Hide table of contents

We are thrilled to announce the winners of the Reslab Request for Information!


1st place ($200): Joel

For the innovative proposal "Scalable Renewable Energy System for Disaster Relief and Off-Grid Communities." 

This project aims to design and test a compact and easily transported renewable energy system, incorporating solar panels, wind turbines, and energy storage components. It aims to reduce the energy dependence of small communities.

2nd place ($150): Christoph

For the idea to develop a "Self-Sustaining Solar-Powered Water Filtration System." 

This project aims to provide clean drinking water in areas devoid of safe water resources using solar power, a compact filtration unit, and a water storage tank. The vision behind this project is to enhance the health and life quality of underserved communities and reduce reliance on external aid.

3rd place ($50): ALLFED

For the proposal to construct an "Open Source Wood Gasifier."

The concept is to design a wood gas generator that can be assembled without reliance on electricity or industry - a unique aspect not typically targeted by currently available designs. The project envisions dispersing knowledge seeds amongst hobbyists and other potential stakeholders, equipping them with practical skills for times of crisis in which energy or fuel production infrastructure is destroyed or disabled. ALLFED is currently working on this project and an article will be posted on EA Forum in the next few months.

We won’t proceed with these projects. Will you?

The Reslab RFI was designed to incentivize and showcase excellent hardware project ideas that align with EA and longtermist cause areas. While we are very pleased with the ideas that this competition brought forward, we are not actively proceeding with the prototyping of these projects. If anyone is seriously interested in taking the lead on this project, please contact us by messaging lajko.aron@gmail.com.

Other project ideas that did not make it to the top three but met the requirements

Climate control for the preservation and storage of food supplies - Adam

“Climate control may be an important part of establishing resilient communities after a catastrophe. One especially important application would be in the long-term preservation and storage of food supplies. Traditional vapour compression systems would be very difficult to maintain without advanced industrial capacity (externally actuated systems like car AC systems might be an interesting exception). Barocaloric refrigeration systems are currently less efficient but could make up for this deficit with their very simple, robust design.”

Testing of content on Wikiciv - anonymous

“Practical testing of content on Wikiciv.org to improve and verify content (instructions for recreating civilizational technology).”

Testing cold-tolerant crops - Alexey Turchin, ALLFED

“Some cold-tolerant crops from Northern regions (fodder beet, rutabaga) could be planted in the South in the case of a nuclear war winter. But will they grow and how long it will take is questionable, but could be relatively easily measured by planting in different times and places and climates.”

Creating a self-sustaining colony - Alexey Turchin, ALLFED

“Creating a self-sustaining colony on an island would help to survive a global catastrophe, or at least a pilot project to test needed requirements, which could be later scaled to a more suitable place.”

Artificial light crop growth experiment - ALLFED

“This intervention is useful for abrupt sunlight reduction scenarios. Countries which will not be able to grow crops outdoors might still have cheap energy (e.g. the Nordics), and thus leverage it to produce food. The project would be to grow crops such as maize, rice, wheat and potatoes with artificial light. The current industry is not focusing on these crops.

However, it should be noted the energy sources which could be used to enable artificial light (natural gas, coal, nuclear and hydropower) would most likely produce methane or hydrogen single-cell protein (SCP) much more cost-effectively. Consequently, using such energy sources to power artificial light may be harmful (depending on the counterfactual). Modelling the post-catastrophe economics would be helpful to inform the relevance of artificial light as a resilient food solution.”

Emergency CubeSat - ALLFED

“Design a CubeSat able to transmit emergency messages directly to regular mobile phones, and sufficiently hardened against high altitude electromagnetic pulses (HEMPs). Both AST SpaceMobile and Lynk have launched satellites which can communicate with regular phones but were not specifically designed to be hardened against HEMPs. This intervention is useful for the loss of electricity/industry scenarios.”

Feed from bacteria on leaves - ALLFED

“Grow bacteria on tree/crop leaves, which could be used as feed for rats (which have some ability to digest cellulose) or chickens (very little ability to digest cellulose). This has a natural analogue of fish (very little ability to digest cellulose) eating rotten leaves. Alternatively, one could figure out how to retrofit existing factories to produce such feed, or rapidly construct facilities for the same purpose. However, in this case, the conversion of lignocellulose to sugar to single-cell protein (SCP) would likely be more cost-effective. This intervention is useful for abrupt sunlight reduction scenarios.”

