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Rechargeable Snow Shovel does the heavy lifting

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Snow and winter is for sure interesting part of the year for any people! Everyone loves the whit look from their window. However, life has its very own way of balancing things out. With winter comes snow, and unless you are super rich with an entire platoon of servants catering to your every whim and fancy so much so that you do not need to lift a single finger to attend to this thing known as house chores around the home, then chances are those of you living in a standard house would have to shovel your driveway of snow should there be too much of the white stuff falling overnight. Of course, there is always the option to hire help or to install Heated Traction Mats, but with the world’s economy not doing roaring business these days, why not get some exercise in? Good thing there is the $249.95 Rechargeable Snow Shovel that will help facilitate the shoveling of snow in your driveway much faster and with less effort.

The Rechargeable Snow Shovel is a cordless powered snow shovel which is capable of clearing a path without the need for any heavy lifting on your side. This is made possible thanks to a 500-watt motor which will propel a two-blade paddle auger, helping toss snow up to 25′ and clearing a 13″ wide by 6″ deep pathway. Apart from that, there is a second handle located half way down the shaft which can be adjusted for optimal two-handed control, while the over 6′-long contoured shaft delivers ergonomic comfort that is easy on the back. The Rechargeable Snow Shovel tips the scales at less than 15lbs, making it ideal for walkways, porches, or patios. A 3-hour charge delivers up to 50 minutes of shoveling.

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A ‘supersmart’ artificial skin has been revealed that could give patients back a sense of touch. Researchers in South Korea say their skin is extremely similar to human skin. It is stretchy, like real skin, and even has a built-in heater so it feels like living tissue. It can sense pressure, temperature, and humidity, and researchers tested the artificial skin on a prosthetic hand, and found the wearer could even sense if a diaper was wet or dry.

‘The prosthetic hand and laminated electronic skin could encounter many complex operations such as hand shaking, keyboard tapping, ball grasping, holding a cup of hot or cold drink, touching dry or wet surfaces and human to human contact,’ they write in the paper, which was published today in Nature Communications. The bulk of the new skin is composed of a flexible, transparent silicone material called polydimethylsiloxane — or PDMS.

Embedded within it are silicon nanoribbons that generate electricity when they’re squished or stretched, providing a source of tactile feedback. They can also sense whether an object is hot or cold. The humidity sensors are made up of capacitors, and were tested using a diaper. Researchers had the prosthetic hand prod various diapers, and it turned out it was able to distinguish between wet and dry diapers. The team also decided that to give the feel of real skin, the skin needed to be warm.  ‘For prosthetic devices and artificial skin to feel natural, their temperature profile must be controlled to match that of the human body,’ the authors write.

To test whether or not the skin maintains a steady 98 degrees Fahrenheit, the researchers put the hand on a plastic baby doll and measured the amount of heat the hand transferred to the doll. By adjusting the shape of the silicon nanoribbon patterns, the researchers can adjust how stretchy the skin is. For regions where the skin doesn’t need to stretch, such as the fingertips, the nanoribbons are packed in a tight linear pattern to maximize sensitivity. For areas like the wrist, which need more flexibility, the nanoribbons form a more loopy pattern, allowing for more room to expand by up to 16 percent. ‘This is an important demonstration of the applications of stretchable electronics,’ said Bao.

‘Currently we have demonstrated our system in small animals. But the next step is to continue the development for the advanced version, such as a complicated array of sensors that emulate real mechano- and thermo- sensory functions of the human,’ Kim Dae-Hyeong,  co-author of the study , told CBS.


The bulk of the new skin is composed of a flexible, transparent silicone material called polydimethylsiloxane - or PDMS. Embedded within it are silicon nanoribbons that generate electricity when they’re squished or stretched, providing a source of tactile feedback. They can also sense whether an object is hot or cold. Humidity sensors are made up of capacitors. Thermal actuators control how much heat the artificial skin emits.

sources: engadget,, cnet, CBS

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This prototype of artificial tree that uses turbines hidden inside plastic leaves to create power

Until now, only windmill was an option for generating electricity. A team of French engineers have change that. They have developed an artificial tree that is able to generate electricity from wind power. ‘The idea came to me in a square where I saw the leaves tremble when there was not a breath of air,’ said Jérôme Michaud-Larivière, the founder of the Parisian start-up which will market the Wind Tree in 2015. He added the energy ‘had to come from somewhere and be translatable into watts’. It uses tiny blades housed in the ‘leaves’ that turn in the wind - regardless of its direction - and has the added advantage of being completely silent.

