Zero Mines is a group of people worldwide working on Open Source solutions for clearing land mines so people can grow food, travel, and live safely. Here is my suggestion.
Over 100 million land mines have been deployed around the world. Most of the places where these land mine are located are impoverished. The area that needs to be cleared is vast. The ideal solution would use cheap, easily available materials, that can be put together by anyone so that local people can quickly clear their own land.
The standard military approach to clearing a mine field is to use a heavily armored vehicle with a motorized flail to trigger the landmines. Armor is one way of staying safe while detonating a mine but not the only way. Distance is another.
A strong rope is cheap and can pull a heavy object across a mine field from a distance to detonate any mines. But you typically must go forward into a mine field. So how can you pull something towards you without first putting it in front of you? There is a very simple way.
The device I described fits those requirements. It is just a big rake rotating on a pivot pulled by a rope or cable from a safe distance to trigger mines.
1. place the pivot
2. pull the rope or cable from a safe distance or behind sand bags
3. sweep the rake over area to be cleared
4. move pivot / rake to cover more area
Dragging an object a distance from the arm would reduce the damage to the arm but even if the arm is damaged it is cheap and easy to replace. This might not be enough for all uses of the land or all types of land but can quickly clear an area for human travel and light use. If you need to go deeper use a heavier object and tines to dig up the ground.
Poor people in China transport natural gas in large plastic bags. If this could be made safe it’s a very low cost alternative to expensive pipelines. Natural gas could be quickly and cheaply distributed to places without infrastructure.
Running underground pipes is a large investment. The small amount of natural gas these people would use doesn’t make that investment worth while.
The danger is if the gas is ignited. Three things are required to cause this danger, enough oxygen for ignition, natural gas mixed with oxygen, spark or flame.
A very simple solution is to put the natural gas bag inside another bag filled with carbon-dioxide. This would prevent ignition. CO2 could also be used to prevent an explosion while filling the bag with natural gas. First fill the bag with CO2 then use the natural gas to force out the CO2 into another empty bag of the same size. When the second bag is full you know the first bag is filled with natural gas. The process could then be repeated with the second bag.
Two years ago in “Why We Don’t Have Flying Cars, Yet” I explained why automation is the next big innovation for vehicles, not alternative energy.
Standford is offering a 7 week undergraduate class teaching how to program a self-driving car. Automation improves the under-satisfied outcome of cars but it is also technologically easier to make than low-cost long range batteries for an electric car.
The Predictive Innovation report the video was based on was first offered to GM but they turned it down. European and Asian car companies used the information and are now selling cars with automated driving features.
Volvo’s XC60 has a City Safety feature that automatically brakes to prevent crashes. It’s a pure gasoline car with lots of room and power. It is priced about the same as the Chevy Volt, although doesn’t receive any of the government incentives.
|2011 US Car Sales|
The Volvo XC60 with City Safe automatic braking sold 68% more cars in the USA than Chevy Volt. So not only was it easier to build, and thus more profitable, it sold more units. The automated car is more desirable to customers. One of the key points of the report was to offer incremental improvements with meaningful value to customers. That made sure the new features were high quality and low cost.
In addition to satisfying safety, automated cars are better for the environment than an electric car. Electric cars just shift the source of pollution from burning gasoline in the car to burning coal at a power plant. Automated cars use less energy.
First, replacing or repairing a car damaged in an accident uses more energy than the car ever will from driving it. And how can you count the cost of injuries and deaths?
Secondly, by reducing traffic congestion automated cars can save energy for all the cars on the road while reducing drive times and frustration.
Automation in vehicles is still a big innovation opportunity.