SciTech Now Episode 209

In this episode of SciTech Now, the largest desalination plant in North America is making Tampa Bay water safer and cleaner; space architecture and engineering expert Madhu Thengavelu discusses building settlements on the Moon and Mars; brain surgery performed while awake helps mitigate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease; and the Financial Times reports on the one-atom thick layer of carbon called graphene that is 200 times stronger than steel and thinner than a sheet of paper.

TRANSCRIPT

COMING UP -- MAKING SEAWATER SAFE AND DELICIOUS TO DRINK...

WE ARE OPERATING THESE USING THESE NATURAL RESOURCES IN A VERY SUSTAINABLE WAY, AND ALSO TO GET THROUGH THOSE DRY SEASONS, BECAUSE IT IS UNPREDICTABLE.

...CUTTING-EDGE BRAIN SURGERY WHILE CONSCIOUS...

DR. ASIF BASHIR AND HIS TEAM MONITOR THE ACTIVITY OF NERVE CELLS AND TARGET THE SIGNALS THAT CAUSE TREMOR AND PARKINSON'S DISEASE SYMPTOMS.

THE KICKER?

JOHN IS AWAKE FOR THE ENTIRE PROCEDURE.

...AND THE ELEMENT THAT MIGHT CHANGE THE WORLD.

HERE IN THE LABORATORIES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER, RESEARCHERS ARE MAKING AND WORKING WITH GRAPHENE, THE REVOLUTIONARY 2D MATERIAL THAT'S SUPERSTRONG, SUPER-CONDUCTIVE, BUT ALSO VERY DIFFICULT TO WORK WITH.

IT'S ALL AHEAD.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE BY THE CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING, LEWIS B. AND LOUISE HIRSCHFELD CULLMAN, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PARTICIPATING STATIONS.

HELLO. I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

WELCOME TO OUR WEEKLY PROGRAM BRINGING YOU THE LATEST BREAKTHROUGHS IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION.

LET'S GET STARTED.

ONE OF OUR MOST PRECIOUS RESOURCES, FRESH AND CLEAN DRINKING WATER, IS IN SHORT SUPPLY.

THE LARGEST DESALINATION PLANT IN NORTH AMERICA, LOCATED NEAR TAMPA, FLORIDA, USES REVERSE OSMOSIS TO CREATE SAFE, CLEAN, AND MUCH-NEEDED WATER FOR A THIRSTY PUBLIC.

HERE'S A LOOK.

A BURGEONING POPULATION, EXPANDED FARMING, AND INCREASED MANUFACTURING ALL DEMAND MORE WATER.

TAMPA BAY WATER PROVIDES SAFE WATER FOR THE COMMUNITIES IN THE BAY AREA.

GENERAL MANAGER MATT JORDAN KNOWS THE CHALLENGES OF FINDING MORE WATER.

THERE'S A LOT OF DISCUSSION AND RESEARCH DONE IN MAKING CERTAIN THAT WE HAVE A PLAN MOVING FORWARD THAT WOULD MAKE US DROUGHT-RESISTANT AND TO DEAL WITH THOSE PROLONGED DRY PERIODS THAT WE DO SOMETIMES EXPERIENCE.

MOST COMMUNITIES HAVE TWO SOURCES, BUT HERE IN TAMPA BAY, A THIRD OPTION HAS IMMERGED.

TRADITIONALLY IN FLORIDA, WE'VE HAD GROUNDWATER AND WE'VE HAD SURFACE WATER FROM RIVERS, AND WE ALSO HAVE DESALINATED SEAWATER FROM TAMPA BAY.

THEIR DESALINATION PLANT IS LOCATED IN THE BIG BEND AREA IN GIBSONTON, FLORIDA.

CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER CHUCK CARDEN EXPLAINS HOW THEY TAKE UNDRINKABLE SEAWATER AND CREATE SAFE, DELICIOUS DRINKING WATER.

WE ARE HERE AT THE FRONT END OF THE TAMPA BAY SEAWATER DESALINATION FACILITY.

AS YOU CAN SEE BEHIND ME, THE WATER'S FLOWING IN.

THAT WATER IS COMING FROM OUR PARTNER AND OUR FRIEND ACROSS THE STREET AT THE BIG BEND POWER PLANT.