Feed from single-cell protein on natural gas - ALLFED

“Demonstrate natural gas-eating single-cell protein at the household scale. See here and here for how these microorganisms can be used as fish food (and in a catastrophe, perhaps human food). This intervention is useful for abrupt sunlight reduction scenarios.”

Fungus from leaves, wood or peat - ALLFED

“Perform experiments on growing fungus such as Quorn on tree/crop leaves, wood, peat or lignite coal (compressed peat) at the household scale, either: - Figuring out a way to separate the fungus from the fiber for humans. - Or, if it is not possible to separate the fungus from the fiber, use this as feed for rats (some digest cellulose) or chickens (which have very little ability to digest cellulose). There is a natural analogue of fish (which also have very little ability to digest cellulose) eating decomposed leaves. This may be relevant. Note current Quorn production is based on corn and wheat, which are already human edible, so such production is generally not as promising in a catastrophe. However, one could figure out how existing factories producing Quorn may be repurposed to have the inputs suggested above and pilot the rapid construction of such facilities. These interventions are useful for abrupt sunlight reduction scenarios.”

Glycerol from carbon dioxide - ALLFED

“Perform lab experiments to chemically convert carbon dioxide to human edible glycerol, thus establishing proof of concept. This intervention is useful for abrupt sunlight reduction scenarios.”

Leaf grinder - ALLFED

“Design an open-source human-powered leaf grinder for leaf protein extract from tree/crop leaves. Such designs exist, but could be scaled up, and designed to be powered by animals (such that humans do not have to spend as much energy), and built without electricity/industry. Leaf protein has been produced at household and industrial scales. This intervention is useful for abrupt sunlight reduction and loss of electricity/industry scenarios.”

Lipids from petroleum wax - ALLFED

“Perform lab experiments to chemically convert petroleum wax to human edible lipids via oxidation and distillation, thus establishing proof of concept. This can be thought of as engineering an analogue of coal butter. This intervention is useful for abrupt sunlight reduction scenarios.”

Low-tech greenhouse experiment - ALLFED

“Simulate and study the growth of crops in a low-tech greenhouse under the lower radiation and water availability conditions of a nuclear winter. The level of radiation can be controlled with meshes, and altitude can provide an environment with less water and lower temperature, in case a suitable location at sea level is not as easily accessible. While the greenhouse would be low-tech for greater scalability during a nuclear winter, it would have to feature some higher tech for the experimental purposes of the project. For example, instruments to measure temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide concentration. This project would essentially be a field experiment, and therefore it may be outside the scope of Reslab. This intervention is useful for abrupt sunlight reduction scenarios.”

Low-tech greenhouse pilot - ALLFED

“Pilot the fast construction of a low-tech greenhouse. One starting point is the design described in Alvarado 2020 (see Fig. 1), but scale up to allow for the operations of agriculture machinery. For example: - With a beam and column length of 6 m instead of 3 m. - With a total width and depth of 96 m instead of 100 m. It would also be important to test the feasibility of operating agriculture machinery in such a greenhouse, but this part seems outside of the scope of Reslab. This intervention is useful for abrupt sunlight reduction scenarios.”

Nutritional and organoleptic analysis of the big four crop residues for leaf protein concentrate - ALLFED

“Do a nutritional and organoleptic (taste, etc.) analysis of the residues of the big four crops (wheat, maize, rice, and soybeans) for leaf protein concentrate (LPC). This work is described in the abstract of the article “Toxic Analysis of Leaf Protein Concentrate of Common Agricultural Residues”, which is below. However, there most likely are more cost-effective resilient food solutions.

