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Startup 3-D prints solar-powered bionic hands

Startup 3-D prints solar-powered bionic hands

Caroline Nelly Perrot reports that a Tunisian startup 3-D prints solar-powered bionic hands .

A Tunisian startup is developing a 3-D-printed bionic hand, hoping the affordable and solar-powered prosthetic will help amputees and other disabled people across Africa.

Unlike traditional devices, the artificial hand can be customised for children and youths, who otherwise require an expensive series of resized models as they grow up.

The company Cure Bionics also has plans to develop a video game-like virtual reality system that helps youngsters learn how to use the artificial hand through physical therapy.

Startup 3-D prints solar-powered bionic hands
Tunisian startup Cure Bionics are developing a prototype of an artificial hand, which they hope will be more affordable to help amputees and other disabled people

Mohamed Dhaouafi, the 28-year-old founder and CEO of Cure Bionics, designed his first prototype while still an engineering student in his home city Sousse.

“One team member had a cousin who was born without a hand and whose parents couldn’t afford a prosthesis, especially as she was still growing up,” he said.

“So we decided to design a hand.”

Dhaouafi launched his start-up in 2017 from his parents’ home, at a time when many of his classmates chose to move abroad seeking higher salaries and international experience.

“It was like positive revenge,” he told AFP. “I wanted to prove I could do it. I also want to leave a legacy, to change people’s lives.”

Dhaouafi pointed to hurdles in Tunisia, where it can be hard or impossible to order parts via large online sales sites. There is a lack of funding and, he said, “we lack visionaries within the state”.

Startup 3-D prints solar-powered bionic hands
The bionic hand is made of Lego-like parts that can be replaced if damaged or to match a child’s physical growth

But by pooling money raised through sponsored competitions and seed investment from a US company, he was able to recruit four young engineers.

They are now fine-tuning designs, writing code and testing the artificial hand.

‘Climb like Spiderman’

The device works with sensors attached to the arm that detect muscle movement, and AI-assisted software that interprets them to transmit instructions to the digits.

The hand itself has a wrist that can turn sideways, a mechanical thumb and fingers that bend at the joints in response to the electronic impulses.

To teach youngsters how to use them, Cure has been working on a virtual-reality headset that “gamifies” the physical therapy process.

“Currently, for rehabilitation, children are asked to pretend to open a jar, for example, with the hand they no longer have,” said Dhaouafi.

“It takes time to succeed in activating the muscles this way. It’s not intuitive, and it’s very boring.”

In Cure’s version, the engineer said: “We get them to climb up buildings like Spiderman, with a game score to motivate them, and the doctor can follow up online from a distance”.

3-D printing meanwhile makes it possible to personalise the prosthesis like a fashion accessory or “a superhero’s outfit”, said Dhaouafi.

Cure hopes to market its first bionic hands within a few months, first in Tunisia and then elsewhere in Africa, where more than three-quarters of people in need have no access to them, according to the World Health Organization.

“The aim is to be accessible financially but also geographically,” said Dhaouafi.

The envisaged price of around $2,000 to $3,000 is substantial, but a fraction of the cost of bionic prostheses currently imported from Europe.

‘Leapfrog technology’

Cure also aims to manufacture as close as possible to the end users, with local technicians measuring the patients and then printing individually fitted devices.

“An imported prosthesis today means weeks or even months of waiting when you buy it, and again with each repair,” the inventor said.

Startup 3-D prints solar-powered bionic hands
Tunisian engineers test a prototype of an artificial hand, which they hope will be produced at a lower price than existing prostheses

The bionic hand is made of Lego-like parts that can be replaced if damaged or to match a child’s physical growth.

It can also be solar-powered via a photovoltaic charger for use in regions without a reliable electricity supply.

The 3-D printing of rudimentary prostheses started about a decade ago and is becoming standard.

It is not a magic solution because specialised medical know-how is still crucial, said Jerry Evans, who heads Nia Technologies, a Canadian non-commercial organisation that helps African hospitals manufacture 3-D-printed lower limbs.