THEY TAKE IN 1.4 BILLION GALLONS EVERY DAY FROM THE BAY TO USE IN THEIR PROCESS OF MAKING ELECTRICITY.

THEY USE THAT WATER TO COOL THEIR CONDENSER UNITS.

AND THEN, AFTER THEY'RE DONE, IT GOES RIGHT BACK INTO THE BAY.

AND WE ASKED THEM IF WE COULD HAVE 44 MILLION GALLONS OF THAT 1.4 BILLION GALLONS.

THE PLANT OPERATES IN MULTIPLE STAGES.

FIRST, THE WATER GOES THROUGH PRE-TREATMENT.

WE'RE ADDING SOME CHEMICALS IN ORDER FOR IT TO GET THE SMALLER PARTICLES TO STICK TOGETHER.

THE FOAM ON TOP IS PROTEINS IN THE WATER.

IF YOU'RE EVER AT THE BEACH AND YOU SEE THE WAVES COME UP, YOU MAY SEE SIMILAR FOAMING ACTION.

YOU CAN ALSO SEE THE RUST COLOR IN THE WATER.

THAT'S THE CHEMICAL WE ADD -- THE COAGULANT, FERRIC CHLORIDE.

AND THEN THERE'S SOME LARGE FAN BLADES BEING TURNED BY THAT MOTOR THAT'S STIRRING EVERYTHING UP, MIXING IT REALLY WELL.

WE'RE TRYING TO GET THE SMALLER PARTICLES TO GLUE TOGETHER, STICK TOGETHER, GET HEAVIER, AND SETTLE TO THE BOTTOM.

THERE'S SOME LARGE CHAINS THAT PULL BOARDS EVERY 10 FEET APART.

AND IT'S BASICALLY TAKING WHAT'S FALLEN OUT OF SUSPENSION AND IS NOW ON THE BOTTOM AND DRAGS IT TO THE VERY END OF THE POOL, WHERE THERE'S SOME PUMPS THAT WE PUMP OUT THAT WASTE.

THE SALT WATER NOW GOES THROUGH SAND FILTERS TO REMOVE LARGER PARTICLES.

THE SAND IS BEING ROTATED BY AIR.

AND THEY COME INTO CONTACT -- THE DIRTY PARTICLES ATTACH THEMSELVES TO THE SAND.

NOW, ONE OF THE NEAT THINGS ABOUT THIS IS, WE DON'T HAVE TO SHUT ANY OF THE FILTERS DOWN TO BACKWASH THEM.

THEY CONTINUOUSLY CLEAN THEMSELVES AS THEY'RE WORKING.

YOU'LL SEE THE SAND BEING THROWN UP AGAINST THE SIDES.

THE DIRTY WATER COMES OFF OF THE SAND PARTICLES, GETS COLLECTED, AND THE CLEAN SAND GOES RIGHT BACK IN, DROPS UNDERNEATH THE PIPE, AND DOES SOME MORE CLEANING.

A SECOND, MASSIVE FILTER SYSTEM REMOVES VERY SMALL PARTICLES THAT HAVE MADE IT THIS FAR.

THE DIATOMACEOUS EARTH FILTER HAS BASICALLY BEEN AROUND A LONG TIME.

THOSE VESSELS ARE ABOUT 20 FEET TALL.

THERE'S 18 OF THEM INSIDE THERE.

AND IF WE TOOK THE LID OFF, THERE WOULD BE THESE LONG TUBES -- AND WE CALL THEM CANDLES -- THAT HANG DOWN FROM THE LID.

THERE'S ABOUT 300 OF THESE CANDLES ON EACH ONE OF THOSE VESSELS.

WE GET DIATOMACEOUS EARTH POWDER -- IT LOOKS A LOT LIKE TALCUM POWDER -- ADD WATER TO IT, MAKE A SLURRY, AND THEN WE INTRODUCE IT INTO THE VESSEL, AND IT ACTUALLY COATS THE OUTSIDE OF EACH ONE OF THOSE CANDLES.

AND THEN WE PULL WATER THROUGH TO THE CENTER, AND IT MOVES ON.

ALL OF THE DIRT THAT'S TRAPPED ON THE OUTSIDE COLLECTS UNTIL, AT SOME POINT, WE'VE GOT TO SHUT DOWN AND BACKWASH EACH ONE OF THOSE VESSELS.

