What if you could turn your old cutlery into a tablet?

MoMo molecule scanner

Such an idea might sound a bit out there, but Which? has worked with Forum for the Future to see what tech might be like in 2030. Rodrigo from the Forum is here to introduce the MoMo molecule scanner…

Tidying the clutter from your home office one day, you stumble upon an old e-reader that you last used ten years ago. ‘Eureka’ you scream! The missing part of the puzzle, you scan it quickly with your molecule scanner (MoMo) and, as you hoped, it contains the valuable mineral ore called ‘Coltan’. This is the final material needed for the new organic-tablet that you’ve been saving for over the last few months.

MoMo is a wearable molecule scanner connected to an intelligent system that tells you which of your old belongings have materials that could be transformed into something new. It works as part of a service that enables you to reinvent your possessions, rather than replace them.

The e-reader joins your old power cable and some unused cutlery that you have at home. After that you personalise and choose how your organic-tablet will look using the online interface of MoMo. Then it’s all transformed using distributed manufacturing technologies in your local FabLab (Fabrication Laboratory) to create your new device.

Sadly, MoMo isn’t available right now. But, at Forum for the Future, we believe we need it.

Don’t dispose, recycle with MoMo

Today we dispose of our products rapidly, partly because we don’t value the materials within them and partly because we don’t pay a real price for their extraction, processing and transportation. We need to ask ourselves; who’s paying the hidden cost?

There are two macro-drivers that will profoundly affect the way we live and consume in the future: the increasing global demand for resources, and the declining health of natural ecosystems.

Sadly, in today’s world the MoMo molecule scanner is neither feasible nor desirable. We don’t currently have the technology, but more importantly we don’t understand the need for it.

Today products don’t reflect their real cost – a typical example is how a company prefers to replace your phone rather than repair it. The average lifespan of a mobile phone is 18 months. In Europe alone, upgrades or damage make 100m phones obsolete every year. And amazingly inside a mobile phone you can find more than 50% of the chemical elements in the periodic table. Imagine if that was repurposed rather than wasted!

The MoMo is in the Design Museum

MoMo is a conceptual expression of the changes we might see in society at large, in our life-styles, our household budgets and in the innovations that could hit the mainstream soon. It is just one of five concepts we came up with as part of Consumers in 2030 project in partnership with Which?.

MoMo is featured in the Design Museum exhibition The Future is Here: a New Industrial Revolution from this week till the end of October. If you’re in London I encourage you to take some time out to get down to the South Bank and explore this and other concepts.

I wonder how we’re going to produce and consume objects in a future where resources are limited and more expensive. Do you think we’ll be consuming less and recycling more? Will we have a choice?

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Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is by Rodrigo Bautista, Senior Sustainability Advisor at Forum for the Future.


The plan to extend the life of products is very welcome.

It is also good to draw attention to the fact that we don’t pay a real price for the extraction, processing and transportation of raw materials used in devices we use everyday. I hope that the intention is to use less coltan, not more.

There is a recent Conversation bemoaning the fact that updates to smart TVs are not doing what we expect them to do. The fact is that the computer side of TVs is evolving fast, whereas the display itself could be satisfactory for many years. Many TVs will be disposed of when people give up the struggle to keep them going, even if the hardware is still working fine. Until TVs are designed to be updated, the best we can hope for is that they are recycled effectively, but that is not very satisfactory. Perhaps it is time to separate TVs into what is effectively a large computer monitor and a removable unit that can be replaced or upgraded to bring the TV up-to-date.

Current designs deserve to be in the museum.