“3-D printing is still in its early stages,” he said, “but it is a major game changer in the field of prosthetics and orthotics.”

“Developing countries will probably leapfrog to these technologies because the cost is much lower.”

A New Solar and Lighting technology

A New Solar and Lighting technology

Sam Stranks, University of Cambridge describes “How a new solar and lighting technology could propel a renewable energy transformation”. This will undeniably come to some help those countries that have opted strongly for renewables, such as Tunisia.

The demand for cheaper, greener electricity means that the energy landscape is changing faster than at any other point in history. This is particularly true of solar-powered electricity and battery storage. The cost of both has dropped at unprecedented rates over the past decade and energy efficient technologies such as LED lighting have also expanded.

Access to cheap and ubiquitous solar power and storage will transform the way we produce and use power, allowing electrification of the transport sector. There is potential for new chemical-based economies in which we store renewable energy as fuels, and support new devices making up an “internet of things”.

But our current energy technologies won’t lead us to this future: we will soon hit efficiency and cost limits. The potential for future reductions in the cost of electricity from silicon solar, for example, is limited. The manufacture of each panel demands a fair amount of energy and factories are expensive to build. And although the cost of production can be squeezed a little further, the costs of a solar installation are now dominated by the extras – installation, wiring, the electronics and so on.

A New Solar and Lighting technology
Two workers with white gloves work on a solar panel.
Workers in a factory of a Chinese solar panel maker in Hangzhou, China. EPA/STR

This means that current solar power systems are unlikely to meet the required fraction of our 30 TeraWatt (TW) global power requirements (they produce less than 1 TW today) fast enough to address issues such as climate change.

Likewise, our current LED lighting and display technologies are too expensive and not of good enough colour quality to realistically replace traditional lighting in a short enough time frame. This is a problem, as lighting currently accounts for 5% of the world’s carbon emissions. New technologies are needed to fill this gap, and quickly.

Halide perovskites

Our lab in Cambridge, England, is working with a promising new family of materials known as halide perovskites. They are semiconductors, conducting charges when stimulated with light. Perovskite inks are deposited onto glass or plastic to make extremely thin films – around one hundredth of the width of a human hair – made up of metal, halide and organic ions. When sandwiched between electrode contacts, these films make solar cell or LED devices.

Amazingly, the colour of light they absorb or emit can be changed simply by tweaking their chemical structure. By changing the way we grow them, we can tailor them to be more suitable for absorbing light (for a solar panel) or emitting light (for an LED). This allows us to make different colour solar cells and LEDs emitting light from the ultra-violet, right through to the visible and near-infrared.

Despite their cheap and versatile processing, these materials have been shown to be remarkably efficient as both solar cells and light emitters. Perovskite solar cells hit 25.2% efficiency in 2019, hot on the heels of crystalline silicon cells at 26.7%, and perovskite LEDs are already approaching off-the-shelf organic light-emitting diode (OLED) performances.

These technologies are rapidly being commercialised, particularly on the solar cell front. UK-based Oxford Photovoltaics has built a production line and is filling its first purchase orders in early 2021. Polish company Saule Technologies released prototype products at the end of 2018, including a perovskite solar façade pilot. Chinese manufacturer Microquanta Semiconductor expects to produce more than 200,000 square meters of panels in its production line before year-end. The US-based Swift Solar (a company I co-founded) is pioneering high-performance cells with lightweight, flexible properties.

A New Solar and Lighting technology
Coloured perovskite light-emitting inks that can be cast down into thin films. © Sandeep Pathak, Author provided

Between these and other companies, there is rapid progress being made.

Solar windows and flexible panels

Unlike conventional silicon cells, which need to be very uniform for high efficiency, perovskite films are comprised of mosaic “grains” of highly variable size (from nano-meters to millimeters) and chemistry – and yet they perform nearly as well as the best silicon cells today. What’s more, small blemishes or defects in perovskite films do not lead to significant power losses. Such defects would be catastrophic for a silicon panel or a commercial LED.

Although we are still trying to understand this, these materials are forcing the community to rewrite the textbook for what we consider as an ideal semiconductor: they can have very good optical and electronic properties in spite of – or perhaps even because of – disorder.