ONLY ONE UNWANTED COMPOUND REMAINS -- SODIUM CHLORIDE, COMMONLY KNOWN AS SALT.

THE CLEAN SEAWATER IS NOW INTRODUCED TO REVERSE OSMOSIS, WHERE MEMBRANES PASS SMALLER MOLECULES.

THE WATER COMES INTO THIS BUILDING AND IS PRESSURIZED UP TO 1,000 PSI AND PUSHED THROUGH EACH ONE OF THOSE MEMBRANES.

THERE ARE OVER 10,000 OF THESE MEMBRANES INSIDE OF THIS PLANT, AND THEY COST GENERALLY AROUND $500 APIECE, SO YOU CAN GET THE IDEA HOW EXPENSIVE THEY ARE.

UNDER HIGH PRESSURE, SMALL MOLECULES -- LIKE H2O, OR WATER -- PASS THROUGH THE MEMBRANE, AND LARGE MOLECULES -- LIKE SODIUM CHLORIDE, OR SALT -- ARE HELD BACK.

IN FACT, WHAT COMES THROUGH THERE IS 0.00001 THE SIZE OF A HUMAN HAIR -- CAN ONLY GET THROUGH.

EVENTUALLY, THE CLEAN WATER GETS TO THE CENTER OF THOSE TUBES.

IT'S COLLECTED TOGETHER, AND IT IS SENT OVER TO ANOTHER PART OF THE PLANT CALLED OUR POSTTREATMENT.

THE SALT CONTINUES ON ITS WAY, BEING TRAPPED FROM GETTING IN, BUT EVENTUALLY EXITS OUT THE BACK SIDE.

AND IT'S STILL AT 900 PSI, SO WE COLLECT THAT AND THAT ENERGY, AND WE USE IT TO SPIN A TURBINE TO HELP US WITH OUR POWER COSTS.

THE BRINE WATER IS THEN MIXED WITH THE 1.4 BILLION GALLONS OF POWER PLANT WATER AND RETURNED TO THE BAY.

THIS DILUTION KEEPS THE SALINITY INCREASE TO A MINIMUM.

SURPRISINGLY, PURE WATER IS NOT CONSIDERED SUITABLE FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION.

THE POSTTREATMENT PROCESS PUTS BACK ESSENTIAL MINERALS.

WE WANT TO RAISE THE ALKALINITY AND THE pH TO GET THE WATER TO TASTE LIKE WATER'S SUPPOSED TO TASTE AND ALSO GIVE THE WATER BACK ITS MINERALS SO IT DOESN'T GO LOOKING FOR IT IN OUR PIPES AND EVENTUALLY WE'LL HAVE ALL OF OUR PIPES CORRODED.

WE COLLECT IT IN A 5 MILLION-GALLON TANK, AND THEN WE PUMP IT ALL THE WAY 14 MILES UP TO OUR BRANDON TREATMENT FACILITY, WHERE IT IS BLENDED WITH OUR SURFACE WATERS AND THEN, FINALLY, SHIPPED OUT TO THE CUSTOMER.

CURRENTLY, THIS IS THE LARGEST DESALINATION PLANT IN NORTH AMERICA, AND IT'S HAD A POSITIVE IMPACT ON OUR COMMUNITIES AND THE ENVIRONMENT.

THIS PLANT CAN PROVIDE UP TO 10% OF THE TAMPA BAY REGION'S DRINKING-WATER NEEDS, OR 25 MILLION GALLONS A DAY.

WE'RE OPERATING THESE USING THESE NATURAL RESOURCES IN A VERY SUSTAINABLE WAY AND ALSO TO GET THROUGH THOSE DRY SEASONS, BECAUSE IT IS UNPREDICTABLE, AND HAVING THAT THIRD OPTION OF DESALINATION GIVES US THE ABILITY TO GET THROUGH THOSE TIMES MUCH MORE EFFECTIVELY.

♪♪

HUMANS HAVE WALKED ON THE MOON AND HAVE EVEN GROWN AND EATEN LETTUCE IN SPACE.

COULD MANKIND LIVE ON ANOTHER PLANET?

SCIENTISTS ARE WORKING ON IT, SPECIFICALLY TO BUILD SETTLEMENTS ON THE MOON AND MARS.

