66-year-old Alan Turing paper inspires new water-purification technique

When you think about the English computer scientist Alan Turing you most probably think of either his code-breaking efforts at Bletchley Park during World War II or his early hypotheses about artificial intelligence, which resulted in the formulation of the famous Turing Test.

Something you probably don’t associate him with? Groundbreaking chemistry — and, more specifically, groundbreaking chemistry which could soon be used to provide people around the world with a more efficient way of obtaining drinkable freshwater. But that could soon change.

Turing only published one paper on this subject during his life, just two years before his untimely death in the early 1950s. In the paper, he described what have come to be known as “Turing structures,” an attempt to chemically explain naturally occurring patterns such as the spots on a leopard or the stripes on a zebra. Jump forward to 2018, and researchers in China have now used Turing’s influential concept as the basis for work providing more efficient desalination, referring to the process by which salt is removed from saltwater to make it safely drinkable.

“We successfully developed a facile route based on interfacial polymerization to generate polyamide membranes with Turing structures,” Lin Zhang, a material scientist from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, told Digital Trends. “These membranes can remove salts from water up to four times faster than common nanofiltration membranes, [because] there are high water permeability sites in Turing structures.”

What the researchers have developed is a Turing-inspired membrane covered in nanoscale stripes or spots. These patterns, which are slightly raised so as to form bumps, are the result of a chemical reaction accelerating and decelerating at the same time. In this case, they allow water to flow through the nanofiltration material far more quickly than the usual membranes used for this task.

However, while they speed up the process, they do so while remaining every bit as good at removing salt. The result is a far more efficient method of carrying out this important job. In tests using water containing gold nanoparticles, the new nanomaterial was shown to outperform 16 commercially available membranes used for desalination.

“This tech could be used for large-scale and low-cost water treatment applications, such as water softening, desalination, and removal of high valence ions, and other impurities from drinking water,” Zhang continued. “Next, we will focus on Turing-type polyamide nanofiltration membrane preparation by different methods, and prepare [a] polyamide reverse osmosis membrane with [the] Turing structure. We plan to commercialize this tech in the very near future.”

For more details on the chemistry behind this innovative material, check out the researchers’ recent paper, published in the journal Science.


4 women innovators who are using tech to help others live better lives

Meet four women leaders who are not only at the forefront of technology today, but also using tech — from robotics and medicine to food and undergarments — to help others.

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 
Emerging Tech

Body surrogate robot helps people with motor impairments care for themselves

A team from Georgia Tech has come up with an assistant robot to help people who have severe motor impairments to perform tasks like shaving, brushing their hair, or drinking water.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (March 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.
Emerging Tech

The U.S. Army is building a giant VR battlefield to train soldiers virtually

Imagine if the U.S. Army was able to rehearse battlezone scenarios dozens, or even hundreds, or times before settling foot on actual terrain. Thanks to virtual reality, that's now a possibility.

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.
Emerging Tech

A silver bullet is being aimed at the drug-resistant superbugs on the ISS

A bacteria which is benign here on Earth can mutate into a drug-resistant superbug once it enters space. Now this problem is being tackled by a team of microbiologists who have found a way to inhibit the spread of bacteria in the ISS.
Emerging Tech

Tombot is the hyper-realistic dog robot that puts Spot to shame

Forget Boston Dynamics’ Spot! When it comes to robot dogs, the folks behind a new Kickstarter campaign have plans to stake their claim as makers of man’s (and woman’s) newest best friend.
Emerging Tech

Researchers gave alligators headphones and ketamine, and all for a good cause

Researchers in Germany and the United States recently gave ketamine and earphones to alligators to monitor how they process sounds. Here's what it reveals about alligator evolution.
Emerging Tech

Cheese tastes different when it listens to Led Zeppelin, Swiss study finds

A funky new study says that exposing cheese to music changes its aroma and flavor. What’s more, the genre of music matters. Researchers from the Bern University of Arts played music to nine, 22-pound wheels of Emmental cheese.