A New Solar and Lighting technology
Light emitted from mosaic grains in a perovskite film
Light emitted from mosaic grains in a perovskite film. Dane deQuilettes/Sam Stranks

We could hypothetically use these materials to make “designer” coloured solar cells that blend in to buildings or houses, or solar windows that look like tinted glass yet generate power.

But the real opportunity is to develop highly efficient cells beyond the efficiency of silicon cells. For example, we can layer two different coloured perovskite films together in a “tandem” solar cell. Each layer would harvest different regions of the solar spectrum, increasing the overall efficiency of the cell.

Another example is what Oxford PV are pioneering: adding a perovskite layer on top of a standard silicon cell, boosting the efficiency of the existing technology without significant additional cost. These tandem layering approaches could quickly create a boost in efficiency of solar panels beyond 30%, which would reduce both the panel and system costs while also reducing their energy footprint.

These perovskite layers are also being developed to manufacture flexible solar panels that can be processed to roll like newsprint, further reducing costs. Lightweight, high-power solar also opens up possibilities for powering electric vehicles and communication satellites.

For LEDs, perovskites can achieve fantastic colour quality which could lead to advanced flexible display technologies. Perovskites could also give cheaper, higher quality white lighting than today’s commercial LEDs, with the “colour temperature” of a globe able to be manufactured to give cool or warm white light or any desired shade in between. They are also generating excitement as building blocks for future quantum computers, as well as X-Ray detectors for extremely low dose medical and security imaging.

Although the first products are already emerging, there are still challenges. One key issue is demonstrating long-term stability. But the research is promising, and once these are resolved, halide perovskites could truly propel the transformation of our energy production and consumption.

Sam Stranks, Lecturer in Energy and Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Cambridge

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Arabic Citation Index in Egypt by Clarivate

Arabic Citation Index in Egypt by Clarivate

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The most populous usage of the language and culture must be the reason Arabic Citation Index in Egypt by Clarivate has finally made it to the MENA region reports CISION’s PRNews.


Clarivate Launches the Arabic Citation Index in Egypt

Journal submissions now open to journals from across the 22 Arab League countries

LONDON, Aug. 17, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Clarivate Plc (NYSE:CCC), a global leader in providing trusted information and insights to accelerate the pace of innovation, has now launched the Arabic Citation Index™ (ARCI), the world’s first local language citation index for the Arabic world in Egypt.

The ARCI is funded by the Egyptian government, and is available across the entire research community in Egypt. It is also open to journal submissions by editors of Arabic-language journals and will be open to researchers and organisations in all 22 nations of the Arab League by the end of 2020.

Powered by the Web of Science™, the world’s largest publisher-independent global citation index, the ARCI provides access to bibliographic information and citations to scholarly articles from over 400 expertly curated Arabic journals, with language interface in both English and Arabic. The indexing of Arabic publications will provide local scientific communities with improved routes to collaborating with national, regional, and international research efforts – extending the Arabic academic footprint.

The ARCI is now open for journal submissions. Journals will be selected by an expert, publisher-neutral editorial board from across Arab League Nations, who will provide regional insights and subject knowledge. Journals are eligible for inclusion if they meet the selection criteria, which require peer-reviewed and accessible content. The editorial board will consider trends in local research pursuits and publishing activity in the region.

Mukhtar Ahmed, President, Science Group at Clarivate said: “The Arabic Citation Index, hosted on the Web of Science, will provide scientific communities across the Arabic world with the ability to make their journals, and the discoveries within them, more accessible within their region and beyond. It will connect papers in Arabic journals to more than 1.7 billion cited references and the highest quality research from across the globe.

“The ARCI is a significant endeavour created in close partnership with the Egyptian government and represents the latest in a long series of developments and investments in the Web of Science platform. We believe that it will enable human ingenuity in the region, helping Arabic researchers and editors turn their discoveries into life-changing inventions.”