JOINING ME IS MADHU THANGAVELU, A PROFESSOR IN THE DEPARTMENT OF ASTRONAUTICAL ENGINEERING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AND AN EXPERT IN SPACE ARCHITECTURE AND ENGINEERING.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT YOU HAVE TO CONSIDER WHEN YOU'RE BUILDING STRUCTURES ON THE MOON OR MARS?

JUST BEING OUT THERE IN SPACE IS DANGEROUS.

NOW, GETTING SOME PERSON TO GO DO SOMETHING IS EVEN MORE SCARY, BECAUSE YOU'RE ALL OF A SUDDEN DEALING WITH HEAVY, HEAVY EQUIPMENT.

PEOPLE SAY THAT IN SPACE, THINGS DON'T WEIGH ANYTHING, BUT THAT IS JUST PART OF THE EQUATION.

THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS, MASS IS STILL MASS AND INERTIA IS STILL INERTIA AND THAT THINGS CAN GO WRONG VERY QUICKLY.

WE'RE STILL STRUGGLING WITH IT AND FIGURING OUT WHAT MAKES FOR A SAFE BUILDING ENVIRONMENT ON THE SURFACE OF THE MOON OR MARS.

IT BECOMES CLEAR THAT WE CAN DO A LOT OF THINGS WITH ROBOTS.

AND WE CAN SLOWLY, SLOWLY TRY TO REMOVE THE HUMAN COMPONENT FROM DANGEROUS PLACES AND DANGEROUS ACTIVITIES.

AND YOU'VE SUGGESTED EVEN LOOKING INTO USING LOCAL MATERIALS.

ISN'T THAT RIGHT?

WHEN YOU GO TO AN EXTRATERRESTRIAL SURFACE, YOU CANNOT CARRY ALL THE THINGS WITH YOU, JUST AS YOU WOULD FOR A CAMPING TRIP OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, POUND FOR POUND, IT GETS VERY EXPENSIVE TO TRANSPORT MATERIALS FROM THE EARTH TO ANY PLACE -- TO ORBIT OR TO THE MOON OR, YOU KNOW, 10 TIMES MORE, 100 TIMES MORE TO GO TO MARS.

SO, WHAT IS THE OBVIOUS CHOICE?

IT'S VERY SIMPLE, YOU KNOW?

LOOK AROUND YOU.

YOU LAND AT A PLACE, YOU LOOK AROUND YOU AND SAY, 'HEY, OH, I CAN USE SOME OF THESE THINGS THAT ARE ALREADY THERE.'

AND SO, FOR THE CASE OF THE MOON, WE'VE BEEN LOOKING AT MAKING CONCRETE WITH THE MATERIALS THAT ARE ALREADY ON THE SURFACE OF THE MOON.

USING SPECIAL PROCESSES, WE ARE ABLE TO EXTRUDE THE MATERIAL AND PUT THEM TOGETHER TO FORM ANY KIND OF STRUCTURE THAT YOU LIKE.

AND THE MAGICAL PART -- WHICH, TO ME, STILL IS MAGICAL -- IS THAT YOU CAN DO THIS EVEN WITHOUT PEOPLE.

WE THINK, IF WE PLAN THIS ACTIVITY CAREFULLY AND LAND JUST THE TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT THAT ARE NECESSARY TO BUILD, WE CAN WATCH THEM BEING BUILT AND TAKE CONTROL OF THE BUILDING ACTIVITY WHILE STILL ON PLANET EARTH.

WHAT TIMEFRAME DO YOU EXPECT FOR SETTLEMENTS POTENTIALLY ON THE MOON OR ON MARS?

WE HAVE THINGS ORBITING THE MOON RIGHT NOW.

AND WE ARE ALREADY SAMPLING IT TO SEE WHAT IS SPECIFICALLY THERE THAT WE CAN USE.

WE SEND OUT SPACECRAFT THAT TELL US THERE'S PLENTY OF WATER.

IT WAS A CONCERN BEFORE THAT, YOU KNOW, THE MOON WAS DRY, DRY, BARREN, AND DRY.

NOT ANYMORE.

WE KNOW THERE'S LOTS OF WATER.

AND WHEN WE KNOW THERE'S WATER, WE ALSO KNOW WE CAN MAKE ROCKET FUEL FROM IT.

AND IT'S VERY IMPORTANT THAT WE MAKE ROCKET FUEL BECAUSE THE MOMENT YOU ARE ABLE TO MAKE ROCKET FUEL ON THE MOON, IT CHANGES THE ENTIRE ARCHITECTURE OF HOW WE FLY FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON OR TO MARS OR EVEN TO THE FURTHER PLANETS.

