How to power an FM radio using moss

If you love listening to music as much as you love this green Earth, then you’re going to be head over heels for this project.

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A British biochemist and a product designer worked together to build an FM radio powered by biological solar panels that incorporate moss.

In layman’s terms—it’s a radio powered by a plant.

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University of Cambridge biochemist Paolo Bombelli collaborated with London-based product designer Fabienne Felder to develop Moss FM. They say that in addition to their technology being the first plant-powered radio, it’s also the first functional moss-powered device that requires more electricity than an LCD screen.

“Moss FM is a biological solar panel,” said Bombelli in an interview with BBC Radio 4. “In the same way that the solar panels harnesses the energy of light and delivers electrical power, Moss FM it does it by using biological material.”

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While it might look like an elementary school science project, the device is actually a bit complicated. A frame holds 10 moss pots which are all connected to form, more or less, a “photo microbial fuel cell”. The biochemical process that takes place in this fuel cell harnesses the electrons and protons produced by the photosynthesizing plants, and turns them into electrical current.

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At the moment, the moss plants generate a potential of more than 4.5 volts The first time the radio powered up, it was able to play for a full 80 seconds. While moss was chosen because it’s cheap and easy on the eyes, the bio-radio duo said that other plants and algae can be used. They plan on exploring this, and also seeing if they can increase the amount of power generated.

See the radio in action below:

Drummer builds bionic arm to keep on rocking

Inspirational story about musician who found solution to keep playing his favorite instrument

When aspiring drummer Jason Barnes lost his right arm two year ago, he didn’t give up on his dream of being a professional drummer. Instead, he built a crude prosthetic using springs that allowed him to keep playing his favorite instrument.

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His efforts and passion for the music got him enrolled at the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media, where he met Professor Gil Weinberg who realized he could build Barnes something better.

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In addition to a small robot arm that allows Barnes to accurately control a drumstick vis-à-vis the muscles in his upper arm, the prosthetic also has a second drumstick that plays autonomously. It includes a microphone and accelerometer to read Barnes’ rhythm, and it automatically starts drumming along with a complementary rhythm of its own.

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Barnes still needs to perfect the use of his new prosthetic, but things are working out so well so far that he will actually be performing in a concert at the Atlanta Science Festival in a few weeks, where he’ll be playing alongside some of the school’s other autonomous devices.

Video of Barnes in action below:

Play music with these gloves — no instruments required!

Student research project comes up with hands on, instruments off idea for music creation

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Cornell engineering student Ray Li came up with the pretty nifty looking gloves you see above. Referred to as the “Aura”, the hand warmers are actually wearable, electronic musical instruments. To play them, the user slips the sensor-equipped gloves on and moves them through a magnetic field. The movement itself is tracked and the hand positions are converted into MIDI signals (electronic instrument language), which are then fed into a synthesizer.

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Pitch is controlled by the user raising or lowering their hands. Spreading them apart increases volume, while closing one’s fingers muffles the sound. When the user twists his or her hands, the sound gets distorted.

Oh, and since different hand positions can be assigned to trigger various sounds in the MIDI catalogue, there’s the potential to create some pretty unique new musical compositions, as Li demonstrates in the video below.

“The goal was to create the most intuitive instrument,” Li said. “We’re trying to capture those intuitive gestures and make music.”

3D printed music box plays custom-composed songs

Yesterday’s music machinery given modern-day technology facelift

When we talk about awesome portable speakers, a hand-cranked music box isn’t the first thing that normally comes to mind, but the folks over at Left Field Labs have come out of, well, left field and really surprised us with their latest endeavor.

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Referred to as “Music Drop”, the device you see above is a modern-day approach to yesterday’s music machinery; that is, the hand-cranked music box. The Left Field team explains their thinking, saying “. . . since the 18th century, people have embraced the charm of the music box – a compact music player originally built on the mechanics and tradition of artisan watchmaking. We wanted to create a modern day adaptation to put tech and cheer right in your hand.”

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Outside of the design of the box itself, the buyer has complete control over their music box. They can customize it first by naming it, then they can choose the colors and music that they want the box to play by uploading it via the group’s site.

Once all of the data’s in, the Left Field team will assemble the Music Drop by hand and ship it over to your home.

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Left Field Labs is “excited to see what we could do with 3D printing capabilities and with learnings from some of our more recent projects and experiments, we were attracted to the idea of tapping into the recent shift towards personalized, small-scale fabrication.”

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below!

Mixtape lets you enjoy your music and smoke it too

DJ collaboration takes unique approach to pushing latest album

In the world of marketing, timing is everything. And for Chicago-based DJ collaboration Flosstradamus, their marketing stunt is right on queue.

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The group has just released their latest mixtape, called B⚠NNED 3D, and while there is plenty of high-quality trap-and-bass songs on the album, what makes it particularly noteworthy is the fact that the mixtape itself is a cross between a hard drive and a portable vaporizer.

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That is, the album is a 4GB hard drive that lets listeners store additional songs to it, and it’s also a vaporizer that encourages the user to listen to the music while taking in various “aromatherapy herbs” or marijuana oils, now legal in the great state of Colorado.

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From the group’s website:

B⚠NNED 3D goes in swinging straight haymakers towards your eardrums as tracks from LOUDPVCK, RL Grime B2B Baauer, Mr Carmack, and Riff Raff are mixed in with unreleased Flosstradamus collaborations with Waka Flocka and DJ Snake respectively. The mixtape comes via a signature “Aromatherapy Herbs” approved vaporizer we picked up from Flosstradamus at their sold out IRL show in Chicago. The vaporizer also doubles as a convenient 4 GB hard drive to take file and dab sharing on the go.

Like what they’re doing here and want to see if the music is worth a try? (Fans and critics alike are praising the album). Take a listen for yourself here.