How to make oxygen from moondust

IF PEOPLE ARE to travel extensively in space and set up bases on astronomical objects such as the Moon and Mars then they will need to make or find out there the things required to support life—including food, water and breathable air. Researchers are already working on ways to grow food in space, and icy […]

A research team builds robots from living cells

ROBOTS COME in all shapes and sizes. Some are humanoid. Others resemble animals. Many are just a jumble of arms slaving away on a production line. But one thing all robots have in common is that they are mechanical, not biological devices. They are built from materials like metal and plastic, and stuffed with electronics. […]

Giant 3D printers for making boats, bridges, buildings and rockets

BOAT BUILDING is a long-winded and tedious business, even when what is going down the slipway is a small craft made from modern materials such as fibreglass, rather than something nailed together out of planks of wood. Construct a mould. Build up layers of resin and glass fibre inside that mould. Extract the completed structure […]

Sustainable forestry: If you go down to the woods today

IN FINLAND’S vast forest lives a monster with a voracious appetite. Once, it would have been called a pulp mill. But after a recent makeover costing €1.2bn ($1.3bn) it is now known as a bioproducts mill—and as such is one of the biggest in the world. This sprawling plant, near Äänekoski, a town in the […]

Inside the body shop: 3D printing replacement body parts

A robotic lawnmower keeping the grass neat and tidy outside a modern industrial building in Carrigtwohill, near Cork in Ireland, is a good indication that something whizzy may be going on inside. And so it proves. The airy production hall contains row after row of 3d printers, each the size of a large fridge-freezer. The machines […]

How to knit a sports car: carbon fibre manufacturing

Bertha resides on a quiet industrial estate in Bristol, in the west of Britain. The affectionate name has been given to what at first appears to be a giant loom from the Industrial Revolution. And in some ways it is. Bertha (pictured above) is an automated braiding machine. Like a horizontal maypole, ribbons of carbon […]

On the plastic highway

OF ALL the plastic produced since the 1950s, less than 10% has been recycled. The vast majority ends up being dumped, most of it in landfill. Some is left to litter the natural environment, where it can get into rivers and wash out into the sea (see article). The plastic-waste problem will worsen before it […]

Rise of the robochef

CREATOR, a new hamburger joint in San Francisco, claims to deliver a burger worth $18 for $6—in other words, to provide the quality associated with posh restaurants at a fast-food price. The substance behind this claim is that its chef-de-cuisine is a robot. Until recently, catering robots have been gimmicks. “Flippy”, a robotic arm that […]