Bacteria may be some of the oldest organisms in the evolutionary tree, but, as Horizon discovers this month, they are inspiring new technologies, from turning sunlight into car fuel to creating building blocks that can repair themselves when cracked. We also hear from scientists using these single-celled organisms to heat our homes, and others who are using them to help trees clean up contaminated soil.
Scientists have found a way of producing electricity and fuel for cars from bacteria and green algae, and scaling up these techniques could create a reliable source of renewable energy that could be used as an alternative to fossil fuels.
Inserting bacteria into bricks and concrete could help generate heat, circulate air and repair cracks, according to researchers who are designing innovative construction materials to transform bricks and mortar into living buildings with a reduced environmental footprint.
Private companies are increasingly active in the space sector – from high-profile businesses such as SpaceX or Virgin Galactic to the nearly 3,000 small businesses that provide elements for the European Space Agency’s space programme. In March, Horizon explores the impact of this on research and innovation. We speak to a space law researcher about how to avoid the problems emerging from an increasingly crowded orbit, such as collisions. We look at how to minimise the environmental impact of satellites and delve into efforts to build a reusable European launcher for small payloads. We also look at the challenge of assembling, maintaining and repairing objects in space and the developments in space robotics that could help.
More than 30% of car journeys in Europe are under 3km long and could potentially be swapped for different, greener, forms of transport. In February, we look at alternative ways of getting people and goods around cities - a challenge known in the industry as the problem of the ‘last mile’. We speak to Karen Vancluysen of cities network POLIS, who says that cities may have to introduce some unpopular measures to change the way people move around, and we look at how soon commuters will be able to rely on automated shuttles to ferry them from door to door. We delve into the environmental problems caused by unsuccessful home deliveries and what can be done about them, and the new technologies that could change the way goods are delivered.
The race for a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, is on, with 54 different vaccines under development, two of which are already being tested in humans, according to the World Health Organization. And among the different candidates is a new player on the scene – mRNA vaccines.
What are they and why are they promising for coronavirus?
Moving away from hydrazine would require disrupting existing systems.
The more satellite launches we do, the bigger the risk of damage or debris, says Dimitra Stefoudi.