New York City skyline
Courtesy Alison Day via Flickr Commercial Commons New York City skyline

For the fifth year, the Center for Globalization and Strategy at Barcelona’s IESE Business School has compiled its annual list of the world's smartest cities according to its Cities in Motion Index. The index calculates the performance of 165 cities across 80 countries using a rubric of indicators, including urban planning, mobility and transportation, environmental performance, and technology and connectivity accessibility. (This year, the organization even added the number of Apple stores as a measurement to the index.) "Urban managers face significant obstacles such as difficulties in mobility, aging populations, increases in inequality, the persistence of poverty and pollution, among many other challenges," write authors Pascual Berrone and Joan Enric Ricart in the foreword. "The scope and magnitude of these challenges demonstrate the need for the world’s cities to undertake a strategic review process that covers: what type of city they want to be, what their priorities are, and what process of change they will adopt in order to take advantage of the opportunities—and minimize the threats—of urbanization."

The Top 50 list: 1. New York; 2. London; 3. Paris; 4. Tokyo; 5. Reykjavik, Iceland; 6. Singapore; 7. Seoul, South Korea; 8. Toronto; 9. Hong Kong; 10. Amsterdam; 11. Berlin; 12. Melbourne, Australia; 13. Copenhagen, Denmark; 14. Chicago; 15. Sydney; 16. Stockholm; 17. Los Angeles; 18. Wellington, New Zealand ; 19. Vienna; 20. Washington, D.C.; 21. Boston; 22. Helsinki; 23. Oslo, Norway; 24. Zurich; 25. Madrid; 26. Barcelona, Spain; 27. San Francisco; 28. Auckland, New Zealand; 29. Bern, Switzerland; 30. Dublin; 31. Hamburg, Germany; 32. Geneva; 33. Gothenburg, Sweden; 34. Basel, Switzerland; 35. Ottawa, Ontario; 36. Vancouver, British Columbia; 37. Munich; 38. Montreal; 39. Houston; 40. Prague; 41. Dallas; 42. Frankfurt, Germany; 43. Rotterdam, the Netherlands; 44. Lyon, France; 45. Milan; 46. Philadelphia; 47. San Diego; 48. Brussels; 49. Riga, Latvia; 50. Tallinn, Estonia [IESE]

In a recently released study, researchers from Perkins+Will found that employees who utilize sit-stand desks reported increased productivity and concentration over a 12-month period. “What makes this study different from any other sit-stand desk study ... is the combination of its long duration and its inclusion of complementary qualitative data,” lead researcher Elizabeth Garland said in a press release. “Most studies conclude after just a few months. Ours lasted a full year. This allowed us to assess both the objective and subjective health impacts of sit-stand desk usage, from perceived stress and well-being to measurable changes in sedentary behavior.” [Perkins+Will]

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency are expected to unveil a proposal that would strip the state of California of its power to set state vehicle emissions standards. According to a Reuters article, the new regulation would revoke a waiver California was granted as part of the 1963 Clean Air Act to determine these standards and require zero-emission vehicles. The proposal also recommends freezing national emissions requirements at 2020 standards through 2026. [Reuters]

Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle have created a perovskite solar cell prototype that can generate energy up to 97 percent of the theoretical maximum; silicon solar cells can only attain an efficiency of 84 percent. To optimize the solar cells, the team treated the ultra-thin sheets with "surface passivation," a technique that "treats imperfections and reduces the likelihood that the absorbed photons will end up wasted rather than converted to useful energy," according to a university press release. [University of Washington]

A citation winner in our 2018 R+D Awards, Robotic Needle Felting by Tsz Yan Ng, Wesley McGee, and Asa Peller from the University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning’s Digital Fabrication Lab, utilizes techniques similar to additive manufacturing to craft complicated fabric topographies without thread or glue. [ARCHITECT]

A team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has developed a sodium-ion conducting membrane that could optimize stationary battery systems designed for grid-scale electricity storage. Currently, many of these systems rely on water-based redox flow battery systems, which are cheaper than lithium-ion alternatives but cannot store a comparable amount of energy. To combat this problem, ORNL scientists created a low-cost but highly conductive polymer membrane that, when combined with a plasticizer and a common material used as a thickener in some foods, results in a durable material to optimize high-energy batteries. [ORNL]