Tech Universe: Monday 23 September 2013
- WATER ON: Researchers at the University of Sydney have developed a nanostructured material that hangs on to water droplets, even when it’s turned upside down. Like some rose petals, the material causes water droplets to bead up in a spherical shape and then not drip off. This capability could help prevent problems with condensation in planes or speed up some medical tests. It could perhaps also be used to create surfaces that always stay dry and never need cleaning. Oh to never clean a window again. University of Sydney.
- WATER OFF: Water droplets on a camera lens are highly undesirable. Tokina’s hydrophobic rain dispersion filter takes care of that problem though, with its special coating. The coating makes water spread evenly across the glass surface before flowing off. The filters will be available in various sizes, including those appropriate for professional broadcasters. That could work for keeping windows clean too perhaps. Newsshooter.com.
- A GOOD JOINER: Spanish scientists have created a polymer they can cut in half but which then joins itself back together again. When the pieces are put in contact again at room temperature they join up in less than 2 hours then can’t be pulled apart by hand. The self-healing thermoset elastomers are simple and inexpensive to produce. That could be a very handy feature in a lot of products. UPI.com.
- SMALL BUT PERFECT: Human organs don’t always need to be full-sized. The Body on a Chip project puts several miniature 3D-printed organs on a microchip and uses them to model the human response to chemical toxins or biologic agents such as vaccines. A circulating blood substitute links the organs and allows researchers to introduce agents and therapies for testing. Then sensors on the chip report back with data. That beats testing on actual humans, that’s for sure. BBC.
- NO POWER WASTED: Sewage treatment plants tend to use a fair bit of electricity as they do their work. British researchers though have found a way to use microbes instead. What’s more, the Microbial Fuel Cell also generates hydrogen gas. As sewage passes over carbon felting the microbes strip off electrons and transfer them to an anode, creating electricity. Remaining hydrogen ions migrate to a cathode, reunite with electrons and are topped up to create a gas. While the hydrogen gas is currently released it could be captured and used as fuel. The system works on raw sewage at ambient temperature and potentially generates more energy than it uses. There really is no such thing as waste. Phys.org.
Tech Universe: Tuesday 24 September 2013
- DON’T LOSE THE LIGHT: It’s a pain to get back to your bike and find someone has removed the lights. The Fortified Bicycle Alliance’s Afterburner and Aviator lights are indestructible and theft resistant. The lights lock to the handlebars and seat post with proprietary screws. A high capacity lithium-ion cell powers the lights and can be recharged via USB. The lights come in 30 to 300 lumen options, white or red. Be safe out there folks. Fortified Bicycle Alliance.
- THE BIKE THAT’S BENT: Bikes may have shock absorbers in the forks. Alter Cycles take a different approach in its new commuter bikes: the shock absorber forms part of the frame. The down tube is curved like a bow and available in 3 levels of stiffness to suit the quality of the road. If you like, you can swap out the down tube for a different one even after purchase. It seems like you wouldn’t have to worry about maintenance. Gizmag.
- NIFTY 25: The tiny Stigo folding electric scooter can travel at up to 25 Kph. It folds with two easy clicks into a 40×45 cm footprint that’s easy to wheel. At 17 Kg it’s not too heavy to pull up steps either. The 250W hub motor is driven by a 36V LiFePO4 battery for up to 40 Km on a charge. Ah, memories of the old step through bikes. Stigo.
- LOOK CLOSELY: When we humans look around our eyes easily shift focus between objects at various distances. A camera lens has much more trouble with that. Researchers at Ohio State University were inspired by insect eyes to create a wide-angle lens with depth of field. With this lens, as close objects come into focus, far away objects look blurry. The flexible transparent polymer lens is filled with pockets of gelatinous fluid similar to fluid inside the human eye. As fluid is pumped from one pocket to another the lens changes shape, direction and focus. The prototype lens uses fluid that has to be pumped by hand, but a more developed version uses an electrically active polymer that expands and contracts based on electrical signals. The lens could find its place in medical imaging or even in smartphones. Ohio State University.
- MOON MISSION: Fancy a one-way trip to Jupiter’s moon Europa? The Objective Europa group are exploring whether such a mission may be possible. Europa seems to have a deep ocean and active geology that could be a solid platform for extraterrestrial life. What’s more, the trip takes a mere 600 days. In Phase 1 the group is simply assessing whether such a trip could be made, gathering all relevant and groundbreaking ideas, conceptual sketches, theories and knowledge related to a crewed mission to moon Europa. It may be a one-way trip, but you could hardly expect to live there when you arrive, so what next? Objective Europa.
Tech Universe: Wednesday 25 September 2013
- RUNNING HOT: In a couple of weeks a team from The University of Waikato will take part in the World Solar Challenge. They aim to drive their UltraCommuter electric car 500km per day across Australia, travelling at over 90 Kph with only one stop for a top-up charge from mains electricity. The cars drive 3,000 Km from Darwin to Adelaide. We’ve just had the wind energy races, now it’s time for solar. World Solar Challenge.
- DEEP EYE: OceanGate’s Cyclops submersible can go 3 Km deep with up to 5 people on board. It includes a large 180 degree viewing dome so all aboard can get a good view. The submersible sits on a floating barge that can easily be unloaded from a ship. The crew enter the Cyclops, then the barge submerges to 20 metres allowing the Cyclops to float off. After its mission the Cyclops returns to the barge to be lifted back aboard the ship. The craft is 5.5 metres long and can travel at 3.5 knots. It has 96 hours of life support and can carry 500 Kg of payload. That could be fun for an underwater tour. OceanGate.