This prototype of artificial tree that uses turbines hidden inside plastic leaves to create power

After three years of research, the team of engineers developed a 26ft prototype, which is now installed in the Pleumeur-Bodou commune in Brittany in northwestern France. He hopes they can eventually be used in people’s own homes and in urban centers. The tree, which will sell for £23,500, can reportedly generate electricity on twice the number of days as a conventional wind turbine because it can generate power on winds of just 4.5mph. Mr Michaud-Lariviere said the tree - which has not yet been tested by an independent laboratory - is profitable after winds of 7.8mph on average over one year. He hopes the tree can be used to exploit small ‘deposits’ of air currents flowing into town along the buildings and streets to feed, for example, LED street lamps, or a charging station for electrical cars.

This prototype of artificial tree that uses turbines hidden inside plastic leaves to create power

He admits there are more consistent winds 160ft in the air but they require ‘monstrous machines’, far from where energy is consumed, he added. He hopes the tree can be combined with other means of power generation such as photovoltaic, and geothermal, combined with energy-efficient buildings. In the future Mr Michaud-Larivière hopes to develop a ‘perfect tree that has leaves with natural fibers, roots that could generate geothermal energy and ‘bark’ covered with photosensitive cells. However, Robert Bellini an engineering expert at the Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), says the potential of small wind turbines in the city remains ‘quite low’.

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Faeces could soon be used to power a future generation of mobile phones, scientists claim. Researchers have discovered a natural process that occurs within the bacteria found in poo, that could help improve ‘bio batteries’. It is hoped the discovery could produce energy for portable technology, such as smartphones, mobiles, tablets and laptops. The study from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich focused on how electrons cross bacterial proteins. Both human and animal waste contains bacteria, which ‘breathe’ minerals of iron - much like we breathe oxygen. An electrical charge is released as a side effect during this ‘breathing’ process. The charge is released from the cell, similar to the neutral wire in a household plug, and can then be harnessed. The scientists looked at proteins called ‘multi-haem cytochromes’ that are contained in a species of bacteria called Shewanella, found in faeces. Lead researcher Professor Julea Butt, from the university’s schools of chemistry and biological sciences, said: ‘These bacteria can generate electricity in the right environment.

‘This is an exciting advance in our understanding of how some bacterial species move electrons from the inside to the outside of a cell and helps us understand their behaviour as robust electron transfer modules. ‘We hope that understanding how this natural process works will inspire the design of bespoke proteins which will underpin microbial fuel cells for sustainable energy production.’ Researchers from University College London and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, were also involved in the study. In July last year, scientists at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory claimed to have developed the world’s first urine-powered smartphone.

They created a way of using urine as a power source to generate electricity. While many people might turn their noses up at the energy source, the researchers said that it is the ‘ultimate waste product’ and does not rely on the erratic nature of the wind or the sun. Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, an expert at harnessing power from unusual sources using microbial fuel cells at the University of West England, Bristol, which was also involved in the research, said: ‘No-one has harnessed power from urine so it’s an exciting discovery. ‘Using the ultimate waste product as a source of power to produce electricity is about as eco as it gets. ‘One product that we can be sure of an unending supply is our own urine. ‘By harnessing this power as urine passes through a cascade of MFCs, we have managed to charge a Samsung mobile phone. Microbial fuel cells, or MFCs, are energy converters that turn organic matter directly into electricity by utilising the metabolism of live micro-organisms. He explained that at the time, the microbial fuel power stack they developed generated enough power to enable text messaging, web browsing and a short phone call.

Dr Ieropoulos said: ‘The concept has been tested and it works - it’s now for us to develop and refine the process so that we can develop MFCs to fully charge a battery. ‘Essentially, the electricity is a by-product of the microbes’ natural life cycle, so the more they eat things like urine, the more energy they generate and for longer periods of time.’ The electricity output of MFCs is relatively small and the researchers are currently only been able to store and accumulate low levels of energy into capacitors for short charge and discharge cycles. However they claim that this is the first time that scientists have been able to directly charge the battery of a device such as a mobile phone and it should be seen as a significant breakthrough.


