In this week’s episode, we talk about some sweet new technology that feels a lot like the world is coming full circle from all the way back in the 1960s, when moonwalking and supersonic jets were state-of-the-art. We also talk about some of the innovations coming out of Compton where a small San Francisco-based startup is testing out new forms of vertical farming with autonomous robotic farmers being trained and tested in warehouses.
Additionally, some news coming out of silicon valley as Apple makes headlines while filling for new patents for some next-level advanced materials to be used in its mobile phone suite moving forward.
Founded in 2014, with founders Blake Scholl, Joe Wilding and Josh Krall, a company called Boom Supersonic is a startup looking into the past to build a new generation of supersonic passenger jets. Scholl said the company has already pre-sold $6 billion worth of its full-size aircraft, called Overture. These airplanes are expected to seat 65 to 88 passengers and will travel at subsonic speeds over land and supersonic speeds over water—more than twice as fast as current commercial aircraft.
Boom hopes to begin flying Overture for the first time in 2026 and hopes the craft will be available for commercial flights before the end of the decade. To make that happen, the XB-1 demonstrator represents the first step, Scholl said, to test key technologies for Overture, including shape and materials. "It's like our Falcon 1 rocket," Scholl said. "We are demonstrating not just the fundamental technology, we are able to pull it into a design that works."
They will begin flight tests for its XB-1 demonstrator aircraft in the third quarter of 2021.
Next up, we’re talking about the San Francisco based startup called Plenty. It’s a company that uses vertical farming to grow crops in enclosed and controlled environments. It wants to build at least 500 of these farms around the planet in densely populated cities.
The first Plenty farm went into production in south San Francisco in 2018 and its second site is in Compton. It hopes to start its first customer deliveries from the Compton farm sometime in 2021.
Vertical farms can produce food efficiently all year round while taking up significantly less space than a traditional farm. They also make the food supply chain more resilient due to the controlled environment.
Now for some space news, the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU for short, is a new type of spacesuit designed for protecting astronauts from the harsh environment of the lunar surface. NASA has plans to use the suits in 2024 for its Artemis mission.
The design is being tested at an underwater facility that can mimic different levels of gravity. NASA has officially announced that the new suit is designed with interchangeable parts that can be configured for spacewalks in microgravity or on a planetary surface.
The same core system could be used for the International Space Station, the Gateway in lunar orbit, the Moon, or Mars. The suit could be upgraded for the differences in the Martian environment, including additional technology for life support functionality in the carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere and modified outer garments to keep crew warm in the Mars winter and prevent overheating in the summer season.
While SpaceX has it’s eye on the red planet, it seems NASA is getting ready for the inevitable as well.
And last but not least for this week’s episode, we’re talking about Apple. Now valued at over $2 Trillion, the frighteningly large phone and personal computer manufacturer filed a patent in January for a foldable smartphone with a self-healing display that could repair dents or scratches on the screen.
The self-healing properties would automatically activate, using heat, light, or electric current to repair a protective layer above the screen when the device is being charged or on a schedule. Other companies, such as Samsung and Motorola, have released foldable phones, but they suffer from issues with the durability of the screens' displays.
LG had a device with a self-healing rear cover but it wasn't very effective. While there are no indications that Apple will launch a foldable phone with self-healing material anytime soon, it’s clear it has its sights set once again on trying to push the envelope.