Good Thinking

Potato plastic and 3D-printed ant nests feature in the 2018 James Dyson Awards

Potato plastic and 3D-printed ...
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The finalists for this year's James Dyson Award have just beenrevealed, and they offer an exciting array of clever design solutions tosome of the world's major problems. Some of the extraordinaryhighlights include a biodegradable plastic made from potato starch;cheap, foldable lifeboats; an earthquake pre-warning system; andprefabricated ant nests designed to help rural communities easily harvest insects for food.

The annual JamesDyson Award is open to design and engineering students (or recentgraduates) around the world. The award's brief is deceptivelysimple: "design something that solves a problem." And since itsfoundation in 2007 it has delivered a fascinating array of creativedesign solutions.

The top 20 finalistsfor this year's award are competing for a £30,000prize (US$39,000), with Sir James Dyson picking the winner himself. Here are thesome of the most interesting finalists in a competition packed withimaginative design creations.

O-Wind Turbine

The problem to besolved: Wind turbines are a great source of sustainable energy butthey struggle to deal with chaotic winds in urban environments. Ateam from Lancaster University set out to design an omni-directionalwind turbine that could be integrated into urban apartment settings.

The O-Wind Turbineis a spherical structure lined with vents allowing it to take windfrom all horizontal and vertical directions. It will rotate on afixed axis regardless of the direction of the wind, and ultimately the hope is to easily integrate it into city apartment balconies to offerindividual dwellers an independent source of electricity in an urbanenvironment.

Potato Plastic

Taking aim at the volume of single-use plastic forks, spoons andstraws used in the fast food industry, Swedish designer PontusTörnqvist fromLund University developed Potato Plastic, a materialmade from potato starch that resembles plastic but biodegrades intosoil in less than two months.

"WhatI want to achieve with this project is to make littering to be aconscious act instead of an unconcerned behavior," says Törnqvist.


Insectsare a great source of protein and many suggest that we need toincorporate them into our food chain to help feed the growing globalpopulation. Azcatl is a prefabricated, 3D-printed ant nest, designedto offer an easy and cheap way to harvest ants.

"Theprefabricated nest can represent a sustainable opportunity for ruralcommunities," thedesigners write,"because it does not have a negative impact in the ecosystem due tothe fact the materials used are 100% biodegradable and the ants donot need a huge amount of water, feeding or land, furthermore theseants have been the backbone of the aqua farming in Mexico forcenturies and the locals do not need special machines or technologiesto develop this activity. Also this activity can be its principalsource of income considering that 1 kg of escamoles is around 100dollars."


Anastounding 20 percent of all clean water is reportedly lost due toleaking pipes. Tracking when a water pipe is leaking is difficult,expensive and time-consuming, with leaks often not discovered until apipe completely breaks. Lighthouse is a cheap robot that can bedropped into existing pipe systems to track for leaks.

Thelittle robot floats along a pipe using tactile sensors that canidentify suction changes in water pressure when it passes a leak. Itgenerates a log as it travels so when the robot is recovered it canoffer a clear map of the pipe and where it may be leaking.

Thewinner of the competition will be revealed in November.

Source:James Dyson Awards

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