Many micro-organisms can, unlike humans, survive without oxygen. Some bacteria survive by ‘breathing rocks’ instead - especially minerals of iron. They derive their energy from the combustion of fuel molecules that have been taken into the cell’s interior. A side product of this reaction is a flow of electricity that can be directed across the bacterial outer membrane and delivered to rocks in the natural environment - or to graphite electrodes in fuel cells. This means that the bacteria can release electrical charge from inside the cell into the mineral, much like the neutral wire in a household plug. Professor Julia Butt explained: ‘Proteins conduct electricity by positioning metal centres – known as haems - to act in a similar way to stepping stones by allowing electrons to hop through an otherwise electrically insulating structure. ‘This research shows that these centres should be considered as discs that the electrons hop across.’

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Japanese technology giant Toshiba has unveiled a huge factory farm where it is growing various types of lettuce leaves without sunlight or soil for sale in its new healthcare business. Located in disused 21,000-square foot electronics factory in Yokosuka, Toshiba claims to have created a perfect ‘germ free’ environment where it will grow three million bags of lettuce a year. Completely cut off from conditions outside the temperature and humidity controlled isolation tank, lettuce inspectors wear full body suits while making notes on the quality and growth of the leaves on their tablet computers in order to prevent the air around the plants becoming contaminated. Each plant is blasted with artificial lighting to trick it into believing it is exposed to sunlight, while vitamins and nutrients are injected directly into its roots, meaning the lettuce does not need soil. The goal of Toshiba’s new high-tech farm is to produce the world’s highest quality lettuce. The final product will be free of any form of bacteria, fungi or insect life before being placed into sealed bags, which should ensure the product has a longer shelf life than other lettuces.


The gardening technique aims to have a bacteria ration of no more than 1/1000th – considerably lower than that found in normal gardening soil. Toshiba aims to harvest three million bags of leaf lettuce, baby leaf greens, spinach, mizuna and herbs every year – with each bag likely to cost consumers £1.  The ultimate in organic vegetables, the lettuces require no pesticides but are expected to have a similar shelf to plants that have been heavily treated with chemicals.  The lettuce factory is no marketing gimmick by Toshiba, however. Instead it represents the company’s latest attempt to diversify its technology-led business. There are already plans for the technology giant to build similar factories around the world over the coming years – and it will also be selling the high tech equipment that allows factories to produce similar products of exceptionally high quality.


Toshiba was founded in 1938 as Tokyo Shibaura Electric through the merger of Shibaura Seisaku-sho, founded in 1875, and Tokyo Denki, founded in 1890. The company name was officially changed to Toshiba Corporation in 1978.

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Captain America, the Hulk and Iron Man relied on the incredible ‘Helicarrier’ to launch their planes from the air in the 2012 The Avengers film. And now, the US military is taking a leaf out of Marvel’s comic after it invited people to submit ideas for future ‘aircraft carriers in the sky.’ The hope is that these flying fortresses will someday carry, launch and recover multiple swarms of drones anywhere in the world. According to Darpa - the Pentagon’s advanced military technology research agency - military air operations typically rely on large, manned, robust aircraft. But such missions put these expensive aircraft, and their pilots, at risk. And while small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can reduce or eliminate such risks, they lack the speed, range and endurance of larger aircraft. Darpa believes the solution is to create a flying Avengers-style platform that can rapidly carry these drones wherever needed.

‘We want to find ways to make smaller aircraft more effective, and one promising idea is enabling existing large aircraft, with minimal modification, to become ‘aircraft carriers in the sky’,’ said Dan Patt, Darpa project manager. ‘We envision innovative launch and recovery concepts for new UAS designs that would couple with recent advances in small payload design and collaborative technologies.’ The new project, called Distributed Airborne Capabilities, is likely to use a plane similar to the B-52 Stratofortress bomber, B-1B Lancer bomber or C-130 Hercules cargo plane, according to a report by The Washington Post.

