Purifying Water with the Sun

Potable drinking water is one of the largest issues currently looming over humanity. It is not often talked about, but as the population continues to boom toward 7 and then eventually 9 billion people, clean drinking water will become more valuable than oil in some regions. The fact that the 78% or so of the Earth that is covered with water is not drinkable because of it’s salt content is a problem. Current solutions for removing this salt require copious amounts of electricity, which in turn is expensive and not a feasible global solution.

Jonathan Liow however has a solution. He has created the Solarball. This device is very simple and cheap to manufacture. It has no moving parts and relies only on the direct energy of the sun to evaporate contaminants leaving clean, pure H2O to drink. He was inspired after visiting Cambodia and seeing that they didn’t have access to the tap water that we take for granted every day.

In addition to distributing these Solarball’s throughout third world countries, I think it would be a great idea to produce a version that could be deployed with emergency rafts and boats. Often you will see stories about people that were adrift at sea for weeks and drank only what little water they could collect from the rain. In the instances where they did give in and drink the salt water, the NaCl would dehydrate their cells from the inside out killing them faster and more painfully than they would have experienced otherwise. If Liow (or anyone else for that matter) could somehow modify this same concept to be incorporated in the canopies of inflatable rafts, people may be able to survive much longer and avoid certain dehydration stranded at sea.

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Save Your Towel for the Beach!

The Dyson company has been producing and selling innovative and standard setting products for more than a decade. They’re most notably known for their popular (albeit pricey) Dyson vacuum. The vacuum is all about suction, as the inventor pitches in the many commercials scattered around TV land.

Dyson branched out and turned their efficient turbine technology into another revolutionary, everyday invention. The Dyson Airblade is the most elite of hand dryers for public rest rooms in the United States. It works by using blasts of air to act as a squeegee to wick water off of a persons hands. My idea is to scale this up.

I see the shower of the future to have a button next to the one that diverts water to the shower head. When you shut off the water, you can press another button and the body blade kicks in to action. Imagine dual water “blades” starting at your head and wicking all of the water off of your body as it passes all the way to the floor, finishing at your feet. No more using the same towel over and over to dry your presumably “clean” self. The blade is high tech and futuristic and I’m sure it would be a new installation in many upper class homes. As the technology advances, hopefully the price would come down. The machine itself would be cheaper to build and install but more over, popularity can induce imitators. A competitive open market always helps to adjust the prices to a more consumer friendly level.

Brrrr… It’s Cold in there!

Every household in the United States has somewhere they store food. Everyone that can afford one, which is a very high majority, utilizes cold storage with a refrigerator of some sort. This is the case among all third world countries. Of the billions of refrigerators in the world, think about how many users each is in operation for. For an average household of say three, each group needs to eat 2 – 3 times a day. All of that opening and closing of the doors (both on the fridge and the freezer compartments) lets an unimaginable amount of cold air out. This causes the compressor to turn back on, drawing electricity from the grid.

So the question is how can we reduce the amount of electricity these appliances are wasting? The first solution would obviously be to create a more efficient electrical design. This type of research, development and design is expensive and time consuming. Each new iteration of this type of appliance usually does become more efficient, but there has to be another solution. By thinking about why the energy is wasted, we realize that it’s because the door is open. But why is the door open so often and for so long in the first place? I can say from personal experience that often I don’t remember what’s in my fridge or more likely I can’t make up my mind what I want to eat. This time I spend with the door wide open, blankly staring at the shelves is energy wasted and dollars out of my pocket.

What if there were a way to know what was in the fridge in the first place? I can think of several solutions that could easily be implemented. With newer top of the line refrigerators, many have some type of screen or control panel already in place. You can imagine a future appliance with several tiny cameras that can show a live feed of just what you would see if you were to open the door and look yourself. Even further dumbing down the problem is a refrigerator that has a transparent door. Materials science has come a long way from the first iteration of these behemoths. It is definitely feasible to think that an insulating and transparent material exists and could be modified for use in a refrigeration setting. The reduction in the carbon footprint could be enormous and is deserving of study in the not so distant future.

Note: This idea has apparently been discussed among inventors around the world and has even been submitted as vision for the future in the Dyson invention submission contest for 2011. Credits for the picture are likewise. 

Easy Feet Foot Scrubber

For as long as I’ve been taking showers, I’ve had to bend over and wash my feet. Whether it’s a loofa or a bar of soap and a wash cloth, it’s always been a pain in the … back. It’s a wonder that no one had ever capitalized on this issue in the past.

