Scientists and industry are dashing to make more ventilators

ONE OF THE most worrying symptoms of covid-19 is the way the coronavirus attacks the lungs of those infected. This means some patients need a ventilator to help them breathe until their lungs recover. But there is a dire shortage of these machines in hospitals, so intensive-care units will be overwhelmed. Urged on by worried […]

Digital twins of hearts could help diagnose and help treat cardiac disease

IF YOU TRAVEL on a modern airliner, the chances are that each of the jet engines powering it will have a virtual copy residing in a computer on the ground. This copy, known as a digital twin, will be updated constantly with information from sensors that measure the engine’s performance and check for signs of […]

Farming with Tom, Dick and Harry

SLOWLY BUT surely, a spidery machine about the size of a golf cart swings an electrode over a tray of plants. Every few seconds there is a small puff of smoke as a weed keels over, having been zapped with a high voltage. The device doing the zapping is a prototype weeding robot developed by […]

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. […]

An emergency landing system that passengers can activate

ON NOVEMBER 9TH 2018 a Piper Dakota light aircraft flying over Iowa broadcast a distress call. The pilot seemed to have suffered a heart attack. One of the other three people on board, a student aviator, had taken over the controls, but to no avail. The plane crashed shortly afterwards, killing all four. How often […]

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 […]