Darpa is also involved in another initiative, dubbed the Hydra Project, which is aiming to develop a network of undersea ‘motherships’, capable of deploying both underwater and aerial drones. Meanwhile, the US Air Force is developing tiny unmanned drones that will fly in swarms, hover like bees, crawl like spiders and even sneak up on unsuspecting. The Air Vehicles Directorate, a research arm of the Air Force, last year released a computer-animated video outlining the future capabilities of Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs). ‘MAVs will become a vital element in the ever-changing war-fighting environment and will help ensure success on the battlefield of the future,’ the video explained. ‘Unobtrusive, pervasive, lethal - Micro Air Vehicles, enhancing the capabilities of the future war fighter.’ Air Force officials have already produced tiny remote-control prototypes - but they consume so much power that can only operate for a few minutes. Researchers estimate that it will take several years of advances in battery technology to make the designs feasible.


Drones that can choose to deviate from a set mission and hunt in ‘swarms’ could be patrolling skies within the next 25 years, according to a recent roadmap. Unmanned aircraft carrying stronger chemical weapons could also be on the horizon, the US Department of Defence (DoD) revealed in its Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap. While the document sets out plans for unmanned maritime, land and air vehicles, there is a lot of focus on the future capability of controversial drones, which, if the plans come to fruition, could deviate from mission commands set by humans if they spot a better target. The DoD’s roadmap also features plans for deadly ‘swarms’ of drone-bombs that are launched from an unmanned ‘mothership’ to circle the skies while a human operator searches for targets for the drones to crash into, guided by the bots’ on-board cameras.

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Cockroaches are known to be able to survive a nuclear explosion – and once day they could be saving trapped victims in a variety of disasters. Researchers have fitted the hardy creatures with electrical backpacks complete with tiny microphones to detect the faintest of sounds. The idea is that cyborg cockroaches, or ‘biobots’, could enter crumpled buildings hit by earthquakes, for example, and help emergency workers find survivors.

‘In a collapsed building, sound is the best way to find survivors,’ said Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University. ‘The goal is to use the biobots with high-resolution microphones to differentiate between sounds that matter - like people calling for help - from sounds that don’t matter - like a leaking pipe. ‘Once we’ve identified sounds that matter, we can use the biobots equipped with microphone arrays to zero-in on where those sounds are coming from.’

The ‘backpacks’ control the robo-roach’s movements because they are wired to the insect’s cerci - sensory organs that cockroaches usually use to feel if their abdomens brush against something. By electrically stimulating the cerci, cockroaches can be prompted to move in a certain direction. In fact, they have been programmed to seek out sound. One type of ‘backpack’ is equipped with an array of three directional microphones to detect the direction of the sound and steer the biobot in the right direction towards it. Another type is fitted with a single microphone to capture sound from any direction, which can be wirelessly transmitted - perhaps in the future to emergency workers. They ‘worked well’ in lab tests and the experts have developed technology that can be used as an ‘invisible fence’ to keep the biobots in a certain area such as a disaster area, the researchers announced at the IEEE Sensors 2014 conference in Valencia, Spain. A previous study led by Dr Edgar Lobaton, who is also at the university, showed that biobots can be used to map a disaster area. Dr Lobaton and Professor Bozkurt plan on merging their research to both map disaster areas and pinpoint survivors.


Professor Bozkurt’s team has recently demonstrated technology that creates an invisible fence for keeping biobots in a defined area. This is significant because it could be used to keep them at a disaster site and to keep the biobots within range of each other so that they can be used as a reliable mobile wireless network. The technology could also be used to steer biobots to light sources, so that tiny solar panels on biobot backpacks can be recharged.


The idea of turning cockroaches into cyborg slaves is not new, Gizmodo reported. Kits are available for under $100 (£63) that enable people to control their own insect by stimulating its antennae with electrical signals. This lets people ‘drive’ an insect for a few minutes. While the creators of the ‘Roboroach kit’ claim the cockroach forgets the experience after 20 minutes, some people think it is cruel.

