and tougher than steel, they could be used in a wide variety of military, industrial, and consumer applications ranging from ballistic protection to superior strength and toughness.

However, there is another player offering sustainable and high performance fabrics. Bolt Threads, an American-based biotechnology company, recently raised US$50 million in Series C financing.

Since launching out of stealth in 2015, Bolt Threads has attracted the interest of both new investors and partners. The company is now producing its Engineered Silk protein at large scale, and is moving into yarn manufacturing this summer.

Bolt Threads was co-founded in 2009 by CEO Dan Widmaier, chief scientific officer David Breslauer, and vice-president of operations Ethan Mirsky. The three were fascinated with natural silk, its properties and the process of its production in nature. This curiosity led them to develop technology to produce Engineered Silk made wholly of natural proteins, creating a sustainable and durable new material. Together with partners like Patagonia, Bolt Threads is pioneering more sustainable and non-toxic processes for textile manufacturing.

“Man-made fabrics like nylon and polyester have transformed the fashion industry, for better and for worse,” said Widmaier. “The use of hydrocarbon polymers in these textiles has created a lingering toxic problem for the environment. At Bolt Threads, we’re re-thinking textile manufacturing, producing high performance materials that are also not nearly as harmful to the environment as existing options.”

Bolt Threads researchers originally studied real spiders’ silk, to understand the relationship between the spiders’ DNA and the characteristics of the fibres they make. Today’s technology allows them to make those proteins without using spiders.

After the studying of spider DNA, researchers then create sequences engineered for commercial production while keeping costs down. Primarily the fabric fibres are made of sugar, water, salts and yeast. The yeast produces silk protein in a liquid form during fermentation — very much like the beer-making process. After some processing, the liquid silk protein can be turned into fibre through wetspinning, which is the same way fibres like acrylic and rayon are made.

The company envisions to produce iPad covers, car seats and even name-brand clothing starting 2017.

Ever Thought of Trying 3D Printed Food?

Foodini 3D Food Printer

INVENTORS are taking innovative measures to make human life easier, comfortable and more interesting. What was not possible few years ago is quickly taking shape with innovate and imaginative ideas.

The 3D printing, a technology and long priced beyond many people’s reach, is quickly coming to attention. In fact, companies are trying to 3D print all kinds of new things, including food.

Think about the machines that we could only see in the movies which prepared, cooked, and served meals on command or a touch of a button. This could actually be our future. 3D food printing has the potential to revolutionise food production by boosting culinary creativity, food sustainability and nutritional value in the years to come.

This newest kitchen appliance is one that is designed to allow people who are simply too busy to prepare their food to create delicious, healthy meals without the messy and lengthy preparations. That is, if the idea of printing food sounds appealing to you.

 

Foodini is a 3D food printer by Natural Machines. Foodini makes all kinds of food like pizza, pasta, breads and even sweets like cookies. According to Natural Machines all you have to do is simply load the dough and filling and Foodini will print the pasta for you.

Foodini is the first 3D printer to print all types of real, fresh, nutritious foods, from savoury to sweet, according to the Natural Machines. It uses fresh, real ingredients, making the Foodini the first 3D food printer kitchen appliance to contribute “to a healthy eating lifestyle”.

While Foodini isn’t available for purchase just yet, co-founder Lynette Kucsma, envisions a time where every household will own their own 3D food printer.

Now that 3D printing has the world enamoured, it’s natural that the technology would be used to make food and to make making food easier.

It’s still a very new field, but food 3D printing is super exciting stuff and could if Star Trek is an accurate depiction of how things will be 2,000 years from now, be the technology used to prepare all of our personally tailored meals.

“It’s the same technology as regular 3D printers,” says Lynette, “but with plastics there’s just one melting point, whereas with food it’s different temperatures, consistencies and textures. The food is real food, made from fresh ingredients prepared before printing. That means you’ll still have to bake or boil the food before consuming it.”

Initially, Natural Machines is currently marketing Foodini to professionals, but a consumer version is also expected for about US$1,000.

Like most household items these days, Foodini is meant to be connected to your kitchen via the Internet, making the product not only useful but also technologically advanced as it syncs with your smartphone or tablet to share recipes.

Natural Machines has conducted some tests, all with positive results. But it remains to be seen whether the public will accept food built by a printer.

This is real food, with real fresh ingredients. It’s just prepared using a new technology.

Spotting the Next Big Thing

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Eyeing the startups trend

STARTUPS which have an eye for trend will often be ahead of the curve and stand a higher chance of getting into the good books of venture capitalists. Spotting excellent trends will not amount on anything if you are not going to do anything about it. The bottom is that you need to find what the trends are and use them to your advantage.

Spotting trends early make it possible to anticipate market reactions and needs, or you can be a trend setter by modifying your startup plans. That way you can almost seamlessly jump on to a new trend just as it takes off.

Spotting trends is no rocket science and you don’t need a sophisticated system to help you spot trends. The easiest, hassle-free and conventional way is the old-school approach of reading and browsing through sources. Also, stay active in industry conferences, events and associations – insights gathered from these conferences can help you keep up with what’s new and what matters.

Secondly, keep a watch on the demographic changes in a community, society or economy. Modifying products or services for different generations is a great way to capitalise on trends, Keep abreast with demographic trends and be mindful of how your target customers’ needs may shift. Once you’ve figured that out, it’s easy to offer innovations and ideas to customers. Quite often consumers do not know how much they need a product until it’s presented to them.

Thirdly, dare to be disruptive. Dare to go against the grains. Many inventors have emerged as champions simply by being a disruptive force and betting against market trends. Creating a product based on countertrend is one of the most effective ways to dominate highly saturated and competitive market. If there are lots of competitors in your niche, an inventor should be bold enough to take the road less travelled to make a difference the business needs.

Good luck and start to DREAM BIG!

 

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