WOW.

AND SO, IF YOU ASK ME 'WHEN DO YOU EXPECT THIS TO HAPPEN?'

MY ANSWER IS 'IT'S HAPPENING NOW.'

ORBITERS ARE THERE, LOOKING DOWN AT THE MOON, CHECKING OUT WHERE WE THINK WE CAN DO OUR SETTLEMENTS.

I HAVE AN IDEA WHERE IT MIGHT BE.

BUT IT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.

WELL, PROFESSOR, I THINK THAT WRAPS IT UP.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

WELL, I'M SO HAPPY TO HAVE CONNECTED.

♪♪

PARKINSON'S DISEASE MAY PRESENT ITSELF SLOWLY, FREQUENTLY STARTING WITH A SLIGHT TREMOR OR A SHAKE.

IN SOME CASES, THESE SYMPTOMS CAN BE SO DEBILITATING THAT PATIENTS FIND THEMSELVES UNABLE TO PERFORM EVEN THE SIMPLEST OF TASKS.

REPORTER BRIANA VANNOZZI MEETS A MEDICAL TEAM EMPLOYING INNOVATIVE SURGICAL TECHNIQUES TO COMBAT THE TREMORS ROBBING SOME PATIENTS OF THEIR INDEPENDENCE.

THE TREMORS IN 45-YEAR-OLD JOHN LEONARD'S HANDS AND LEGS ARE SO SEVERE, HE'S UNABLE TO WORK OR DRIVE.

SIDE EFFECTS FROM THE STRONG MEDICATIONS DOCTORS IN HIS NATIVE ARIZONA INITIALLY PRESCRIBED LEFT HIS PERSONAL AND FINANCIAL LIFE IN RUINS.

FOR THE LAST MONTH, HE'D SPEND MOST OF HIS TIME IN HIS ROOM BECAUSE HIS LEGS SHAKE SO MUCH.

THE TREMORS WERE SO BAD THAT HE COULDN'T GET COMFORTABLE.

HE'S WHAT WE CALL TREMOR-DOMINANT EARLY ONSET PARKINSON'S DISEASE, BECAUSE HE WAS DIAGNOSED IN HIS MID-30s.

IT'S ONE OF THE WORST CASES DOCTORS AT JFK MEDICAL CENTER IN EDISON HAVE EVER SEEN.

BUT TODAY, HE'S UNDERGOING DEEP BRAIN STIMULATION SURGERY -- A PROCEDURE USED TO TURN THOSE TREMORS OFF.

SO, THIS IS THE LEAD THAT WOULD CONNECT TO THE MICROELECTRODE.

DR. ASIF BASHIR AND HIS TEAM ARE INSERTING A THIN INSULATED WIRE CALLED A LEAD.

IT'S CONNECTED TO ANOTHER WIRE THAT MONITORS THE ACTIVITY OF NERVE CELLS AND TARGETS THE SIGNALS THAT CAUSE TREMOR AND PARKINSON'S DISEASE SYMPTOMS.

THE KICKER?

JOHN IS AWAKE, BUT MILDLY SEDATED, FOR THE ENTIRE PROCEDURE.

ALL RIGHT, WHERE DO YOU FEEL THE TINGLING?

MY HAND.

OKAY.

SO, WE ARE BASICALLY LISTENING TO THE BRAIN.

AS WE PASS FROM THE THALAMUS INTO THE DEEPER PART OF THE BRAIN, WHICH IS THE SUBTHALAMUS, THE ACTIVITY GOES UP, AND DR. HANNA AND OUR TEAM IS ABLE TO TRACK THE WAVES OVER THERE, AS WELL AS WE CAN LISTEN TO THE ACTIVITY.

THEY USE AN MRI AND AUDIO CUES TO LOCATE THE EXACT TARGET IN THE BRAIN WHERE THE NERVE SIGNALS GENERATE THE SYMPTOMS.

LISTEN CLOSELY.

[ PATTERING ] THAT RAIN-ON-A-TIN-ROOF SOUND IS ACTUALLY JOHN'S BRAIN RESPONDING TO THE ELECTRODE.

YOU CAN HEAR THE BRAIN ACTIVITY GO UP, TELLING US WE'RE GETTING CLOSE TO THE TARGET.

