Feature stories | Technology & innovation

Smart solar panels and 24 hours to build house: Far East achievements

3 Apr '18
Russian media outlets report weekly some really noteworthy tech developments originating in Skolkovo at the outskirts of Moscow, in the Ingria Technopark in St. Petersburg, or in leading universities and research hubs in the European part of Russia. Thousands of kilometers east, however, in regions most of European Russians will hardly ever visit at all, innovative thinking also materializes in quite interesting and sometimes very useful projects with great potential. Of course, not all will evolve to disrupt their respective markets; many can hardly be referred to as completely unique; but they still are efforts to watch for investors. Below are just a few of these, developed in Russia’s Far East.

Solar panels that look for light

Viktor Zalessky, a student at the Far East State Agrarian University in Blagoveshchensk, the center of the Amur region, has come up with a solar panel positioning tracker. With his invention, panels can proactively seek out the sunlight, rotating around their bearing axles.

“The efficiency of conventional solar panels increases dramatically with their ability to revolve and look for the sunlight instead of just receiving what little reaches them. The solution helps adjust to any weather condition, climate or season, “catching” most of what’s available from the sun,” the developer explained.

Unlike the existing competition, he said, his know-how requires no special skills in control and maintenance, and the tracker is considerably smaller. The system consists of light sensors and two motor units to move a panel vertically and horizontally.

So, this appears to be a combination of design simplicity and cost-effectiveness; the solution is said to be fairly economical.

Printing out living organs

In the Blagoveshchensk-based Amur Medical Academy, printing out human organs in earnest is already on the table. Not for actual transplantation to begin with, though; the printed human liver will serve to support preclinical trials for new drug candidates.

One of the developers is Sergei Barannikov, an Academy student and employee at NextGen Biosystems, a sizable biomed company set up as a private-public partnership between the Academy and a private investor.

According to Sergei, using their 3D bioprinter would make it possible for pharmas to stop experimenting on lab mice and rats, a method that is far from flawless because of clear differences in genetics between rodents and humans which take the edge off research results.

“What we suggest is not just the printing of separate cells but rather the production of an entire tissue with blood vessels and a lymphatic system. With the approach, test results for a drug candidate are nearly 100% reliable,” the developer said.

In addition, using the new bioprinter would help with disease simulation, for example, when testing a drug candidate for C-type hepatitis, the Academy said.

In need of a new house? You’ll get it in 24 hours

Here’s another area to make the most of 3D printing tech in. A new 3D printer by developers in Irkutsk, in the Lake Baikal region, is reported to be able to print out an up to 100 square-meter building within a day.

The printer, which uses real concrete to print, has already been tested outside Moscow where a full-size 37 square-meter house with walls, heat insulation and other critical components took just 24 hours and a very competitive $10,300 to complete.

Two people are enough to run the feeding of material and the printing, and also to enter key input data into proprietary software. The developers say it takes 30 minutes at most to get the system fully prepared for operation, and no waste or construction debris is left when the process is over. The printer is fully operational at minus 35 degrees Celsius, a feature so sought-after in frost-bitten regions like Siberia.
Oleg Kouzbit, managing editor: “I’m glad you join us here and take The Bridge walk for Marchmont’s weekly review of the Russian regions’ innovative present and future. Stay close and you’ll find out more of how Russia is bridging the existing gap between its researchers and businesses.”
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