“An area of potential resilient foods to help reduce hunger is converting the ~998 million tons of agricultural residue generated each year globally into human edible food. Although possible to extract leaf protein concentrate (LPC) from agricultural residue, neither the yields nor the toxicity of the protein concentrates from the most common agricultural residues has been widely investigated. To help fill this knowledge gap, this study uses high-resolution mass spectrometry and an open-source toolchain for non-targeted screening of toxins of nine agricultural plant residues including seven agricultural residues: corn/maize, wheat, barley, alfalfa, yellow pea, sunflower, canola/rapeseed, and two weeds/agricultural residues: kochia, and round leaf mallow. The average yield ranged from about 7% to 14.5% for the nine LPCs investigated. The results showed that yellow pea, round leaf mallow and canola are recommended for immediate further investigation and scaling as they appear to be fit for human consumption based on the lack of dangerous toxins found in the analysis performed in this study. All compounds identified in these samples have either been approved by international regulatory boards for safe consumption or are known to be present in common beverages. The other agricultural residues require additional quantification of the toxins identified as it will determine the actual risk for human consumption. Overall, the potential for LPC to provide more needed calories from existing agricultural practices is extremely promising, but a substantial amount of future work is needed to screen LPCs from all the agricultural residues depending on harvesting, handling and storage conditions.”

The testing would involve:

- Plant growth performance: yield, photosynthesis, chlorophyll content, total biomass production, root/leaf/shoot growth, germination, seedling vigour, and germination rate.

- Crop nutritional quality: minerals, vitamins, dietary fatty acids, amino acids, antioxidants, phenolics, total protein, sugars/carbohydrates, and total fats/lipids.

- Bioactive/Functional or phytomedicinal composition: flavonoids, phenolic acids, essential amino acids, antioxidants, antioxidant minerals, trace and essential minerals, functional lipids (omega 3, 6, 9 fatty acids, medium chain triglycerides, terpenes, galactolipids, FAFA, plasmalogens, etc.).

- Soil health / Plant growth media health: active microbial community composition, micro-niche, physiological status of media in response to agricultural inputs, metabolic response, and greenhouse gas emissions.

- Sensory analysis of crop/food: consumer preference, overall liking, organoleptic quality driving consumer preference (colour, aroma, texture, taste, appearance, size, flavour, purchase propensity, consumer preference for packaging, etc.).

- Organoleptic quality of food: acidity, pH, water activity, texture, total soluble solids/Brix, viscosity, and sugar content.

- Food metabolomics: nutritional profile, contaminants (e.g. heavy metals), allergens, bioactive compounds, biosensors, biomaterial/biopolymers, lipids, etc. Here do a comprehensive screen of the food composition or biomass, and use the information obtained to guide innovation/applications or end-use.

- Applications of food metabolomics as a decision support tool to resolve issues with nutrient/food security, and develop resilient food systems in boreal climate, tropics, rural, remote, coastal and indigenous communities. This particular part is most likely outside the scope of Reslab.

- Lipid Bioinformatics - lipid imaging/lipidomics: develop novel or new methods to assess biological samples/biomaterials; conduct comprehensive tests of the lipidome (all the lipids in biological samples) and determine end-use applications; lipid metabolism in assessing agriculture/food production under different climatic conditions/crop management systems/response to agriculture input/biotic or abiotic stressors; lipid metabolism in functional and nootropic foods (brain health foods) innovation; lipid metabolism in plant immunity; lipid metabolism in brain health assessment/validate functional foods, ingredients/phytonutrients/phytomedicine in improving brain health using cell or animal models of human disease.”

Radio - ALLFED

“Develop an open-source shortwave (HAM) radio system (two-way or just receiver) which could be built without electricity/industry with common household components. Satellite to cell phone communications are moving forward, but they will likely not be hardened against high-altitude electromagnetic pulses, and might not be able to handle the surge of communications from the catastrophe. This means HAM radios could be valuable. Furthermore, they could provide a more powerful uplink than cell phones.

Ideally, the project would also involve creating a guide which is understandable to a non-specialist electrician or generally educated person. The guide should include a list of the sorts of common equipment the radio could be sourced from, and what challenges may be involved to make it a functioning device. An example of a transmitter radio using purchased components can be found here. A receiver should be much easier to build.

This intervention is useful for the loss of electricity/industry scenarios.”

Rope twister - ALLFED

“Pilot the fast construction of rope twisters, which are important to scaling seaweed farming. This intervention is useful for abrupt sunlight reduction scenarios.”

Seaweed farm - ALLFED

“Pilot the fast construction of a seaweed farm. Note this would ultimately require the fast construction of rope twisters, whose pilot is a higher priority than that of the seaweed farm.

This intervention is useful for abrupt sunlight reduction and loss of electricity/industry scenarios.”