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Wind turbines are often bemoaned for their unsightly appearance, noise and danger to local wildlife - but what if we put them underwater? That’s exactly what Caithness-based company MeyGen, owned by Atlantis Resources Ltd, plan to do with their initial £51m ($82m) underwater turbine project. By the end of the year they plan to install turbines off the Scottish coast and they say the technology could be used as a more environmentally friendly source of green energy in future. It’s thought that harnessing its energetic waters could power up to a third of Scotland. The first turbines are set to be placed at the turn of the new year, with more being placed over the next few years. Unlike wind turbines, underwater turbines would never be ‘off’ as there is a constant flow of water. MeyGen’s turbines are slightly smaller than their land counterparts but generate a similar amount of electricity a year - about one megawatt - and the company plans to eventually build several hundred. This would be enough to power 175,000 homes. They rotate 12 to 14 times a minute, while compared to regular wind turbines they are slightly more ‘stubby’ with smaller blades.


Speaking to MailOnline, Meygen CEO Dan Pearson said he hoped Phase 1 of construction would be completed by the end of 2016. He explained that the turbines will be about 0.9 miles (1.5km) from the shore and they will be ‘on a par with wind turbines’ in terms of their productivity.

‘The costs are higher but this is brand new technology,’ he adds. ‘We have to make it work first.’ Mr Pearson is also adamant there won’t be significant danger to nearby marine life. And MeyGen’s project will be in quite shallow water, meaning the turbines can be dropped down by a crane. By the early 2020s they want to deploy up to 398 megawatts of offshore tidal stream turbines for the UK National Grid. And there are further plans to exploit the Pentland Firth over the next two decades, installing 1,000 turbines that will generate 1.6 gigawatts of energy, enough for more than a million homes.



The turbines will be lined up 525ft (160 metres) apart, weighted down by scrap metal. As the water depth in the Pentland Firth is about 130ft (40 metres), small craft will be able to sail over the area of about four square miles (10.4 square kilometres) without fear of hitting them. When complete in 2020, the Pentland Firth project will generate enough electricity for 400,000 homes. There are further plans to exploit the Pentland Firth over the next two decades, installing 1,000 turbines that will generate 1.6 gigawatts of energy, enough for more than a million homes. Because the waters are so rough, little fishing takes place and there is no danger to fish life as the blades revolve so slowly. The turbine farm, which will be clearly marked on charts, is well away from sensitive military areas where Royal Navy submarines operate.

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Scientists believe they have found a way to read our minds. They have created a computer program that can decode brain activity that creates the ‘voice in our head’ and put it into words. The breakthrough could give the ‘locked in’ or paralysed hope that they could one day communicate using the system. ‘If you’re reading text in a newspaper or book, you hear a voice in your own head,’ Brian Pasley told New Scientist .

‘We’re trying to decode the brain activity related to that voice to create a medical prosthesis that can allow someone who is paralysed or locked in to speak.’

The team conducted their first experiments in 2011, and are currently looking at patients who suffer from Aphasia, a condition that robs you of the ability to communicate. Aphasia can affect your ability to express and understand language, both verbal and written, and typically occurs suddenly after a stroke or a head injury. In their first experiments, the team recorded the brain activity of seven people undergoing epilepsy surgery while they looked at a screen displaying the nusery rhyme Humpty Dumpty, the Gettysbury Address or the inaugural speech of President John F Kennedy. Their brain activity was monitored as they read aloud the text and when they read it silently in their heads. From the spoken data the team managed to build a personal ‘decoder’ for each patient which interpreted the information and turned into a visual representation. They then applied the decoder to brain activity during silent reading and found that they could reconstruct several words that were being thought just through neural imaging alone. The reseachers also tested the decode and algorithm with Pink Floyd sons to see which neurons respond to different musical notes. Although, at an early stage, the team is hopeful that eventually it could be used to monitor what people are thinking when they can no longer speak. They say it could offer a lifeline to those whose speech has been affected by stroke or degenerative disease, but many will be concerned about the implications of a technique that can eavesdrop on thoughts and reproduce them.

In the earlier experiment, neuroscientists at the University of California Berkeley put electrodes inside the skulls of brain surgery patients to monitor information from their temporal lobe, which is involved in the processing of speech and images. As the patient listened to someone speaking, a computer program analysed how the brain processed and reproduced the words they had heard. The scientists believe the technique could also be used to read and report what they were thinking of saying next. In the journal PLoS Biology, they wrote that it takes attempts at mind reading to ‘a whole new level’. Robert Knight, professor of psychology and neuroscience, added: ‘This is huge for patients who have damage to their speech mechanisms because of a stroke or Lou Gehrig’s [motor neurone] disease and can’t speak.


