November 5, 2015 11:36AM

Creation of Artificial Life and Other Recent Discoveries

So, Dr. Craig Venter, the genius who first sequenced the human genome, is at it again. This time, he has created artificial life. Does the man ever sleep? Anyhow, here is the latest installment in my innovation-that-you-might-have-missed series. Included you will find news on the 3D-printing of a human heart, pain management, a new electric battery breakthrough and my personal favorite—sideways elevators!

Researchers Now Capable Of 3D-Printing a Human Heart Using Organic Materials

A recent breakthrough in bio-printing technology may allow for the creation of human hearts. A research team at Carnegie Mellon used a consumer printer to create a heart out of organic material. While 3D-printing has previously been used to solve a lot of different problems, it had, until now, built things out of plastic and metal—inorganic materials that don’t necessarily adapt well to the human body.  Hopefully, further progress of this sort in bio-printing tech will revolutionize the treatment of tissue damage and organ failure.

New Foam Batteries Promise Faster Charging, Higher Capacity

Despite billions of dollars spent on investment, innovation in batteries has lagged relative to other technologies. However, a growing number of researchers are looking at three-dimensional batteries that tend to have porous, sponge-like structures, as opposed to the traditional “2-D” form (i.e., thin layers of metal in a liquid electrolyte solution inside a box). A recent startup, called Prieto Battery, claims to have succeeded in producing a 3-D battery that would be cheaper to make, faster to charge, safer, smaller, and less environmentally toxic than conventional batteries. Prieto’s innovation increases the battery surface area, thereby reducing the distance that the ions have to travel, thus increasing both power and energy density. While the first applications of these new batteries will be limited to small wearable systems and consumer electronics, they could eventually spread to cars, and one day, even grid-scale storage systems.

Scientists Discover How to “Turn Off” Pain

Researchers have discovered that people who suffer from chronic pain (e.g., arthritis) develop more receptors that respond to opiate pain relief. Having extra receptors makes the body more resistant to pain—both by using our bodies’ natural painkillers, endorphins, and through prescribed opiates such as morphine. Put differently, people who regularly underwent physical pain, such as arthritis sufferers as well as those who exercised regularly, were more resistant to pain due to their brains’ increased opiate receptor density. Increasing the receptor density may, therefore, hold the key to more effective pain relief treatment.

Skype Founders Invent Self-Driving Robot That Can Deliver Groceries For $1.50

Through the company Starship, the cofounders of Skype have created a robot that can deliver groceries five to fifteen times cheaper than current delivery services. These robots are able to autonomously drive at a speed of 4 mph and carry 20 lbs. worth of groceries, while recharging at hubs that are in close proximity to grocery stores. However, human operators have the ability to take control of the robot at anytime. Starship claims that a delivery will only take 30 minutes and cost £1 ($1.50). They hope to have the robots on the market in 2016.

The Sideways Elevators of the Future Will be Shown Off for the First Time

As more of the world’s population moves to urban areas, the demand for elevator technology will grow. To answer the call, ThyssenKrupp AG has created a ten meter tall elevator prototype that uses magnetic levitation instead of the traditional steel cable system. This technology allows for the vertical and horizontal movement of elevator cars, while also having multiple cars in the same shaft. The technology is not fully developed, but in the future it could rival the contemporary elevator system.

Craig Venter Creates Life for the First Time in Laboratory

Dr. Craig Venter has recently created artificial life by injecting a synthetic chromosome into an empty cell where it proceeded to multiply, which is the very definition of basic life. Compared to the synthetic life form, human DNA has roughly forty times as many genes and three-thousand times as many base pairs or “rungs” on the DNA ladder. Future uses of synthetic life could range anywhere from new vaccines for fighting disease to finding new energy sources.