I am old enough to have been an engineer when carbon nanotubes were discovered, not that long after buckyballs. I remember the excitement of all the vast potential. It was immediately obvious to very many engineers how they could be used in lots of different ways. Mostly we all came up with the same ideas, but a few were different. My main different contribution was the electron pipe, which allows a billion times as much data transfer as optical fibre.
Graphene is the new wonder material equivalent now. Short diversion: briefly, graphene it is just the latest new arrangement of carbon atoms. So now we have a ball, a tube, and a plane as well as common graphite and diamond. We don’t yet have the carbon cone, the pyramid, the cube. Then think pasta, and all the shapes you get that in, carbon should be able to do all those too. Then think of just about any other pattern in 3D, and you can probably build that out of variants. OK, diversion over.
Graphene apparently lets water through but not alcohol. So, graphene stills won’t be far away. Refining that idea, all you need is a container with a graphene membrane, i.e. a bag made of graphene, or a porous bag coated with graphene. Water will migrate to one side, leaving concentrated solution of alcohol on the other. Naturally, you’d make the graphene membrane highly convoluted to maximise surface area.
If that works, and graphene also doesn’t allow salt or dirt through, then you could also make a desalinator or water purifier the same way.
I have no idea if this will work, but I bet the guys that invented it know and if it could, they must have it on a very long list of things to do.
e-ink is used for some electronic book readers. But that’s not what I am talking about here. As electronic circuit components continue to shrink, we are fast approaching a time when we will be able to suspend tiny particles of computer memory in ink. A pen with ink loaded with these particles could be used to sign important or valuable papers. The document could contain not just a visible signature but an electronic one too, embedded in the ink.
A pen would write to the particles as they leave the pen. The signature could be authenticated with the fingerprints on the pen, the IDs of nearby gadgets such as mobile phones or other digital identifiers as well as a secure timestamp.
Ideally, the kind of memory used could only be written to once, or use something like flash ROM. If the electronic signature can’t be embedded when the pen is used to sign, then the ink would have to be made preloaded with a unique signature authenticated elsewhere as belonging to that user. The problem here of course would be that anyone could use the pen. Hybrids where some particles are pre-written and a few during the signature would also be possible.
Another minor variant would be to use magnetic particle suspension, written again as the paper is signed.
I am sure many of you have the same problem. The shampoo and shower gel bottles don’t all fit on the minuscule shelf that the shower head rail came with, and you dare not put too much weight on the little baskets with suction cups, so they go on the shower floor. Depending which brand you buy, you may have a problem with water from the shower getting into the bottles and diluting the contents.
How much effort would it really be to design the caps so they always spring back to cover the hole when released? The only minor technical difficulty would be that you need to get the stuff out on to one hand while holding the bottle in the other, so you don’t have a hand free to hold the cap open, so it must stay open while you are holding the bottle. A simple cantilever would work fine, or using plastic that springs back only slowly, so you have a few seconds to squirt some stuff out.
I woke up 6am today with a new idea to add ultrasonic vibration to vacuum cleaner heads to improve cleaning efficiency. I suspected it must already exist, and wasn’t wrong. Oh well. I also discovered this blog is far from unique too. That idea appeared on halfbakery, which is a fun visit: http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Ultrasonic_20Vacuum.
Ultrasonic cleaning itself is very old. My very first job application in 1981 took me to visit ultrasonic cleaning departments that were already old. So actually, the idea to add it to other cleaners is pretty obvious really. However…
I haven’t yet seen any ultrasonic generating balls that you can add to washing. It would be pretty easy. You make some specially shaped capsules that rumble round with the washing and they transmit ultrasound as they go, helping to liberate dirt and reducing the amount of detergent or heat needed. A simple transducer and battery, so should be pretty cheap. They would be recharged of course just by leaving them on an inductive plate.
Our cat is quite cute as cats go, but I am really not a cat fan, so I only really tolerate him. When he sits on my lap occasionally I don’t mind, but now in the winter, when he treats me as a heat source, he is far too demanding and I wish he would have his own place to sit. So I got thinking: why isn’t there a cat basket with an electric blanket in it so that the cat will go there to get warm instead? Sitting by the fire is obviously too intense heat, but a nice electric blanket would work fine. The heat would obviously contribute to the rest of the room so there would be no significant environmental impact if he only needs it while the house is heated anyway.
So any electric blanket manufacturers out there, especially any looking for new markets during the recession. Cats and presumably dogs, maybe even small pets, they are potential users too. They need pet baskets with electric blankets in them. Get on with it.