Sulfuric acid synthesizer - ALLFED

“Design a sulfuric acid synthesizer which can be built without electricity/industry. From this post from Luisa Rodriguez: - “Phosphorus is the most difficult nutrient to access, in part because, unlike nitrogen and potassium, much of the phosphorus in fertilizer is lost in runoff. At relatively small scales, phosphorus can be added to fertilizer by sprinkling in crushed-up animal bones”. Moreover, nitrogen can be obtained from manure and legumes, and potassium from wood ash. - “Eventually, survivors will [may?] need to work out how to react bonemeal with sulfuric acid to make it [phosphorus] more easily[/readily] absorbed [by soils, although runoff would continue]. Synthesizing sulfuric acid requires relatively complex chemistry techniques, though the necessary materials — pyrite rocks (fool’s gold) and sodium chloride (which can be extracted from wood ashes) — would be readily available, and the chemistry techniques aren’t prohibitively difficult”. Links to some small-scale amateur designs are given in this post. This intervention is useful for the loss of electricity/industry scenarios. Separately from this hardware project, one should try to figure out under which conditions using sulfuric acid is needed (instead of bonemeal only, or other).”

Wood chipper - ALLFED

“Design an open source human-powered scalable wood chipper, which is important for wood gasification. Such designs exist but could be scaled up (ideally one would be able to process large logs), designed to be powered by animals (such that humans do not have to spend as much energy), and built without electricity/industry. 

This intervention is useful for the loss of electricity/industry scenarios.”

Wood gasifier - ALLFED

“Design an open-source wood gasifier which can be built without electricity/industry. This is not explicitly targeted by currently available designs. It would be important to promote the product of the project to people who would be “knowledge seeds” in a situation of catastrophe. For example, hobbyists who have first-hand experience in building gasifiers, but, currently, only with electricity/industry, and at a small scale. These could also be recruited to provide support in the project. This intervention is useful for enabling transportation in loss of electricity/industry scenarios.”

Wood pyrolyser - ALLFED

“Design an open-source wood pyrolyser which can be built without electricity/industry. Wood pyrolysis involves heating wood without very much oxygen to break it into more combustible parts, and can be used to produce charcoal. In addition, from this post from Luisa Rodriguez: - “Wood pyrolysis, which literally means burning [heating] wood, is probably the most difficult technique survivors will have to master early on. Survivors will need to build a system to burn [heat] wood and separate and capture the resulting vapours”. - “But the products are incredibly useful: acetic acid can be used to pickle food; acetone can be used for degreasing and in explosives; pitch can be used to make torches and to make things water resistant (caulking seams), and methanol can be used as antifreeze, as a biofuel, and as a chemical solvent (as can turpentine, another product of wood pyrolysis)”. There are many wood pyrolyser designs around, but they are not efficient. According to Woolf 2017: - “Globally, much charcoal production still relies on highly polluting and inefficient technologies utilizing traditional kiln designs”. This intervention is useful for the loss of electricity/industry scenarios.”

Self-sustaining water filtration system - ALLFED

“To develop a self-sustaining water filtration system for disaster relief and community development by using solar power, a compact filtration unit, and a water storage tank to provide clean drinking water in areas without access to safe water sources. The objective is to improve health and quality of life for people in need, as well as reduce dependence on aid from outside sources.”

Thank you!

We would like to extend our sincere thanks to everyone who contributed their ideas to this competition!






More posts like this

Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 4:34 AM

These look like some interesting project ideas! Could you elaborate on why Reslab won't be prototyping any of these ideas? (Feel free to say that you'd rather not say as well!)

I'll speak only for myself -- I haven't spoken to everyone else about this. I think Reslab lost momentum for 3 reasons. In descending order of importance:

  1. Uncertainty about the funding environment. We actually heard only positive things from grantmakers. But it still seemed like there might be a significant risk of not receiving funding conditional on (reasonably) successful outcomes. (Also, less confidently, the time delays in grantmaker responses were significant enough to dampen momentum.) In these conditions, it was hard to convince high-opportunity-cost staff + external stakeholders to go full speed ahead.
  2. Not having someone whose main focus was Reslab. Everyone had non-Reslab projects that were more important to them than Reslab.
  3. Reputational damage from FTX. I have the weak sense that advertising to engineering talent outside the EA ecosystem was going to be more difficult after the collapse of FTX.

Thanks for the clarification!