In their 2011 study, the team recorded the brain activity of seven people undergoing epilepsy surgery while they looked at a screen displaying the nusery rhyme Humpty Dumpty, the Gettysbury Address or the inaugural speech of President John F Kennedy. Their brain activity was monitored as they read aloud the text and when they read it silently in their heads. From the spoken data the team managed to build a personal ‘decoder’ for each patient which interpreted the information and turned into a visual representation. They then applied the decoder to brain activity during silent reading and found that they could reconstruct several words that were being thought just through neural imaging alone.

‘If you could eventually reconstruct imagined conversations from brain activity, thousands could benefit.’ In the first study in 2012, researchers tested 15 people who were already undergoing brain surgery to treat epilepsy or brain tumours. They agreed to have up to 256 electrodes put on to the brain surface, as they listened to men and women saying individual words including nouns, verbs and names. A computer programme analysed the activity from the electrodes, and reproduced the word they had heard or something very similar to it at the first attempt. Co-author Brian Pasley said there is already mounting evidence that ‘perception and imagery may be pretty similar in the brain’. Therefore with more work, brain recordings could allow scientists to ‘synthesise the actual sound a person is thinking, or just write out the words with a type of interface device.’ Their study also shows in sharp relief how the auditory system breaks down sound into its individual frequencies - a range of around 1 to 8,000 Hertz for human speech.

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Hearts that had been dead for over 20 minutes have successfully been transplanted into two Australian patients, thanks to a new method of preservation. The ability to save hearts that have stopped beating will drastically widen the amount of organs available, possibly suiting the needs of 30% of those on the transplant wait list. The research was a joint effort between Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and Sydney’s St. Vincent’s Hospital, with Professor Bob Graham leading the team.

Traditionally, donor hearts can only be harvested after brain death occurs, but the heart is still beating. If the heart stops beating, it is lacking a sufficient supply of oxygen. This lack of oxygen leads to damage and death of cardiac cells, which does not make for an ideal transplant organ. Thus, they need to harvest a functional heart, pack it in ice, and implant it in the recipient within four hours to ensure tissue quality.  While kidneys and livers can be obtained after cardiac death, hearts have never been used.

For a heart to be successfully transplanted, many different factors need to come together all at once and this precludes many from obtaining life-saving organs, one of which is simple geography. An organ might be a perfect match for someone, but if they are slightly too far away to meet that deadline, they cannot use it.

This new technique makes use of heart death, not just brain death, which widens the pool of who can donate a heart. For instance, a person on life support may have a very small amount of brain activity left with no chance of getting better, but is not technically brain dead and therefore not a donor candidate. The patient’s family can choose to end life support, which will eventually cause the heart to stop beating. Five minutes after all cardiac activity has ended, the patient can be declared dead.

Graham’s team has spent the last 12 years developing a specialized fluid and pump that provide the heart with oxygen, reducing damage and preserving the tissue. The heart, which appears blue from lack of oxygen, begins to turn back to a normal pink color, which will also help resuscitate the organ, getting it to beat again. This feature is incredibly important, because getting it to beat on the machine is a good indicator that it will function after being transplanted into the recipient.

By keeping the donor heart functional and fresh, it just about doubles the four-hour transplant window. This allows time for a perfect match to be found, which is one of the surest signs that the surgery will be successful.

Two hearts that had been dead and then revived with Graham’s machine have been implanted into two patients who both suffered heart failure. The first was implanted two months ago into Michelle Gribilar, a 57-year-old woman from Sydney. Jan Damen received his heart about two weeks ago, and reports that he is feeling great.

“Both of the patients, I’m pleased to say, are doing extremely well. You can imagine that Peter Macdonald and Kumud Dhital, the surgeons, were on tenterhooks afterwards but the patients have done extremely well,” Graham told ABC’s Elizabeth Jackson. “The first patient now is several months out after transplantation. The second one is a shorter period but the second one went like butter.”

Graham also noted that this technique could also be used to save lives in countries including Japan, where “brain death” is not a legal definition of death, therefore disallowing hearts from those patients to be used.