Solarclave Sterilizes Medical Equipment In Remote Areas Using Sunlight.

Solarclave from MIT's Little Devices groupIn hospitals, an autoclave is an electric-powered device that is used to sterilize medical equipment and supplies. The Solarclave, designed by MIT’s Little Devices group, is an autoclave that is solar-powered and can be used cheaply and repaired easily by remote clinics in developing countries. Here’s a description of the Solarclave from the Little Devices group:

“With a bucket, a pressure cooker, and 140 pocket-sized mirrors, IIH researchers have invented a device that uses sunshine to sterilize surgical tools. Solarclave provides reliable surgical sterilization for rural clinics outside of the grid – enabling healthcare workers to provide basic, life-saving services for patients.”

And here’s how it works (SmartPlanet):

“Under a clear sky, the system takes 45 to 60 minutes to heat up to a sterilizing temperature (250 degrees Fahrenheit) and then 20 minutes to carry out the sterilization cycle.”

The final design of the Solarclave was modified based on feedback from rural users in Nicaragua. [SmartPlanet]

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What Causes Phantom Traffic Jams?

[youtube width=”425″ height=”309″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Suugn-p5C1M[/youtube]Video from The Mathematical Society of Traffic Flow

How many times have you been caught in a traffic jam only to be “released” from it and realize that there was no accident? Boing Boing posted a follow up article to their original about the reasons behind cause-less traffic jams based on an MIT study. The MIT team found that speed, vehicle density and other factors determine the how quickly a jam inevitably and evenly spread like a shockwave through highway traffic.

Jubbling’s take: Engine idling in traffic burns .026 gallons of fuel and releases 9.5 ounces of CO2 every 10 minutes. Since the only factor car drivers can manage is their speed, it might be in our best interest to slow down and maintain a constant speed to possibly reduce the duration of traffic jams.

Related article: The Physics Behind Traffic Jams

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The US Is Getting Fatter And So Are Our Cars

SUV or Smart Car - Who'd You Rather?Since 1980, the innovations implemented in cars should’ve increased our fuel efficiency by 60%. So why did it actually only go up 15%? A study by MIT economist Christopher Knittel pinpointed the problem and it’s simple – we countered the gains in fuel efficiency by increasing the size and horsepower of our vehicles at an even higher rate. Mr. Knittel’s research paper, “Automobiles on Steroids” (PDF), outlines the results of his study.

According to the study, adjusted for inflation, gas prices fell by 30% between 1980 and 2004. During this period, sales of light trucks/SUV’s increased from 20% of all vehicles purchased to 51%. Manufacturers were building larger cars to meet the demand.

Mr. Knittel’s conclusion is that the best way to increase fuel efficiency is through the creation of a national gas tax. President Obama’s new CAFE standard that requires automakers to reach a fleet average of 54.5 mpg by 2025 will get us there but Mr. Knittel fears a “rebound effect” of the law where people would buy more fuel efficient cars and would then drive more. A gas tax would not only lead consumers to purchase more efficient vehicles but it would also encourage people to drive less.

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