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Two new ways of extracting lithium from brine

Around 60% of the world’s lithium, a metal in high demand for making batteries, comes from evaporation ponds, like that pictured overleaf, located in deserts in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.


Spinal implants allow paralysed people to walk, swim and cycle again

Four Years Ago Michel Roccati was involved in a motorcycle accident. He suffered what neurologists call a “complete” spinal-cord injury—he lost all sensation below the site of the damage to his spine and he could no longer move his legs.


A new green air-conditioning system manages without nasty gases

In A Warming world it helps to stay cool. But doing so also threatens the planet. Most air conditioners use refrigerant gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Though these do not deplete Earth’s ozone layer in the way the chlorofluorocarbons they…


Building sustainable cities with wooden skyscrapers

More Than half the world’s population dwell in cities, and by 2050 the UN expects that proportion to reach 68%. This means more homes, roads and other infrastructure. In India alone, the equivalent of a city the size of Chicago will have to be…


Herbal remedies can help to treat neglected tropical diseases

“WHAT DO YOU call traditional medicine that works?” “Medicine.” This old joke contains more than a milligram of truth.


New solar cells extract more energy from sunshine

Solar Energy has had a good crisis. In many parts of the world skies clear of pollution have helped photovoltaic power stations, which convert light into electricity, become more productive and reliable. Declining demand, meanwhile, has seen coal-…


How to make use of all of a tree

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.


How to make a better raincoat with tiny “water bowls”

A Few Years ago Kripa Varanasi, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made the news with a ketchup bottle that could be emptied without leaving any of the ketchup behind. Instead of sticking to the bottle’s interior, the sauce…


An innovative approach to making electricity from the wind

The Wind Blows more strongly at higher altitudes. That is why wind turbines have grown ever taller. The blade tips of today’s biggest now reach up a dizzying 260 metres, the height of the Transamerica building in San Francisco.


3D printers will make better implants

A Robotic Lawnmower keeping the grass neat and tidy outside a modern industrial building in Carrigtwohill, near Cork in Ireland, is a good indication that something whizzy may be going on inside. And so it proves.


How to give voice to the speechless

Of The Many memorable things about Stephen Hawking, perhaps the most memorable of all was his conversation. The amyotrophic lateral sclerosis that confined him to a wheelchair also stopped him talking, so instead a computer synthesised what became a…


A cheap way to protect coffee crops from boring beetles

Few Pests wreak more havoc on coffee plantations than the berry-borer beetle. In Brazil alone its depredations are reckoned to cost $300m a year, so keeping the insects under control is a priority for plantation owners around the world. That is…


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