[ PATTERING CONTINUES ]

THEY'LL SEND ELECTRICAL IMPULSES FROM A NEUROSTIMULATOR THROUGH THE WIRE INTO THE BRAIN AND BLOCK THE SIGNALS CAUSING THE TREMORS.

IT'S VERY SIMILAR TO A CARDIAC PACEMAKER, AND IT GOES IN THE SAME AREA OF THE CHEST AS A CARDIAC PACEMAKER.

IT'S JUST ABOUT THE SAME SIZE.

RIGHT NOW, DOCTORS ARE FINE-TUNING AND TRYING TO FIND THE APPROPRIATE BALANCE BETWEEN THE HIGHEST VOLTAGE NEEDED TO TURN THE TREMOR OFF WITHOUT CAUSING A SIDE EFFECT.

THAT TARGET IS NOT RESOLVING THE TREMOR OF THE ARM AND THE LEGS, SO WE'RE GOING TO IMPLANT A SECOND ELECTRODE IN THE SAME SIDE OF THE BRAIN AT A DIFFERENT SITE THAT WILL GET THE TREMOR UNDER CONTROL, AND HE WILL BE ABLE TO REDUCE HIS MEDICATIONS SIGNIFICANTLY, IF NOT COMPLETELY.

SECOND TIME AROUND, AND THEY'VE GOT IT.

HOW ABOUT IF WE TURN IT ON AGAIN AND TAKE OVER THE TREMOR?

THERE WE GO.

NOTICE -- VERY GOOD.

ONCE YOU HAVE THE TREMOR UNDER CONTROL, THEN BASICALLY, AS LONG AS YOU KEEP ON CHANGING THE GENERATOR EVERY FOUR OR FIVE YEARS, ALL THE MOTOR SYMPTOMS ARE CONTROLLED FOR LIFE.

IT MEANS IT'S NOT THE END OF THE ROAD FOR THE YOUNG FATHER OF TWO -- IT'S THE START OF A BRAND-NEW ONE.

IN EDISON, I'M BRIANA VANNOZZI, NJTV NEWS.

♪♪

HELLO. MY NAME IS NATHAN.

THIS IS CHIRAG.

OUR PROJECT IS CALLED 'LRN' -- L-R-N.

AND LRN IS A MOBILE APP THAT TEACHES YOU TO CODE THROUGH INTERACTIVE MINI-QUIZZES.

ONCE YOU DOWNLOAD THE APPLICATION, YOU DON'T NEED INTERNET TO USE IT, WHICH MEANS YOU CAN USE THE APP ANYTIME, ANYWHERE -- EVEN PLACES LIKE THE NEW YORK CITY SUBWAY.

I TAUGHT MYSELF HOW TO CODE OVER THE LAST YEAR AND A HALF.

AND AS I WAS RIDING INTO NEW YORK CITY FOR WORK EVERY SINGLE DAY, THERE WAS NO WAY THAT I COULD LEARN TO TEACH MYSELF ON MY PHONE, AND THERE'S NO INTERNET CONNECTION.

SO I FIGURED IT WOULD BE REALLY USEFUL IF THERE WAS A REALLY NICE MOBILE SOLUTION THAT TAUGHT YOU HOW TO CODE.

ANYBODY THAT IS WORKING IN, REALLY, ANY DISCIPLINE WILL HAVE TO LEARN A LITTLE BIT ABOUT PROGRAMMING OVER THE COMING YEARS, SO WE FEEL LIKE IT'S THE NEXT KIND OF LANGUAGE THAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE LEARNING.

RIGHT NOW IT'S FOCUSING ON PROGRAMMING, BUT IN THE FUTURE, IT'S MORE ABOUT MICRO-LEARNING, WHERE YOU CAN CONSUME EDUCATIONAL CONTENT IN SHORT BURSTS OF INFORMATION, RIGHT?

SO THERE'S NOTHING GONNA STOP US FROM EXPANDING THIS STYLE OF MICRO-LEARNING INTO MULTIPLE LANGUAGES, LIKE ACCOUNTING, FINANCE, PHYSICS, MATH, BIOLOGY.

SO THAT'S KIND OF WHERE WE'RE GOING FOR THE FUTURE.

