Singularity University 2010 Food, Water, Energy, Space and Upcycling

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This year’s Singularity University graduate students produced about a dozen ideas, aimed at providing more abundant food, cleaner energy, cleaner water, improved access to space and more sustainable use of technology (a concept dubbed “upcycling”). Here’s the full lineup:

Food: A venture called Agropolis aims to put hydroponics and vertical farming to work on a local scale. “This particular project … deals with producing little modules that can be decentralized,” Kurzweil said. One potential application would be to grow produce as well as farm-bred tilapia fish and bioengineered meat inside a multistory building, and sell the foodstuffs at a market located in the same building. “They’re off at this point to start up a company,” Diamandis said.

“We have a schedule for research, and we’re talking with partners to build a prototype,” team member Maggie Jack told me. She said the first prototype facilities would be set up in California and India

Energy: Another potential startup is Amunda, which would seek to set up small-scale markets in energy for the developing world.

Water: One team project, dubbed Naishio, would enlist converging technologies (bio plus nano plus solar) to desalinate seawater more efficiently. Other ventures include Sensoria, which focuses on biology-based sensor technologies to test water purity; and H2020, which would set up an online destination about water resources.

Space: Made in Space would enlist 3-D printers to make spare parts for spacecraft such as the International Space Station, rather than having to ship up tons of parts just in case something breaks.

Another venture is working with NASA’s Ames Research Center and the California Institute of Technology to develop a beamed-energy system that would send up laser light or microwaves to power spacecraft. “That system has the potential to be on the order of 50 to 100 times more efficient than traditional launch vehicles,” Diamandis said. Still other teams came up with ideas to bioengineer organisms for extraterrestrial environments, or to do low-cost biological research in space.

Upcycling: The Fre3dom team is working on a 3-D printing process that would allow local communities in the developing world to make their own spare parts for broken-down equipment. “They’ve identified a new bioplastic that would work well with the existing cutting-edge generation of 3-D printers,” Kurzweil said. Other teams are trying to come up with better methods to extract valuable metals from electronic waste (BioMine) and create more efficient markets for products that one company might see as industrial waste (i2cycle).

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