USA returns to the Moon

Originally planned for 2020, the mission is delayed slightly due to budget overruns and technical difficulties. Nevertheless, it proves to be a highly symbolic moment, and restores many peoples’ faith in NASA.


Nanotech clothes becoming mainstream

A variety of nanotech-tailored clothing is becoming mainstream now. This includes truly “waterproof” garments – made from polyester fibres coated with millions of tiny silicone filaments. These are structured in such a way that water simply falls off.

Other textiles utilising nanotechnology include self-cleaning carpets. Millions of tiny fingers, embedded in the fabric, can be made to gently sway and lean towards the edge of the room, shifting dust and other garbage in a matter of minutes. Collectors fixed into the skirting board can then gather and dispose of any detritus as necessary. This technology has already been used for several years in hotels, luxury apartments and high-grade office buildings – but is now entering the mainstream thanks to falling costs.

Nanotech is also being used extensively by the military, and police forces, with ultra-lightweight but extraordinarily impact-resistant jackets and body armour becoming available. Fireproof suits can also be made safer using these new materials.

Piezoelectric nanowires

The piezoelectric effect, in which crystalline materials under mechanical stress produce an electric current, is now being utilised at the nanoscale level to power a variety of devices.

Tiny vibrations – such as those created by wind, sound waves, and even the turbulence of blood flow – are captured and harnassed by a nanowire mesh. The bending of this mesh in response to these subtle forces can generate over 200 millivolts.

This form of self-powering technology is so sensitive, it can even be embedded in clothing. For instance, the subtle movements of a belt, shirt or trouser pocket can produce enough power to charge the batteries of a cell phone.

Implantable medical devices benefit particularly well from this. Bone-loss monitors and other sensors – activated by stresses to the body – can beam an alert signal to a computer. Hearing aids no longer require batteries since they can be powered by sound waves hitting them.

Piezoelectric nanowires have a range of other applications. They can be used in engineering, for example, to detect microscopic fractures in an aeroplane or spacecraft. They can also be used in identity verification: a grid of piezoelectric wires underneath a signature pad (or other touchscreen device) can be used to record the pattern of pressure applied, which is then checked against a database.



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