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This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

How old batteries will help power tomorrow’s EVs

To Redwood Materials, the rows of cardboard boxes in the parking lot of its new battery recycling site just outside Reno, Nevada, represent both the past and the future of electric vehicles.

Far from trash, the battery materials in the wireless keyboards, discarded toys and chunks of used Honda Civic batteries are treasure—the metals are valuable ingredients that could be critical to meeting exploding demand for electric vehicles.

Redwood Materials is just one of several new recycling ventures that are not only preventing the metals from being buried in landfills, but also spurring a booming market for electric vehicles. The ever-growing number of EVs will require far more metals than are currently available. While recycling can’t address material shortages alone, it has a significant role to play. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

This is where Tesla’s former CTO thinks battery recycling is headed

As Tesla’s former chief technology officer, JB Straubel has been a major player in bringing electric vehicles to the world. He’s often credited with inventing key pieces of Tesla’s battery technology and establishing the company’s charging network.

Now, as founder of Redwood Materials, he’s at the forefront of battery recycling. Our climate reporter Casey Crownhart spoke to him about the role he sees battery recycling playing in the transition to renewable energy, his plans for Redwood, and what’s next. Read the full story.

Battery recycling is one of our 10 Breakthrough Technologies, which we’re showcasing one-by-one in The Download each day. Why not take a look at the rest of the list, and vote in our poll to help us decide what should make the final 11th?

Here’s how Microsoft could use ChatGPT

Microsoft is reportedly eyeing a $10 billion investment in OpenAI, the startup that created the viral chatbot ChatGPT, and is planning to integrate it into Office products and Bing search.

This is a big deal. If successful, it will bring powerful AI tools to the masses. So what would ChatGPT-powered Microsoft products look like? While neither Microsoft or OpenAI were willing to answer our questions, we know enough to make some informed, intelligent guesses. Hint: it’s probably good news if you find creating PowerPoint presentations and answering emails boring. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

Melissa’s story is from The Algorithm, her weekly AI newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 China’s population has fallen for the first time in 60 years
The news has major implications for the country’s social, defense and economic policies. (CNN)
China’s economy is slumping. (Quartz)
India is set to take over as the world’s most populous country. (Economist $)
Anti-covid zero demonstrators are still being detained. (Bloomberg $)

2 The first bill for Elon Musk’s Twitter purchase is looming
How he deals with it is yet another major test of his leadership. (FT $)
We’re witnessing the brain death of Twitter. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Getty Images is suing Stable Diffusion’s creators
Getty claims the software was trained using millions of unlawfully scraped images. (The Verge)
Microsoft is adding ChatGPT to its cloud service “soon.” (Bloomberg $)

4 EV sales have passed a significant milestone
They made up 10% of new cars sold last year. (WSJ $)
Tesla is slashing its prices—but not everyone’s happy. (The Verge)

5 Tenant-screening algorithms reportedly discriminated against Black renters
Now the US Department of Justice is getting involved. (Wired $)
AI has exacerbated racial bias in housing. Could it help eliminate it instead? (MIT Technology Review)

6 3D printed buildings could help to solve the US housing crisis
But there’s a major barrier: the way the construction industry works now. (New Yorker $)
Meet the designers printing houses out of salt and clay. (MIT Technology Review)

7 US tech firms are poaching talent from Latin American startups
Local startups struggle to match the salaries, which are still low by US standards. (Rest of World)

8 The agony and ecstasy of owning a coveted Instagram handle
You’d better prepare for people trying to steal it. (Slate $)

9 Life management apps can be more trouble than they’re worth
They’re designed to lighten our load, but can often add to it instead. (Vice)
Chore apps were meant to make mothers’ lives easier. They often don’t. (MIT Technology Review)

10 One of the internet’s favorite memes deserves a happier ending 
Maybe this really is fine,

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: battery recycling, and how AI might revamp Microsoft Office
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2023/01/17/1067026/download-battery-recycling-ai-revamp-microsoft-office/
Published Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2023 13:11:00 +0000

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This architect is cutting up materials to make them stronger and lighter

Twisted tilings EB EDIT Red Blue scaled

As a child, Emily Baker loved to make paper versions of things: cameras, a spaceship cockpit, buildings for a town in outer space.

It was a habit that stuck. Years later, studying architecture in graduate school at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, she was playing around with some paper and scissors. It was 2010, and the school was about to buy a CNC plasma cutter, a computer-controlled machine capable of cutting lines into sheets of steel. As she thought about how she might experiment with it, she made a striking discovery.

Twisted tilings EB EDIT Red Blue 1 scaled
To develop Spin-Valence, a novel structural system, Emily Baker
created prototypes by making cuts and folds in sheets of paper before
shifting to digitally cut steel.