- WRIST WATCHER: Do you need to monitor your blood pressure? The iHealth Wireless Blood Pressure Wrist Monitor makes things simple. It’s a small cuff that goes around the wrist and sends data via Bluetooth to a smartphone app. The cuff includes motion sensors to measure and track systolic/diastolic numbers, heart rate, pulse wave and measurement time, while the app lets you chart the information and share it with others. iHealth.
- SNAP ONE: How do you take a photo of a single nanoparticle or virus? With your smartphone, of course, provided it has the right gear attached. A team at the University of California devised a compact system of lenses and filters, creating the first portable cellphone based imaging system sensitive enough to detect individual nanoparticles and viruses. This could allow doctors in remote regions to easily monitor disease progression and determine the best course of treatment. What can’t smartphones do? American Chemical Society.
- HARD SEARCH: Imagine telling a search engine you want to look for a giraffe and moments later holding a model of a giraffe in your hands. Yahoo Japan have created a Hands On Search machine that includes a 3D printer. It’s intended particularly for children with visual disabilities. A child speaks their search term and the result comes back as a 3D printed object. It’s a nice idea, but I suspect could be a bit slow and labour intensive for practical use. Yahoo Japan.
Tech Universe: Thursday 26 September 2013
- THE SHIRTS HAVE IT: AIQ’s BioMan shirt can track heart rate, respiration rate and skin temperature and send all the data via Bluetooth to a smartphone. With some customisation the shirt could also measure skin moisture, EKG, EEG, or EMG. The magic happens because of embedded steel threads that provide the electrical conductivity sensors need in order to do their job. Handy for athletes and those who need some medical monitoring. MedGadget.
- LUXURY IN TRAIN: Travel the Japanese island of Kyushu in luxury with the Seven Stars super-luxury rail car. The train has a lounge car with a piano and bar, top-end dining and 14 private suites. The train will carry guests to tourist attractions in fine style with its wood panelling and luxury fabrics, elegant ensuite bathrooms and gourmet meals. Now they just need some mystery writers. Luxury Launches.
- A PRECIOUS MOUTHWASH: If dentists are repairing your jaw or teeth they may need to operate to insert a sponge with proteins that stimulate bone growth. A study has shown that nanodiamonds could do the same job more easily and more effectively. They can even be used in a mouthwash, meaning no invasive surgery is needed. Nanodiamonds are a byproduct of conventional mining and refining. They’re around 4 or 5 nanometers in diameter and shaped like tiny soccer balls. They are particularly useful because they bind rapidly to both bone morphogenetic protein and fibroblast growth factor — the stuff that’s needed to make bones grow. Diamonds on the roots of your teeth. UCLA School of Dentistry.
- BOARD GAMES: An Arduino board is pretty small but the Microduino is even smaller — about the size of a coin. The boards are stackable and achieve their smaller size by separating out the part that connects to a computer — once instructions have been sent that part is no longer necessary and the Core modules can get on with their work. Modules include ethernet, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, OLED display and others. The Microduino open source board is compatible with Arduino. These things are getting smaller every year. Microduino.
- GAMES ON THE WING: The 2016 Olympic Games are to be held in Rio, so of course they need a stadium. A British firm has won the bid to build the Brasilia Athletics Stadium with a concept whose facade is a series of feather-like structures that move with the breeze and appear to shift in different angles of sunlight. The facade will also reach upwards towards the sky when an event is about to unfold. The whole building is intended to represent a bird in flight. And the tweeting will prove it. World Architecture News.
Tech Universe: Friday 27 September 2013
- AIRY BIKERS: Inflatable vests are very handy for those on boats, but they can help motorcyclists too. The Dainese D-Air Street motorbike jacket uses sensors on the bike itself and a wireless connection to trigger immediate inflation of airbags in the jacket. D-Air Street covers the chest, upper abdomen, collar bones, neck and back, protecting them from impacts. A battery in the jacket has to be recharged every 30 hours or so, but that can be done via USB. A SIM card handles the connection with a control unit on the bike. Perhaps cyclists could have a similar thing. Wired.
- BABY MONITOR: Keeping an eye on baby can be challenging but Sproutling’s Bluetooth-enabled anklet is there to help parents. The system includes a base station and a small camera that can detect the heart and breathing rates of the baby as well as the temperature and humidity in the room. The data is fed to a smartphone app that can even predict when the baby is next likely to wake up and send text or email alerts. Grab a few minutes to relax. MedGadget.
- GO WILD ON THE PHONE: Thankful for that Gorilla Glass in your phone as you give it a bit of a rough time? You could also add a Rhino Shield. The polymer screen cover has a 3H hardness to protect from scratches and an oleophobic coating. It’s only 0.029 cm thick and transmits more than 95% of the light from the screen, but it can withstand at least 5 times the impact energy of Gorilla Glass 2 on its own. Gorilla + Rhino = strong. Evolutive Labs.
- BREAD, MILK, TABLET COMPUTER: You might expect the big name computer brands to be offering tablet computers, but the local supermarket? In the UK Tesco supermarkets have released their own Android tablet computer called the Hudl. The 7 inch HD tablet is designed for entertainment, communication, shopping and games. It has a 9 hour battery life while playing videos, and up to 48 GB of memory. The aim is to make tablet computers more available to families. Supermarkets are a logical place to sell a mass market gadget. Tesco.
- SCATTERED SHOWERS: In San Francisco thousands of homeless people would like to be clean — having a wash, brushing their teeth or taking a shower. But there are very few places where that’s possible. Non-profit group Lava Mae aim to transform some old city buses into mobile bathrooms and take them round the city so homeless people can bathe. Each bus will have 2 hot showers, each with its own private changing area, and 2 toilets. That’s cleaning up a city. Lava Mae.