GRAPHENE, THE ONE-ATOM-THICK LAYER OF CARBON, IS 200 TIMES STRONGER THAN STEEL AND THINNER THAN A SHEET OF PAPER.

PREDICTIONS WERE THAT THIS ELEMENT WOULD CHANGE THE WORLD.

OUR PARTNER HAS A REPORT.

GRAPHENE HAS ALMOST LIMITLESS POTENTIAL.

IT'S SO LIGHT AND SO THIN, BUT IT'S STRONG AND IT'S DYNAMIC.

THE VISIONS, THE PREDICTIONS OF SCI-FI WRITERS AND TECH GURUS ARE FINALLY WITHIN OUR GRASP.

IT'S 10 YEARS SINCE GRAPHENE WAS FIRST ISOLATED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER.

FORECASTERS IMMEDIATELY PREDICTED THAT THE WONDER MATERIAL WOULD CHANGE THE WORLD.

AND THE SCIENTISTS THAT DISCOVERED IT BY APPLYING STICKY TAPE TO A LAYER OF GRAPHITE WON A NOBEL PRIZE.

BUT SO FAR, ITS MOST EYE-CATCHING INNOVATION IS A LIGHTER, STRONGER HEAD TENNIS RACKET.

HERE IN THE LABORATORIES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER, RESEARCHERS ARE MAKING AND WORKING WITH GRAPHENE, THE REVOLUTIONARY 2D MATERIAL THAT'S SUPERSTRONG, SUPER-CONDUCTIVE, BUT ALSO VERY DIFFICULT TO WORK WITH.

I'M DRESSED LIKE THIS BECAUSE JUST ONE SPECK OF DUST COULD RUIN A MONTH'S WORTH OF EXPERIMENTS.

SO, HOW CAN THIS ONE-ATOM-THICK LAYER OF CARBON BE USED?

YOU CAN EITHER START WITH GRAPHITE -- WHICH IS BASICALLY MANY LAYERS OF GRAPHENE -- AND YOU CAN BREAK IT DOWN INTO SMALLER PIECES.

AND WHEN YOU GO SMALLER AND SMALLER, ULTIMATELY, YOU GET LITTLE BITS OF SINGLE LAYERS OF GRAPHITE, WHICH IS GRAPHENE.

AND THEN, THIS IS DISSOLVED OR DISPERSED IN A LIQUID -- LIKE WATER -- TO MAKE SOME KIND OF INK, WHICH YOU CAN THEN USE FOR THINGS LIKE PRINTING OR INCORPORATING IT INTO COMPOSITES FOR STRENGTH, ET CETERA.

THE OTHER WAY OF MAKING GRAPHENE, YOU START WITH A GAS -- LIKE METHANE, WHICH CONTAINS CARBON -- AND THEN YOU DEPOSIT THE CARBON ON A SURFACE, AND THEN THAT BECOMES A COATING OF GRAPHENE, WHICH YOU CAN THEN USE FOR THINGS LIKE TOUCH-SCREEN APPLICATIONS AND ELECTRONICS AND STUFF LIKE THAT.

JUST AROUND THE CORNER, A NEW LAB IS TAKING SHAPE -- THE NATIONAL GRAPHENE INSTITUTE.

THE £61 MILLION CENTER WILL HOUSE RESEARCHERS ALONGSIDE INDUSTRIAL PARTNERS, COLLABORATING TO FIND WAYS TO MAKE IT EASIER TO USE AND TO APPLY IN SUCH PRODUCTS AS AIRCRAFT WINGS, SMARTPHONES, AND COMPUTER CHIPS.

£61 MILLION IS GONNA CREATE THE LARGEST SINGLE RESEARCH FACILITY IN GRAPHENE, WE BELIEVE, IN THE WORLD.

IT'S AROUND 7,500 SQUARE METERS, BUT IT WILL BRING TOGETHER SOME OF THOSE ACADEMICS WORKING ON GRAPHENE TOGETHER WITH OUR INDUSTRIAL PARTNERS TO START COLLABORATING AROUND THESE PROJECTS WHICH WILL TAKE THE GRAPHENE FROM THE SCIENCE INTO THESE APPLICATIONS FOR THE FUTURE.

GEORGE OSBORNE, THE CHANCELLOR, HAS SEIZED ON GRAPHENE AS A SYMBOL OF HOW THE U.K. CAN STILL PRODUCE INDUSTRIAL BREAKTHROUGHS.