By making a series of cuts and folds in a sheet of paper, Baker found she could produce two planes connected by a complex set of thin strips. Without the need for any adhesive like glue or tape, this pattern created a surface that was thick but lightweight. Baker named her creation Spin-Valence. Structural tests later showed that an individual tile made this way, and rendered in steel, can bear more than a thousand times its own weight.

Emily Baker
Baker in her fabrication
lab at the University of Arkansas.BROOKE BIERHAUS

In chemistry, spin valence is a theory dealing with molecular behavior. Baker didn’t know of the existing term when she named her own invention—“It was a total accident,” she says. But diagrams related to chemical spin valence theory, she says, do “seem to have a network of patterns that are very similar to the tilings I’m working with.”

Soon, Baker began experimenting with linking individual tiles together to produce a larger plane. There are perhaps thousands of geometric cutting patterns that can create these multiplane structures, and she has so far discovered only some of them. Certain patterns are stronger than others, and some are better at making curved planes.

Baker uses software to explore each pattern type but continues to work with cut paper to model possibilities. The Form Finding Lab at Princeton is now testing various tiles under tension and compression loads, and the results have already proved incredibly strong.

Baker is also exploring ways to use Spin-Valence in architecture and design. She envisions using the technique to make shelters or bridges that are easier to transport and assemble following a natural disaster, or to create lightweight structures that could be packed with supplies for missions to outer space. (Closer to home, her mother has begun passing along ideas to her quilting group; the designs bear a strong resemblance to quilt patterns.)

“What I find most exciting about the system is the way it adds stiffness to something that was previously very flexible,” says Isabel Moreira de Oliveira, a PhD candidate in civil engineering at Princeton, who is writing her dissertation on Spin-Valence and testing which shapes work best for specific applications. “It entirely changes the behavior of something without adding material to it.” Plus, she adds, “you can ship this flat. The assembly information is embedded in how it’s cut.” This could help reduce transportation costs and lower carbon emissions generated from

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By: Sofi Thanhauser
Title: This architect is cutting up materials to make them stronger and lighter
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/04/23/1090915/emily-baker-architect-materials-disaster-zones-design/
Published Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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The Download: the future of geoengineering, and how to make stronger, lighter materials

This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Why new proposals to restrict geoengineering are misguided

—Daniele Visioni is a climate scientist and assistant professor at Cornell University

The public debate over whether we should consider intentionally altering the climate system is heating up, as the dangers of climate instability rise and more groups look to study technologies that could cool the planet.

Such interventions, commonly known as solar geoengineering, may include releasing sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere to cast away more sunlight, or spraying salt particles along coastlines to create denser, more reflective marine clouds.

The growing interest in studying the potential of these tools has triggered corresponding calls to shut down the research field, or at least to restrict it more tightly. But such rules would hinder scientific exploration of technologies that could save lives and ease suffering as global warming accelerates—and they might also be far harder to define and implement than their proponents appreciate. Read the full story.

This architect is cutting up materials to make them stronger and lighter

As a child, Emily Baker loved to make paper versions of things. It was a habit that stuck. Years later, studying architecture in graduate school, she was playing around with some paper and scissors when she made a striking discovery.

By making a series of cuts and folds in a sheet of paper, Baker found she could produce two planes connected by a complex set of thin strips. Without the need for an adhesive, this pattern created a surface that was thick but lightweight. Baker named her creation Spin-Valence.

Structural tests later showed that an individual tile made this way, and rendered in steel, can bear more than a thousand times its own weight. Baker envisions using the technique to make shelters or bridges that are easier to transport and assemble following a natural disaster—or to create lightweight structures that could be packed with supplies for missions to outer space. Read the full story.

—Sofi Thanhauser

This story is for subscribers only, and is from the next magazine issue of MIT Technology Review, set to go live tomorrow, on the theme of Build. If you don’t already, subscribe now to get a copy when it lands.

Three things we learned about AI from Emtech Digital London

Last week, MIT Technology Review held its inaugural Emtech Digital conference in London. It was a great success, full of brain-tickling insights about where AI is going next.

Here are the three main things Melissa Heikkilä, our senior AI reporter, took away from the conference.

