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Can Crowdsourcing Help Japan’s Nuclear Crisis?

Can Crowdsourcing Help Japan’s Nuclear Crisis?
Japanese Earthquake Response

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In the past few years, online crowdsourcing has emerged as an ultra-popular method of finding solutions to difficult problems such as infant mortality rates and out-of-control oil spills. Could crowdsourcing help Japan quell its nuclear disaster and help the country get back on its feet?

The Global Innovation Commons, a repository of innovations that can be used because of patent expiration, abandonment, invalidity, or lack of in-country protection, has compiled a list of patent disclosures and open source technology that could be used as part of Japan’s earthquake response–or even to cool down the rapidly worsening nuclear reactor situation in Fukushima.

The set of earthquake response innovations is a treasure trove of helpful information related to potable water, road reconstruction, solar energy, water filtration, shelter, and more. The potable water section, for example, features patents for modular water filtration systems, the removal of arsenic from drinking water, and a system to generate potable water from sea waves, among other things.

Entrepreneurs can comb through those patents over the coming weeks as the rebuilding process begins. But the more pressing issue is Japan’s failing nuclear reactors, which could ultimately lead to a full meltdown. A quick look at some of the public domain patents in just one country–Iran–yields dozens of results on how to cool down reactors from companies like GE, Hitachi, Westinghouse, and Siemens.

This isn’t to say that experts the world over aren’t already pooling together their expertise to help out Japan. And in any case, Tokyo Electric Power isn’t exactly being forthcoming about its operations at the deteriorating plant. But who knows–it’s possible that some enterprising scientist digging through these patents can come up with something useful.

Follow Fast Company on Twitter. Ariel Schwartz can be reached by email.

Read more coverage of the Japan earthquake.

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