Dr. Tarek Showki, Minister of Education & Technical Education, Egypt, President of Egyptian Knowledge Bank Project said: “We are delighted to see the ARCI launch. It has long been part of our 2030 Vision to transform Egypt into a ‘knowledge economy’ and will be the first ever mapping of Arabic scholarly literature in a citation index, helping us to evaluate the quality and research output of Arabic researchers, universities and research organizations.”

Eng. Majid Al Sadek, Director of The Egyptian National Scientific and Technical Information Network (ENSTINET) added, “The indexing of Arabic publications will now provide our local scientific communities with the ability to contribute to not only national and regional research efforts but also internationally, helping us to extend the Arabic academic footprint further.” 

Mrs. Ola W. Laurence, Independent Consultant for the Professional Services of Egyptian Knowledge Bank was instrumental in driving this initiative forward.  She added, “This important project will make Arabic scholarly content more accessible, connecting it to more than 1.7 billion cited research references and the highest quality, peer-reviewed scholarly content from across the globe. I believe it will help drive usage of local content, as well as providing access to the highest-quality, peer-reviewed content from around the world.”

For more information on selection criteria, see the brochure, and click here for more information on how to submit a journal.

Notes to editors: The ARCI will be the fifth regional citation index developed by the Web of Science, alongside the Chinese Science Citation Database™ SciELO Citation Index™, Russian Science Citation Index™ and the KCI-Korean Journal Database™.

About Clarivate

Clarivate™ is a global leader in providing trusted information and insights to accelerate the pace of innovation. We offer subscription and technology-based solutions coupled with deep domain expertise that cover the entire lifecycle of innovation – from foundational research and ideas to protection and commercialization. Today, we’re setting a trail-blazing course to help customers turn bold ideas into life-changing inventions. Our portfolio consists of some of the world’s most trusted information brands, including the Web of Science™, Cortellis™, Derwent™, CompuMark™, MarkMonitor™ and Techstreet™. For more information, please visit clarivate.com.

About the Egyptian Knowledge Bank

The Egyptian Knowledge Bank is a national project launched in November 24th, 2015 by the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to offer each Egyptian citizen with the chance to learn, think and innovate. The Egyptian Knowledge Bank is the largest digital library and online knowledge hub providing students, researchers and all Egyptians with access to free education and scientific publications in various branches of knowledge.

Forward-Looking Statements 

This press release and any statements included herein may contain forward-looking statements regarding Clarivate. Forward-looking statements provide current expectations or forecasts of future events and may include statements regarding results, anticipated synergies and other future expectations. These statements involve risks and uncertainties including factors outside of the control of Clarivate that may cause actual results to differ materially. Clarivate undertakes no obligation to update or revise the statements made herein, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. 

Contact details: Amy Bourke-Waite, Director of External Communications, Science Group. Media.enquiries@clarivate.com

I tried to go zero-waste in 2019

I tried to go zero-waste in 2019

A Civilisation Hell bent on Destroying Itself seems to be what is pushing today’s people to try anything within their reach. For instance, Deepti Kannapan starts in his article dated August 5 by stating: I tried to go zero-waste in 2019 before adding ‘I bought my groceries bulk or package-free whenever I could, carried my own silverware to the work cafeteria, and stopped ordering food delivered to my house.’ Here is that article.


What Can One Person Do to Protect The Environment?

Three things: Innovate, call their Representative, and organize boycotts

Every time I went to a big-chain coffee store I made sure to pointedly ask for my coffee “for here, in a mug” while making eye contact with the cashier and miming holding a mug. Even with all this emphasis, about every one time in twenty I got handed a disposable coffee cup. At this point I’d be torn: that cup is going in the trash no matter what I did; but I dislike the experience of drinking from a disposable coffee cup. I usually ended up asking the barista to pour it into a mug for me.

Eventually, I told my regular barista that I’d quit disposable coffee cups as a new year’s resolution (which it was not). He changed the order and thanked me for making that resolution.

Most people reacted similarly when I told them what I was doing: with admiration, and then backing away by saying they could never do it themselves. Overall, not an encouraging reaction, because I’m not having much impact by myself. I’m just one person out of billions.

Innovate in your household.