This story is from The Algorithm, our weekly AI newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 US child protection agencies are inundated with AI-created abuse images
And their systems are struggling to spot real children who could be helped. (WP $)
A new report is urging tech platforms to improve how such material is reported. (The Verge)
Legislation that could overhaul problems in the reporting pipelines is in motion. (WSJ $)

2 A startup edited human DNA using generative AI 
It aims to make the new wave of CRISPR faster and more powerful. (NYT $)
Forget designer babies. Here’s how CRISPR is really changing lives. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Amazon is shutting down one of its drone delivery programs in California
Just two years after it launched. (The Verge)

4 There’s no room in China’s tech sector for over-35s
Ageism is rife as companies overlook workers they worry may have home commitments. (FT $)
One of China’s most successful cultural exports? Bubble tea. (Bloomberg $)

5 Measuring ocean waves and currents is hard
Luckily, a new kind of sensor-rich buoy that communicates with satellites is one solution. (IEEE Spectrum)

6 Recycling plastic has been a colossal failure
Can ‘advanced recycling’ finally crack it? (New Scientist $)
Think that your plastic is being recycled? Think again. (MIT Technology Review)

7 How to make your home as energy-efficient as possible
Appliances are much better than they used to be, but you may still have to make sacrifices. (Vox)

8 Captchas are getting tougher to solve
Machines are getting better at cracking them, so the bar is raised for humans. (WSJ $)
Death to captchas. (MIT Technology Review)

9Good luck getting a restaurant reservation these days
Pesky bots and convoluted online booking systems are wrecking our dinners. (New Yorker $)

10 Muting annoying accounts makes social media so

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: the future of geoengineering, and how to make stronger, lighter materials
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/04/23/1091655/the-download-the-future-of-geoengineering-and-how-to-make-stronger-lighter-materials/
Published Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2024 12:10:00 +0000

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This solar giant is moving manufacturing back to the US

Shawn Qu 1

Whenever you see a solar panel, most parts of it probably come from China. The US invented the technology and once dominated its production, but over the past two decades, government subsidies and low costs in China have led most of the solar manufacturing supply chain to be concentrated there. The country will soon be responsible for over 80% of solar manufacturing capacity around the world.

But the US government is trying to change that. Through high tariffs on imports and hefty domestic tax credits, it is trying to make the cost of manufacturing solar panels in the US competitive enough for companies to want to come back and set up factories. The International Energy Agency has forecast that by 2027, solar-generated energy will be the largest source of power capacity in the world, exceeding both natural gas and coal—making it a market that already attracts over $300 billion in investment every year.

To understand the chances that the US will succeed, MIT Technology Review spoke to Shawn Qu. As the founder and chairman of Canadian Solar, one of the largest and longest-standing solar manufacturing companies in the world, Qu has observed cycle after cycle of changing demand for solar panels over the last 28 years. 

Shawn Qu 1 1
CANADIAN SOLAR

After decades of mostly manufacturing in Asia, Canadian Solar is pivoting back to the US because it sees a real chance for a solar industry revival, mostly thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed in 2022. The incentives provided in the bill are just enough to offset the higher manufacturing costs in the US, Qu says. He believes that US solar manufacturing capacity could grow significantly in two to three years, if the industrial policy turns out to be stable enough to keep bringing companies in.

How tariffs forced manufacturing capacity to move out of China

There are a few important steps to making a solar panel. First silicon is purified; then the resulting polysilicon is shaped and sliced into wafers. Wafers are treated with techniques like etching and coating to become solar cells, and eventually those cells are connected and assembled into solar modules.

For the past decade, China has dominated almost all of these steps, for a few reasons: low labor costs, ample supply of proficient workers, and easy access to the necessary raw materials. All these factors make made-in-China solar modules extremely price-competitive. By the end of 2024, a US-made solar panel will still cost almost three times as much as one produced in China, according to researchers at BloombergNEF.

The question for the US, then, is how to compete. One tool the government has used since 2012 is tariffs. If a solar module containing cells made in China is imported to the US, it’s subject to as much as a 250% tariff. To avoid those tariffs, many companies, including Canadian Solar, have moved solar cell manufacturing and the downstream supply chain to Southeast Asia. Labor costs and the availability of labor forces are “the number one reason” for that move, Qu says.

When Canadian Solar was founded in 2001, it made all its solar products in China. By early 2023, the company had factories in four countries: China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Canada. (Qu says it used to manufacture in Brazil and Taiwan too, but later scaled back production in response to contracting local demand.)

But that equilibrium is changing again as further tariffs imposed by the US government aim to force supply chains to move out of China. Starting in June 2024, companies importing silicon wafers from China to make cells outside the country will also be subject to tariffs. The most likely solution for solar companies would be to “set up wafer capacity or set up partnerships with wafer makers in Southeast Asia,” says Jenny Chase, the lead solar analyst at BloombergNEF.

Qu says he’s confident the company will meet the new requirements for tariff exemption after June. “They gave the industry about two years to adapt, so I believe most of the companies, at least the tier-one companies, will be able to adapt,” he says.

The IRA, and moving the factories to the US

While US policies have succeeded in turning Southeast Asia into a solar manufacturing hot spot, not much of the supply chain has actually come back to the US. But that’s slowly changing thanks to the IRA, introduced in

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————

By: Zeyi Yang
Title: This solar giant is moving manufacturing back to the US
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/04/23/1091665/canadian-solar-ira-manufacturing-us/
Published Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2024 14:39:45 +0000

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