HE'S DETERMINED THAT IT SHOULD ALSO CREATE PRACTICAL PRODUCTS WITH GRAPHENE THAT BRING IN CRUCIAL EXPORT EARNINGS.

THERE ARE A HANDFUL OF COMPANIES IN THE U.K. WORKING WITH GRAPHENE, AND THREE HAVE LISTED ON THE STOCK MARKET IN THE LAST YEAR ALONE.

BUT OF AT LEAST 12,800 GRAPHENE-RELATED PATENTS REGISTERED IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS, JUST A HANDFUL ARE FROM THE U.K., ACCORDING TO CAMBRIDGE I.P., A TECHNOLOGY-STRATEGY CONSULTANCY.

CHINA, WHERE THREE PRODUCTION FACILITIES OPENED LAST YEAR, ACCOUNTED FOR MORE THAN 80% OF APPLICATIONS FOR PATENTS BETWEEN 2012 AND 2013, WHILE COMPANIES SUCH AS SAMSUNG OF KOREA AND IBM OF THE U.S. ARE SPENDING TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

THE U.K. HAS A GREAT HISTORY OF TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION -- AND A POOR RECORD OF TURNING IT INTO PRODUCTS.

HERE AT THE MANCHESTER MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY IS BABY, BUILT IN 1948 AS THE WORLD'S FIRST STORED-PROGRAM COMPUTER.

BUT IT WAS THE AMERICANS WHO WENT ON TO CREATE THE PC.

SO, TO ENCOURAGE MORE INVESTMENT IN TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS IN THE U.K., WE NEED TO GET THE BASICS FIRST, AND THAT IS GREAT SCIENCE, GREAT RESEARCH, AND I THINK WE'VE DONE A LOT OF GOOD THINGS ALREADY TO DO THAT IN THE ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS IN THE U.K.

THAT'S THE FIRST STEP.

THE NEXT THING YOU NEED TO DO IS YOU NEED TO STIMULATE MORE PRIVATE INVESTMENT INTO THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF THOSE TECHNOLOGIES THROUGH LICENSE AGREEMENTS AND ALSO THROUGH SPIN-OUT COMPANIES.

THERE ARE SOME THINGS AROUND THAT -- SUCH AS PROMOTING ANGEL INVESTMENT -- BUT THE INSTITUTIONAL INVESTMENT REQUIRES STIMULATION AND PROBABLY SOME FORM OF PUBLIC-SECTOR SUPPORT TO STIMULATE THAT INVESTMENT IS REQUIRED.

INVESTORS MAY HAVE TO BE PATIENT.

IT TOOK DECADES FOR MATERIALS SUCH AS SILICON AND CARBON FIBER TO FIND MASS-MARKET USES.

ANALYSTS SAY THE GRAPHENE MARKET MIGHT BE WORTH JUST $390 MILLION EVEN IN 10 YEARS' TIME -- UP FROM $30 MILLION TODAY.

IT WILL PROBABLY TAKE A LONG TIME FOR GRAPHENE MATERIALS TO BECOME MAINSTREAM.

THERE ARE SOME THINGS WHERE GRAPHENE'S ALREADY IN PRODUCTS -- IT'S IN SPORTS EQUIPMENT -- BUT IN OTHER AREAS, IT WILL TAKE A LONG TIME TO REALLY TRANSFORM THOSE APPLICATIONS.

BUT THAT'S THE PROCESS OF INNOVATION -- MAKING THE MOST OF THAT BASIC RESEARCH AND TURNING IT INTO SOMETHING THAT WILL CHANGE LIVES.

MR. BAKER HOPES TO HAVE A GRAPHENE DRONE FLYING WITHIN MONTHS.

THAT MIGHT NOT CHANGE THE WORLD, BUT IT WOULD SHOW THE WORLD THAT GRAPHENE HAS A POTENTIALLY LUCRATIVE FUTURE.

AND THAT WRAPS IT UP FOR THIS TIME.

FOR MORE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION, VISIT OUR WEBSITE, CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM, AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON TWITTER.

YOU CAN ALSO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YouTube CHANNEL.

UNTIL NEXT TIME, I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

THANKS FOR WATCHING.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE BY THE CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING, LEWIS B. AND LOUISE HIRSCHFELD CULLMAN, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PARTICIPATING STATIONS.