My zero-waste experiment in 2019 resulted in a lot of frustration, but that frustration was useful. I deeply understood the difficulties of eschewing disposable cups.

Using this knowledge, I’ve been experimenting with methods to store my reusable cups and workflows for washing and replacing them. I’m hoping to find or develop a cup that’s fun to drink out of, easy to wash, store, and keep dry.

Innovations like this aren’t particularly high-tech or difficult to do, but that is how progress often happens. According to Eric Von Hippel, a professor who studies innovation at MIT,

Every field we look at in terms of the basic innovations, about half were done by users. And it’s fantastic. Companies very seldom mention the user-developed roots of their innovations.

If you’re frustrated by a problem, you’re uniquely qualified to figure out a solution, whether that’s a trash sorting system, a modified water bottle, or durable clothing.

People modifying products to make them do what they want is how we got the mountain bike. Companies often incorporate the modifications users want, as Von Hippel describes.

And then as a lot of people begin to do it, they say, “Aha! Not only is there a proven innovation, but there’s a signal of general demand.” And that’s the point at which you begin to define what a mountain bike should look like.

Participate in the political process.

Innovating helps create the technologies and processes that push the envelope beyond what we already have. Now the question is, will people use them?

They will if you regulate industries and compel them to adapt with the improvements in the state of the art.

Politics is an area where at first glance, it can seem like an individual voter has no influence. I found the idea of getting involved overwhelming. The 2018 election was the first time I participated beyond voting — I canvassed voters, phone banked, and called my Representatives, as often as I felt up to it, and eased my way into greater engagement.

And the results showed me how momentum can build.

Start small. Sign up for a mailing list of an organization like the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, or any group that resonates with you, and keep aware of environment-related bills that are coming up in your state or country.

Then, after a while, when you feel brave enough, call your Member of Congress or whoever represents you win your government, and tell them how you’d like them to vote on it.

Organize boycotts.

I put this last because this is where most people assume you have to start. I am in favor of boycotts, but only when there is enough leverage to give them a chance of success.

Boycotts tend to work by tarnishing a company’s brand. They work best when the company has a good reputation that is sliding, and that it wants to restore. Boycotts don’t need to significantly impact the company’s revenue to succeed.

Most importantly, they need to be well-organized, focused, and strategic. So just buying what you approve of and not buying what you don’t will not have much of an impact.

Zephyr Teachout, an author and associate professor of law at Fordham Law School, wrote in a recent Atlantic article:

[…] we have somehow inculcated a belief that if someone fails to boycott a company, she lacks standing to object to political behavior or to petition Congress for change. People feel guilty about not boycotting, and that guilt gets in the way of full-throated political protest.

There’s no need to feel guilty about the products you buy. You can’t boycott every flawed product in the world at once; you wouldn’t be able to live.

It’s a good idea to learn to plan an effective boycott. It starts with choosing the right target — a company that is sensitive to criticism. Done right, boycotts can succeed.

Think big.

My avoidance of disposable coffee cups probably didn’t cause the coffee shop to order fewer of them. It probably didn’t cause the overall market for disposable cups to decrease, or fewer cups to be manufactured.

That’s okay because my experiment got me thinking bigger — about the possible products we haven’t yet invented, the legislation we need, and the markets and industries as a whole.

It got me thinking about where we have the most leverage. That’s where we are going to act.

Here’s the workbook I use for researching and selecting sustainable products.Sustainability Experiments

Tools and processes as building blocks to a better supply chain

F

WRITTEN BY

Deepti Kannapan

Where does MENA stand with digital skills?

Where does MENA stand with digital skills?

The World Bank‘s question in its Starting line — Where does MENA stand with digital skills? is answered by Andreas Blom, Nicole Goldin, Mariam Nusrat as follows.

July 14, 2020

The key to success in this changing landscape is a digital skills revolution.
The key to success in this changing landscape is a digital skills revolution. (Photo credit: GaudiLab/Shutterstock)

Not that long ago, people like Abdullah, a young Syrian man who was forced by the ongoing war to drop out of university, would have found it nearly impossible to safely earn a living. But through Edraak, an Arabic platform for open online education launched by the Queen Rania Foundation in Jordan, he gained graphic design and digital marketing skills. Now, he earns a decent living as a freelance remote worker in Jordan.