Just my luck that I see a late night “As Seen on TV” ad for a product that solved just that. The “Easy Feet Foot Cleaner” was simple. It had suction cups that secured a rubber scrubbing base to the bottom of any bathtub you’d find in your apartment or house. All you had to do was drop a little soap on the base and you work it in to a lather with your foot. The genius is that it has an arch built in to scrub the top of your foot and between your toes.

This piece of plastic cost cents to make, and someone somewhere is making large profit margins on the $10 product. Everytime I see a product like this I have to stop and smack myself asking, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Helping Prevent Baseball Pitching Injuries

Baseball has long been known as America’s Past TIme. As long as their is baseball, there are going to be kids that want to grow up to be big league pitchers. Unfortunately, the pitching motion is a very unnatural one for the human body. In order to gain the greatest advantage and to hurl the ball as fast as they can, pitchers adapt to the restrictions of the human anatomy.

 

Unfortunately, this unnatural movement causes a higher percentage of career threatening injuries to pitchers, especially in the ligaments surrounding the elbow. Since 1974, a special surgery with a recovery time of more than 14 months has been developed to resurrect the careers of pitchers that in the past would have been relegated to retirement.

 

The idea I propose however is some sort of device that can help pitchers develop a motion that is less harmful to the body. Throwing “over the top” as they say is said to be the most harmful of the different types of pitching motions. Many major leaguers have had successful pitching careers throwing at a three-quarters slot or even what is called side arm and submarine pitching. These types all bring the throwing arm to a different degree angle than the over the top motion. In addition, they also cause less stress since they are stretching the ligaments less, and in a natural direction.

 

Golfers have long had different contraptions(straps, tubes, wraps, etc…) that help them establish a set swing of their arm. Why can’t some sort of device be adapted to help pitchers recognize a better angle to release the ball? If kids start learning different angles at younger ages today, perhaps ten years from now the major leagues will be dominated by side arm pitchers. All it takes is one industrious baseball fanatic inventor and some marketing know how.

 

Inflatable Waist Bands in Bathing Suits?

As humans we swill never ignore the water. Everyday, people around the world will dive in to swimming pools, go to the lake or walk across a sandy beach to the waters edge. Because so many people love to swim, there are an unfortunately high number of deaths related to drowning each year. The National Safety Council reported that there are nationally 7000 deaths each year. The Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation found that of children between 7-14, 70% could not swim more than fifty yards.

This caused me to wonder if there could be some common solution. Something that borrows technology from another area to solve a similar issue. Most everyone wears some sort of a bathing suit when they’re in the water. What if there was a suit that had an inflatable tube built in to the waistband?

The trigger for inflation could be a number of things. Perhaps it would be if reaching a certain depth. Or maybe for the children’s one it could be activated by pulling a cord similar to a parachute opening? Perhaps they could throw in remote technology so a user could activate it from some distance. There are many different technologies that might prove relevant to the design.

It would surely inflate the asking price to some extent though, no pun intended. This may be the price a worrisome parent pays for a little bit more peace of mind. At the very least, I think that some kind of prototype should constructed and tested. People will buy anything, and this just could save a life.

Built In Bike Lock

As someone who has had a bike stolen from them before, let me start with the fact that it’s not a fun experience. If it’s a cheap bike, yes it’s unfortunate but it can usually be replaced. If it is however a rather expensive bike that a rider has put a lot of time and effort in to earning and maintaining, the loss can be all the more heart breaking.

My experience occured while my bike was locked. The thief cut right through the wire with some sort of bolt cutters, I would assume. The solution to this is to bulk up the lock’s hardware itself. Often people resort to U-locks and chains to accomplish this goal. Unfortunately, these can be bulky, hard to travel with and even mark up the frame of the bike. My suggestion however is could alleviate this altogether. What if the bike was the lock itself? I invision a lock that doesn’t have to go around your frame because it IS the frame. What if there were some way to incorporate a locking mechanism that popped out of the frame? Perhaps the struts would be prong shaped with a recessed bar in the middle that could pop out on both sides and connect around a pole.

The design is up for debate, however a rather simple idea has been proposed by designer Bach Nguyen that utilizes the handle bars as the locking mechanism. This is so simple it’s genius. I can see this being popular among those that can afford it in the very near future. 

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