For years, the potential of 3D printing has made tech geeks drool, but now we’re finally starting to see the technology graduate from a mere novelty into a highly useful tool. Take, for example, the story of the 5-year-old boy who was born without fingers on his right hand but recently received a 3D-printed prosthetic hand. Thanks to its quick turnaround speeds, the technology also enables scientists to test multiple designs at once. For example, in Australia researchers are using 3D printers to produce more effective tags that can be used to track large fish. At Cornell University, researchers are experimenting with using 3D printers to print food that could be eaten by astronauts in space, and scientists in Edinburgh successfully 3D-printed embryonic stem cells for the first time, demonstrating how 3D-printing technology could one day eliminate the need for organ donation. In related news, scientists were recently surprised to find children’s cells living in mother’s brains long after pregnancy.
In green transportation news, we watched in awe as Jeremy Clarkson took the world’s smallest car — which is basically a go-kart with body armor — for a terrifying test drive on England’s busy A3 highway. To cope with air pollution in China, artist Matt Hope produced a “Breathing Bike,” that consists of a fighter pilot’s breathing mask attached to a pedal-powered air filtration system. In one of the coolest car customizations we’ve seen, an engineer retrofitted a 1966 VW bus with snowmobile tracks, creating an all-terrain party wagon that can tear through snow at an impressive 30 MPH. And in Chicago last week, Kia debuted its Cross GT Hybrid concept, which has an all-electric range of 20 miles.
In renewable energy news, Apple filed a patent for a solar-powered iPhone, which could be a game-changer for mobile devices. The Swiss energy company Viteos SA is currently building three solar power-generating floating laboratories in Lake Neuchâtel that will be able to rotate 220 degrees, assuming optimal position for capturing sunlight at all times. Designer Hakan Gürsu released plans for the V-Tent, which is a solar-powered EV charger that doubles as a protective cover for your car. The Alaskan Brewing Company recently invested in a $1.8 million furnace that burns spent grain to generate steam that powers its entire brewery. And for when you need to charge your gadgets or lamps while camping, the PowerPot is a new camping pot that uses heat to charge your devices while you cook a meal.
In the world of green architecture, this week’s big story was the completion of Halley VI, the world’s first modular research station, in Antarctica. The most amazing thing about the new station is that it’s built on stilts that function more like legs that can elevate the station above snow and ice. We also learned about the newHôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais in Haiti, which will be the world’s largest solar-powered hospital when it opens next month. In the category of homes that are guaranteed to make you drool, we took a peek at an eight-story 19th-century water tower that a London couple transformed into a high-flying single-family home. And in one of the most over-the-top features we’ve seen all week, interior designer Jamie Beckwith added an enormous Gothic, LED-lit wine cellar to her sprawling Tennessee estate.
In green tech news this week, Voltaic unveiled a new waterproof LED touch light that can be powered by any USB source. Canadian designer Tat Chao unveiled a nifty “Bipolar” lamp that’s made from a pair of discarded wine glasses. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Swedish designer Alexander Lervik created Lumière au Chocolate, which is an LED lamp made of chocolate that slowly melts to let light filter through. Second Sight Medical Products developed the world’s first working bionic eye, which could soon be available in the US, and fashion company Machina produced the world’s first jacket to combine a MIDI controller with motion sensors — essentially, it’s a jacket that turns your body into a synthesizer.