Abdullah’s story is emblematic of how the global phenomena of digitization is transforming life in the Middle East and North Africa. By 2025, the Middle East is estimated to have 160 million potential digital users who will contribute significantly to rapid economic growth. 

Amid the dual economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse in oil prices, digital platforms are becoming even more critical to the region’s economy. With schools being closed since March and 4 in 5 workers affected by business closures globally, per International Labor Organization estimates, the shut-down of public life has revved up the need to move to digital, virtual, and remote learning solutions to build skills and ensure opportunities for people to earn a living.

Yet this emergency need is not being met. Moreover, MENA is missing real-time opportunities for digital development. Digital transformation can lead to rapid, sustained growth, but only if countries invest in digital infrastructure and human capital.

The key to success in this changing landscape is a digital skills revolution. While definitions and typologies differ, ‘digital skills’ generally refers to students, workers and people of all ages having and applying competencies, knowledge and attitudes to learn, earn and thrive in digital societies.

Digital skills most commonly comprise a continuum of basic, intermediate or advanced skills; and, as we will discuss in our next blog on competencies, they may also refer to a range of different abilities, many of which are not only ‘skills’ per se, but a combination of behaviors, expertise, know-how, work habits, character traits, dispositions and critical understandings.

As laid out by the International Telecommunication Union, Basic Skills are the general ICT skills required “broadly for all workers, consumers and citizens in a digital society” — such as word processing or researching online. Building on that foundation, Intermediate Skills are “effectively job-ready skills needed to perform more complicated work-related functions” such as social media marketing or e-commerce. Advanced or ‘Specialist’ Skills, which “form the basis of specialist occupations and professions,” are necessary to test, analyze, manage, or create digitally based products or services. These advance skills are needed to harness technology to resolve complex problems, guide others such as policymakers, contribute to professional practices, and propose new innovative ideas to advance economic development.

Where does MENA stand with digital skills?

Skills are the supply side of digital labor markets; jobs are the demand side. Digital or ICT work can be conceived in three terms: enhanced, dependent, intensive. Some jobs are enhanced by digital tools, whereas with others — such as Internet freelancing or call centers — technology is fundamental to the work. Digitally intensive work — such as machine learning or app development — requires more specialist and advanced skills.

While data is sparse and likely not as up-to-date as the pace of change, we have learned important baseline details about the digital skills match — or mismatch — in MENA’s digital labor market. There is a shortage of digital human capital in MENA, marked by skills and information gaps. For example, in its 2017Future of Work study, McKinsey found that across the region, only 1.7% of the workforce is ‘digital talent.’ In their last 2017 skills survey of the region, Bayt/YouGov, a leading jobs website in MENA, revealed that IT jobs are among the top open positions, evidence of an acute talent and skills shortage in the region.

The Gulf countries are arguably the most advanced in terms of digital transformation. Yet, GCC countries still have a significant digital skills gap. In a 2020 survey by PwC of CEOs in the Middle East, 70% said the availability of key digital skills is a business threat, and an earlier 2017 study found that only one of the 10 skills most commonly cited by digital professionals in the GCC matches the fastest-growing skills found globally on LinkedIn. Furthermore, none of the top 10 available skills in the GCC is a technical or specific digital skill.

Beyond these baselines, there is much we do not know. Researchers need employment surveys at the country level and more complete, recent data to better inform policies and programs that drive digital skills development. 

In this blog series, MENA Digital Directions, we will analyze and compare digital skills competence frameworks, discuss how to build digital skills across the educational pipeline, explore the role of the private sector and identify digital opportunities for women, youth and refugees. With a thorough understanding of the digital landscape and the right investments in digital infrastructure and skills, countries can ensure that more young people like Abdullah have a chance for a brighter, more connected future.

To get an idea of the MENA’s current and successful blogs, see Anuj Agarwal’s blog. https://blog.feedspot.com/middle_east_blogs/